COVENTRY’S historic landmark former Co-op building in the city centre is set to be listed for possible protection because of its post-war historic importance.
Coventry City Council’s planning committee is expected on Thursday to add the former Co-op store in Corporation Street to the list of buildings of local architectural or historical interest.
While such measures are not an ultimate protection from bulldozers or drastic renovation, it is considered the building helps tell the tale of the city centre’s contemporaneously vaunted but since controversial rebuilding after the Coventry Blitz.
One of the city’s largest and oldest stores was closed last year as a victim of flagging city centre trade in an internet era, and EDG Property bought the site.
No planning applications have been received, although the council says ‘prospective buyers’ have stated an intention to demolish the building to erect two 12-storey towers of student accommodation.
An agenda document by the council’s conservation and archaeology Officer Chris Patrick recommends councillors on the planning committee approve the listing.
He says: “The Coop store is considered to be a heritage asset of local significance to Coventry and worthy of being added to the local list for the following reasons:
“i. it is one of the major buildings of Coventry city centre’s post-war reconstruction;
ii. it follows the Scandinavian architectural style, proportions and materials prescribed by Donald Gibson’s City Architects Department and contributes to the distinctive uniform style of post-war Coventry;
iii. it is a little altered example of a 1950s department store and still retains its original shopfront, upper floor windows and parapet signage; and
iv. the pillars of the colonnade are decorated with inscribed designs by John Skelton, who is a significant artist and letter-carver, and are important examples of the city’s desire to incorporate public art and architecture.”
Mr Patrick adds: “It has not been possible to inspect the interior since the store closed.
“At the time of its closure it had a relatively modern fit out but original features may survive behind stud walls and suspended ceilings.
“The exterior of the building has seen little alteration and still retains its original shopfront and signage, it is probably the most complete and unaltered post-war shopfront in the city centre.
“The columns along the street feature a series of incised line carvings by John Skelton assisted by John Trowbridge, depicting the rebuilding of the city and the activities of the Co-op organisation including holiday facilities for employees, grocery provision, transport and coal, flower seeds and nursery supplies.
“The subject matter was predetermined by the architect although the requirement was set by the city council as part of their desire to incorporate public art in the architecture of the city centre.”
He added that, if listed, the building would become subject to protections in the Coventry Development Plan which state that development involving the partial or complete loss of such a building will be permitted ‘only if the benefits of the development
can be shown to outweigh any resulting harm, or that no realistic alternative for its survival can be secured’.
He adds: “It is broadly contemporary with the early wave of construction in the city centre along with Broadgate House, Broadgate (Donald Gibson 1948-53); Owen Owen, Broadgate (Hellberg Harris 1952-54); Marks and Spencer, Upper Precinct (Norman Jones and Sons & Rigby 1953-55); BHS, Upper Precinct (George Coles 1951-55) and Woolworths, Lower Precinct (Harold Winbourne, Woolworths staff architect 1952-54).
“The Co-op was designed by G S Hay the CWS staff architect and built between 1954-56.”