£1 billion Coventry city centre scheme thrown into doubt after English Heritage listing

By Culture24 Staff | 23 June 2009
A picture of a plan for a city centre

Coventry Retail Market is at the centre of ambitious plans by Coventry City Council (above). Picture courtesy Coventry City Council

A £1 billion "masterplan" to transform the centre of Coventry has been thrown into doubt after a Government decision to impose Grade II listing status on a covered market described as "flying saucer-like" by English Heritage.

The existing 1950s modernist home of Coventry Retail Market would have been replaced with a contemporary new development under the futuristic Jerde scheme, a 20-year plan to overhaul most areas of the city.

But in a move which shocked council chiefs, who had expected a meeting to discuss the proposals in the next fortnight, English Heritage listed the site for its murals by East German artists and its unusual architectural features.

A picture of a plan for a city centre at night

Picture courtesy Coventry City Council

"This nationally-important building is particularly special to the history of Coventry, as it offered a place where people could meet and shop in the years after the war when most of the commercial buildings had been destroyed," said Deborah Porter, Heritage Protection Team Leader for English Heritage.

"The market has all the essential elements of rarity and architectural, technological and historic interest that make it listable but the interior is particularly remarkable."

A picture of a plan for a city centre

Picture courtesy Coventry City Council

Coventry City Council is now planning to appeal against the decision. "We're still in the early stages and were surprised that the decision was taken so quickly," Councillor Gary Ridley, Cabinet Member for City Development, told the Coventry Telegraph. "It was a bolt from the blue, but we're in discussions about the plan and will find out whether we can appeal. It’s an option we will consider."

Pete Donnelly, chairman of the Market Traders' Federation, added that the market was going to be "the cornerstone" of the development and "the anchor building for the south side of the city centre."

"About 90 per cent of market traders are 100 per cent behind the initiative," he said. "We feel it should have a new building, for the people of Coventry and all the traders who work here."

More than 3,000 people visited a display of the designs during a six-week consultation period in September 2008, speaking to designers, managers, officers and councillors about the blueprints.

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