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Council knew two years ago library was not falling apart.

Byline: PAUL DALE

Moves to demolish Birmingham Central Library could be in doubt after independent experts dismissed claims that the building is structurally unsound and suffering from "concrete cancer".

Engineering consultants Scott Wilson found no evidence to support a city council assessment that the library was at risk of falling to bits and no signs of any defect in the structure of the 1970s building in Paradise Forum.

The firm carried out a study in 2007 at the request of the council, but the results were never published by the authority.

Details have only now come to light following a Freedom of Information Act request by pressure group Friends of the Central Library. The alleged poor condition of the building and the cost of repairing and modernising it, said by the council to be pounds 166 million, was one of the major reasons for a decision to build a new library in Centenary Square at a cost of pounds 193 million.

The Central Library, designed in a brutalist style by celebrated Birmingham architect John Madin and famously slated by Prince Charles as a place more appropriate for burning books rather than reading them, will be demolished if the Government decides against listing the building as architecturally important.

But the absence of any proof that the building is structurally unsound could work against the council if the library is listed.

Government permission to demolish listed buildings is normally only given if the cost of repair bills make renovation impossible..

A 2005 council report stated that "expensive work" would have to be carried out to the roof and wall cladding to make the building structurally sound.

When Scott Wilson engineers met council officials in March 2007 they were told the library was suffering from severe corrosion and there was a high risk that "panels would fall off the building within the next five years unless drastic action is taken".

Scott Wilson found that the council had carried out no detailed study into the state of the building and no structural assessment.

The firm's report said: "The association appears to have been made or inferred that defects found in the concrete cladding panels are evidence that there is a general deterioration of the concrete forming the structure of the building.

There is no evidence to support this link."

A council spokeswoman insisted the absence of detailed structural reports was "irrelevant" because the building could never be adequately re-modelled, even with substantial investment, to meet the requirements of a modern library.

She said the council had never suggested the "frame of the building" was structurally unsound.

Alan Clawley, spokesman for Friends of the Central Library, called on the council to apologise to John Madin for "maligning" the standard of his work.

Mr Clawley added: "Claims that the library building is falling down are completely unsupported by any evidence.

"The council has been perpetuating the myth that it would cost many millions of pounds to repair the building, but this report vindicates what we have been saying."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 16, 2009
Words:502
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