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Birmingham Children’s Hospital set for major upgrade as plans submitted

Birmingham Children’s Hospital is set for a major upgrade to enable doctors to carry out life-changing surgery.

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Proposed extension from Steelhouse Lane looking west. Credit: Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Trust

An MRI suite and new operating theatres will facilitate complex surgeries to treat “life-threatening illnesses” according to a planning application submitted to Birmingham City Council.

The improvements could have a huge impact for West Midlands patients who currently have to travel to London or Manchester for this care.

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust also wants to demolish and rebuild entrances to the children’s hospital and its emergency department, replace windows and install a heat pump system.

The proposed extension to the hospital’s ‘R block’ which sits along Loveday Street would see three floors, with the theatres, MRI suite, and recovery wards as well as cancer services on the third floor.

The two floors below would serve the emergency department, walk-in services and contain a new pharmacy.

The proposed ‘S block’ next to the main entrance on Steelhouse Lane would contain an internal courtyard housing play zones, landscape winter gardens, seating, a café and an observation deck.

The application states: “The existing main entrance is not fit for purpose in functional or performance perspectives.

“There is currently no waiting or play space for families and children, and it does not provide a sense of arrival to what is a world class centre of excellence for children’s medicine.

“In addition, the existing entrance has extremely poor thermal performance.”

The distinctive red brick hospital is a Grade II listed, Victorian building and falls within the Steelhouse Conservation Area alongside the law courts, police station, fire station and the Methodist Central Hall.

An objection has been submitted by the council’s conservation department citing the “high level of less than substantial harm”.

The Victorian Society has also objected, urging the council to refuse the plans on the grounds that the extentions will “appear too dominant and overpowering”.

It adds that the ‘buff brick’ – a yellow-brown material – and metallic cladding which are suggested in the plans are inappropriate next to terracotta.

The society is in favour of demolishing the current entrance but says the scale of the changes is too large and “awkardly asymmetrical” and adds that the use of glazed walls and wooden columns are “completely alien” to the flame-coloured walls.

The Victorian Society’s comment continues: “Red brick or red terracotta should be used instead as the dominant material to complement the surviving historic fabric, as well as to reflect the Victorian entrance structures now lost, but which are recorded in historic plans and photographs.”

Other bodies have agreed with the criticisms but say the potential benefit to the public should also be considered.

Historic England has said the scheme is likely to result in harm and more should be done to conserve the building, adding: “In line with national policy, this harm should only be permitted if it would be outweighed by public benefit.”

Birmingham Civic Society said the plans are let down by the need to retain modern parts of the building which were giving planning permission before it was listed.

They say that while these are inappropriate “given the setting, considering the use of the building and the importance that its facilities provide to the city” this does “not give sufficient reason for objection”.

They continue: “The proposal would result in operational improvements for the Hospital, a more sympathetic, functional and pleasing main entrance and with the decarbonisation works give a more energy efficient hospital campus.”

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