Over the last few months our Planning committee have visited a number of buildings that were nominated for our 2014 Renaissance Award which celebrates and recognises the renovation of buildings, parks or structures that were at risk or vacant.

The Renaissance Awards don’t only recognise the refurbishment and renovation of the building fabric, it crucially asks the question of whether the building has been “reborn”.  Has the building been given a new life? This could be as the original use intended for the building – for example, the refurbishment of Moor Street Station (2007 Renaissance Award recipient) or it could be a completely different use as with Fort Dunlop [2009 Renaissance Award recipient). What impact has it had upon the area, locally and city-wide? Has it been a catalyst for broader improvement and development within the city. It also asks whether the original heritage of the building has been retained and enhanced through the works? Whilst it is important to bring a building back into use, there needs to be a balance of retaining and enhancing the heritage.

These are just some of the questions that our Planning committee considered, discussed and debated for each of the 2014 nominations. It was a year that saw some exceptional developments that really embraced and demonstrated the ethos of the Renaissance Award. So much so, that the Planning committee have decided to award two Renaissance Awards for 2014.


It gives us great pleasure to announce that the two recipients of the Renaissance Award 2014 are:

The Coffin Works, Jewellery Quarter
Birmingham Conservation Trust

The School Yard (Phase 1), Harborne
EDG Properties


At a time in our city when proposing the demolition of our built heritage seems to be the default position, it is very encouraging to see exemplar projects, such as The School Yard and The Coffin Works which buck this trend. Of course there is no denying that this route takes commitment, hard work and a massive amount of energy from the team of people behind each of the projects. But when combined with a passion for our heritage and concern for our future, the end result is well worth it and we are sure that future generations will agree.


EDG Properties

The Planning committee felt The School Yard (Phase 1) development fully embraced the heritage of the original building with its Grade II listed Clock Tower, whilst creatively bringing the buildings back into modern and vibrant use. The bars and restaurants have enlivened Harborne High Street and given it a new lease of life. It is encouraging to see that education will still be a part of the development with the incorporation of a new kitchen school.

The building prior to being renovated was in very poor condition – internally and externally. It is a testament to the commitment and passion of EDG Properties and their team in delivering this project. They worked closely with the Birmingham City Council Conservation Officer during the work to ensure that the heritage of this important building was retained but that any new works were sensitively incorporated into the building. The subtlety of some of these works is exceptional – for example, the lowered window sills to the restaurant provide views of the High Street to diners whilst offering views of activity in the building to passers by.

Phase 2 of the development involves the construction of a new residential building to the rear of the school. The project is currently on site and due for completion in May 2016.


“The School Yard is a fascinating project and one we are really proud of. Saving, and bringing new life to this listed building has already been a catalyst for change in Harborne and we are delighted that our work has been recognised by the prestigious Civic Society Renaissance Award. The recognition really does mean a lot as it’s awards like this that bring the whole project team together to celebrate everyone’s efforts.” –

Neil Edginton, EDG Properties



Birmingham Conservation Trust

The Planning committee were given a tour of the Coffin Works during their visit to the Grade II* listed building. This unlocked the fascinating history and industrial heritage of the building and also demonstrated the key role that Birmingham played during the Industrial Revolution. The Coffin Works embraces and celebrates the specialist trade that it was known for, from the time when Birmingham was the “city of a 1000 trades” – bringing the building back to life and making it accessible for future generations to experience and learn from.

The restoration and conservation of the factory and back-of-house areas has been sensitively retained whilst making it accessible to the general public. It has quickly become a new attraction for the city – for both visitors and residents of the city.

The incorporation of commercial spaces for creative businesses demonstrates how the team considered the future viability of the project. These spaces will help to secure the retention of the museum areas whilst retaining it as a functioning place of work. It was very encouraging to hear that the spaces have been well received and are attracting creative tenants.

The fine balance between the ‘light-touch’ approach to conserving and renovating the buildings whilst making sure that the commercial spaces are accessible, functional and viable has been very well executed.


“This is wonderful news for Birmingham Conservation Trust.  It took more than 10 years to raise the funding to restore Newman Brothers coffin fittings works, with many ups and downs.  Now the old factory is full of life again, as a heritage attraction and a home for creative businesses.  Recognition from Birmingham Civic Society means so much to our staff and many volunteers, and has made all the effort worthwhile.” –

Simon Buteux, Birmingham Conversation Trust