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Councillor claims Birmingham Smithfield plans 'miss big opportunity' for bigger park

Planning committee critical of masterplan to transform Wholesale Markets area into family zone

Birmingham will miss a huge opportunity if it does not create a landmark city centre park in its Smithfield development it has been claimed.

The call for more than a narrow ‘linear park’ was one of several criticisms levelled by council planning committee members against the Smithfield Masterplan - the scheme for the development of the Wholesale Markets site around Pershore Street.

Other councillors criticised the ‘lack of ambition’ and that the shopping area of Birmingham is moving further south.

Comments came as the council’s planning committee was asked for its views on the draft Smithfield Masterplan published this week.

A park along a street flanked by apartment blocks was included in the Smithfield plan following an online petition.

But James McKay (Lab, Harborne) said that it was not good enough and that people wanted something more like New York’s Central Park.

“Linear parks can be good, but this is just far too short. It’s a corridor.

“The city has flunked a huge opportunity here. We have a once in a generation opportunity to return parkland to the city centre. This is hugely disappointing.”

His colleague Peter Griffiths (Lab, Kings Norton) was unimpressed with the leisure, sports and cultural facilities and called for something spectacular.

He said that while cities like Cardiff have the Millennium Stadium and cultural centre within walking distance, Birmingham loses major concerts and sporting events to the Ricoh at Coventry. “We don’t even have an ice rink,” he said.

“The plan is lacking in ambition. And yet we claim to be the UK’s second city. We need to include a major element that the public will come to the city centre to see, as well as shopping,” he said.

Another complaint was that the proposals to improve the markets and attract some independent or niche shops would have an impact across the city centre.

Gareth Moore (Cons, Erdington) warned: “I am concerned we are dragging retail further southward. There was no point spending a lot of money putting Metro down Corporation Street if all the shops there are going to be empty.”

Councillors were told that the new markets and retail will be distinctive from what the city centre already has to offer.

There were also words of welcome from Cllr Fiona Williams (Lab, Hodge Hill) who liked the idea of late night or 24 hour markets.

“There was a Birmingham tradition of Saturday night at the markets, where people would congregate and get fast food,” she added.

Meanwhile Cllr Peter Douglas Osborn (Cons, Weoley) welcomed the festival square as a new focal point close to the city’s historic starting point next to the River Rea. “Birmingham’s coming home,” he said.

The committee’s views will be added to public consultation over the draft masterplan and considered.

Chief planning officer Richard Goulborn said that some of the changes, such a larger park, could be considered if the council was prepared to take less income from the scheme. “That is a political decision,” he said.



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