Multi-million pound apartments that threatened future of Birmingham Gay Village scrapped

A Birmingham Pride procession goes through the city's gay village with LGBTQ+ flags

Plans for a 12-storey block of flats in Birmingham’s Gay Village have been withdrawn after residents warned of “possible tensions” over the deal. 

The proposed block of flats would have sat in the city’s gay village and just down the road from the famous nightclub, the Nightingale. The complex would have 133 apartments and was the latest in a line of housing developments proposed around the LGBTQ+ centre of Birmingham.

However, the plans for the flat complex were withdrawn after Birmingham City Council recommended that 53 per cent of its windows be sealed shut, Birmingham Mail reported. 

The technique is a common strategy to limit noise for residential buildings, and developers initially believed only 20 flats (15 per cent of total units) would need sealed windows.

But the council recommended the figure be bumped up to 71 flats. As such, council planners advised the application be refused as the number of sealed windows would be “detrimental” to residents’ quality of life. 

Council planners also were concerned complaints from residents could create tensions with the LGBTQ+ nightlife economy – especially with the Nightingale, which is about 100 metres from the complex site. 

The application for the new housing in the gay village was withdrawn shortly before a council planning committee meeting on 18 August.

In July, a separate development with over 456 apartments was proposed to be built on the same road as the city’s oldest LGBTQ+ nightclub. Provisional discussions with the council projected that £1.3m would be set aside to help reduce noise from the club, close its first and second-floor balconies and create acoustic barriers. 

Birmingham Labour’s LGBTQ+ officer Lauren Rainbow told the Guardian that many people in the community are “keen to just make sure that the gay village is protected”. 

Rainbow added there were concerns over potential “rising tension from the people who are moving into the new housing getting frustrated with the noise and behaviour” in the city’s gay village. 

“We absolutely need more housing, Birmingham has got a 50,000 shortfall in housing,” Rainbow said. 

“But if the balance isn’t right, then obviously, tensions do rise. From what we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, it falls on the venues and bars that end up either having temporary holds or issues with their licences.”

Rainbow explained there’s also been a “rising number of attacks” on the LGBTQ+ community with a “lot of homophobia and transphobia” going “underreported”. 

“This is the one space the LGBT+ community has where they should be able to feel safe and have venues that they can be themselves,” Rainbow said. 

Nightingale owner Lawrence Barton told the Express and Star that the council has been “very supportive of [the business’] plight” but said the “discussion has gone backwards and forwards”. 

“We welcome the development,” Barton added. “But of course, it has to respect and accommodate the LGBTQI community and its night-time economy.”