Inner city residents in Birmingham are to get a unique opportunity to vote for a major overhaul of buildings, roads and parks in their area for the first time.
Balsall Heath will break new ground when residents vote on planning regulations which they helped create themselves.
The proposals include reopening Balsall Heath train station, building more housing near the middle ring road, freeing up the River Rea through Calthorpe Park and more protection for the area’s heritage buildings, including Moseley Road Baths.
The plan will be put to 15,000 residents in a referendum – likely to be held on October 8 – after which it will become formal planning policy.
Until now, Neighbourhood Plans, which were created under the 2011 Localism Act, have tended to be developed in rural areas, villages and market towns.
But Balsall Heath became a pioneer for urban areas.
The Balsall Heath Forum has driven the plan, consulting with residents and community groups, commissioning architect and Post columnist Joe Holyoak to work on the detail and securing the advice and support of council planning officers to get the document to this stage.
Chief executive Abdullah Rehman said the process had been good for residents, giving them a sense of ownership of their neighbourhood.
He said: “It is a vision which could work for any neighbourhood. Improvements to the parks, better transport, make the area safer and ensure the green spaces remain green.
“This is very much the aspiration of the community and could be replicated in any other area. It’s very much a universal vision.”
The plan focuses on seven parks, two local centres, in Ladypool Road and Moseley Road , and a small collection of heritage buildings.
Mr Holyoak admitted it had taken far longer than he anticipated to get from its final draft to the referendum.
Back in 2011 it was one of the 17 frontrunner areas to be selected for a plan but was hit by several development process complications.
It has also been more than a year since the final plan was submitted to the city council.
Mr Holyoak said: “The plan is based upon extensive consultation with local people. It began by simply asking local people ‘What do you want to see included in the plan?’
“Answers covered various topics, but there was broad agreement on what the priorities should be. From there, a series of projects, proposals and policies were developed,” he explained.
“This is very much a first for Birmingham, and quite unusual for an urban area . It has been a plan which has been developed from the grass roots.”
He admitted much of the delivery of the detail would depend on the forum attracting grants, funding and investment – although the plan could make that more likely.
THE BALSALL HEATH PLAN
There are several key elements to the plan:
* A town square at the Moseley Road/Haden Way junction with a landmark building. The area around the Ort Cafe to become a centre for creative enterprises tapping into that community living in Moseley and Balsall Heath
* Measures to reduce traffic and parking congestion on Ladypool Road
* A mixed development, with homes and either hotel, education or retail on the former Joseph Chamberlain College site, pictured above (a non-food retail park, given planning permission in 2006, has not been developed)
* New housing, up to 100 properties, on Highgate Road
* The Balsall Heath rail station is opened when the Camp Hill Chords line is reinstated
* The River Rea to become an attractive and enjoyable resource, by removing brick wall, widening it in places and landscaping the banks
* Allotments created on land next to Calthorpe Park
* A new youth centre for the area
* A heritage corridor along Moseley Road centred on the Baths and Library, the old Moseley School of Art and Old Printworks. Commitment to seek funding for restoration and conservation and condition that new developments take account of the heritage assets
* There are also a series of general guidelines on transport links, green spaces, heritage walks and quality of the built environment