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Plans lodged for development around Birmingham's Paradise Circus

One of the most important developments in Birmingham for a generation has taken a major step forward with the submission of a major planning application and the striking of a funding deal to help turn it into reality.

An artist's impression of how Paradise Circus, in Birmingham, might look following development

One of the most important developments in Birmingham for a generation has taken a major step forward with the submission of a major planning application and the striking of a funding deal to help turn it into reality.

Developer Argent has submitted plans to transform 17 acres in and around Paradise Circus in the heart of Birmingham that will eventually see the demolition of the old Central Library and the creation of 10 new buildings around a series of new squares and streets.

The £450 million project has been given a further boost after the board of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership approved an investment plan which will see £125 million of funding unlocked by the creation of a City Centre Enterprise Zone. The funding mechanism, that effectively allows the LEP to retain any business rate growth for up to 25 years to reinvest into the city, is set to go before cabinet next week.

The first phase of activity to be funded through the Enterprise Zone – forecast to create 40,000 jobs over 25 years – will include an investment of more than £60 million in the infrastructure of the Westside part of the city, specifically around Paradise Circus, £25 million for the extension of the Metro from New Street to Centenary Square and £40 million to support site development and business growth activity.

This support includes investment in digital connectivity worth £500,000, a business development package worth £3.5 million and £1.5 million towards skills and training, enhancing the level of funding already available for initiatives in these areas.

The Enterprise Zone was approved by Government to provide specific areas where a combination of financial incentives, reduced planning restrictions and other support is used to encourage the creation of new businesses and jobs, while contributing to the growth of local and national economies.

Birmingham’s Enterprise Zone will comprise 26 sites across the city centre, covering 68 hectares, in seven clusters focused on the business and financial services, ICT, creative industries and digital media sectors.

Council Leader Sir Albert Bore believes the plans will have a hugely positive impact on the city.

“Paradise Circus is key to Birmingham’s new Enterprise Zone and the delivery of the Big City Plan,” he said. “It is a huge opportunity for the city to capitalise on projects such as New Street Gateway and the Library of Birmingham by creating a location for major inward investment in a high quality environment second to none in the UK.

“The approval of the Enterprise Zone investment plan by the LEP represents a significant milestone in the delivery of this exciting initiative.

“The investment plan sets out the first phase of investment into the zone to support improved infrastructure and unlock key sites such as Paradise Circus.

“The investments, totalling just over £125 million, will be funded through the uplift in business rates generated by the zone and will help deliver 600,000 sq metres of floorspace and 20,000 jobs. This represents over half the outputs of the zone.

“The success of the Enterprise Zone will be crucial in the achievement of both the LEP and city’s objectives; strengthening the region’s economy, drawing in private sector investment and stimulating job creation.”

Andy Street, chairman of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Enterprise Zone provides us with an unrivalled opportunity to drive regeneration and create new and additional jobs which would otherwise simply not happen. The headline figures are impressive and emphasise why it is vital we get this right.

“Not only will we create a further 40,000 jobs, add £2 billion a year to the value of the economy and make available 1.3m sq metres of floor space over the lifetime of the EZ, but ultimately we will deliver our ambition of becoming a truly world-class city region.

“The plan for the first phase of investment which we have just agreed will support the redevelopment of Paradise Circus which will help us to unlock the full potential of the Zone.

“The progress that has been made has been impressive and the Enterprise Zone has already been ranked as one of the top 50 global free zones by fDi Magazine, the international guide for inward investors, which shows the regard in which investors see our site.

“Birmingham City Council, in agreeing to be the accountable body for the Enterprise Zone and in providing the funding to enable this first phase of this investment to go ahead deserve major credit for their commitment to the wider LEP agenda.”

The planning application for Paradise Circus follows two significant consultation periods and the scheme going before planners will see the demolition of the Central Library, the Copthorne Hotel and the existing Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

These will be replaced by up to 10 new buildings that will include a new upgraded Copthorne, a concert hall for Birmingham City University’s school of music and a series of mixed-use buildings including offices, shops as well as space for leisure, cultural and civic amenities.

The application has been submitted by Argent, which signed an exclusivity agreement with Birmingham City Council in February 2009 and between them, own or lease the majority of the land within Paradise Circus. Argent has already invested millions in funds over the last three years and is working towards entering into a landowning Joint Venture Agreement with the city council. Argent is working alongside Altitude Real Estate, run by former Argent boss Gary Taylor.

Argent’s senior project director, Rob Groves, said: “Paradise Circus is currently regarded by many people as a tired and intimidating part of the city centre that discourages visitors, hinders pedestrian movement and negatively impacts on the surrounding areas.

“Our plans are to create a high quality, mixed use development with great public space that will invite visitors and open up routes to other parts of the city while returning the world class historic buildings to a more suitable setting at the heart of Birmingham.

“The submission of this planning application is a huge step forward in what is an extremely complicated process to deliver this vision.”

 

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