Big City Plan – update

Walking around the city centre, you couldn’t fail to have seen posters about BIG CITY PLAN.
If you wondered what it was all about or, more likely, doubted that it had anything at all do with you, then think again!….

A high-powered team of consultants is working with top council planners on an outline for our city centre for the next 25 years. With Birmingham’s past record of establishing contexts for its developments, this matters. The city has sometimes got it very right – but other times badly wrong! That’s why the City Centre Neighbourhood Forum has been trying to engage with the ‘public consultation’ which is just about ending.

The ‘city centre’ they focus upon is the area within the Ring Road (aka Middleway). In other words everything from FiveWays in the west, Newtown Middleway in the north, Eastside and Nechells in the east to Highgate in the south. This area is about ten times larger than the core city centre.

In recent days, City Centre Neighbourhood Forum committee members have been involved in some large scale consultation events about this plan. At these events, as representatives of people living in the city centre (as distinct from those working, shopping or visiting), we may have been out-numbered but we were not out-gunned!
The discussion at this stage is not about specific plans but about possibilities, options, ideas. We noted some which have most relevance to residents. These are points made by consultees, so should be reflected in the ultimate plans:-
• There should be more diversity of housing choice; monoculture of 1 and 2 bed apartments is unsustainable;
• Families are essential;
• Create infrastructure first with housing later; ‘sell schools not houses’;
• Plans should be community-led;
• Reduce the dominance of the car;
• New financial/delivery models to preserve character through ownership changes (Bournville cited as example);
• City centre should take most of housing growth (100,000 more residents by 2026 is a target)
• Desirable to have more independent retailers (to avoid Birmingham shopping becoming ‘me-too’) but it won’t happen naturally;
• Park and Ride is an attractive thing but it hasn’t worked in the past, so why would it work now?
• ‘Birmingham Bus’ would have to be different and a ‘fun’ thing if it is to catch on;
• There’s nowhere in the city centre just to sit (family point: kids get bored shopping and there’s no alternatives);
• Redesign of New Street Station is critically important to making access easy in all directions across city centre including Southside.
• Gt. Charles Street could become Birmingham’s Ramblas (yes, really!!) as part of a project to make the A38 through the city a ‘great street’.

If these or any other issues raise your hackles or your support, then there is still chance to get your voice heard. The simplest route is to visit the Big City Plan website . Once you register (free, of course) you can read the current “Work In Progress” report and respond to the range of questions that the BCP team have posed. Responding is easy and you can do it as often you like. There are other places where you can read other people’s views – and you can respond here, of course. Indeed, that could well be a very effective way of having your opinions heard.
Although the formal consultation period ends early in February the Forum management committee is working out how best to exercise pressure on the planners so that the ideas they finally propose do indeed benefit the residents of our great city.

David Foster