Connaught Square for Sale
Last week it was reported in the press that Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (ROM Capital) will be selling the Connaught Square site. The 4.5 acre potential development is situtated across the road from Digbeth Coach Station and just 200 yards from the Bullring.
Connaught Square was billed for a £150 million scheme, comprising 658 apartments, a four-star hotel with sky bar and a new Irish Centre, and was also renowned for its promise to bring Digbeth’s hidden river – the River Rea – back up to surface level.
Initial plans were given the go ahead back in 2007, and would have marked a major transformation of Digbeth, creating 1,000 underground parking spaces, two public squares straddling the River Rea and a pedestrian boulevard. However, the project was stopped after the administrators were called in by Allied Irish Bank in June 2010, which was owed £24 million by Connaught Square Ltd. No buyer has been since found for the development.
The existing planning consent is now believed to be unworkable, and a buyer would likely apply for a fresh, more modest scheme.
I’m sure that this will please many residents who believed the plans to be ostentatious and not inkeeping with the grain of Digbeth, but this news also means that Digbeth will be stuck with the eyesore and ‘hill of bricks’ currently occupying the site for a while longer.
Here’s hoping a buyer with a more sympathetic view of Digbeth and the site’s surroundings can be found soon – perhaps someone willing to turn the whole area into a green public space?