One of Birmingham’s largest city centre regeneration projects will create a public space the size of Victoria Square city planners have been told.
The large space in the Connaught Square development in Digbeth will be split by the revived River Rea and open for a full calendar of markets, parades, festivals and other outdoor events just 200 yards from the Bullring.
Further details emerged as developer Seven Capital presented the scheme, which is one of the largest regeneration projects in Birmingham, to the city council’s planning committee for the first time.
They also announced that the number of flats proposed has been cut from 940 in original plans issued late last year, down to 724 and that the JFK mosaic memorial could be resited from across the High Street to the new square.
Surrounded by four blocks, including a 20 storey tower block, the River Rea will be opened up for the fist time in a century and sweep through the development. A pedestrian bridge and new street will also be created.
Development spokesman Gerard Sweeney said they aimed to make a destination. “In terms of public space Connaught Square is roughly 5,000 square metres, that’s the same as the square (Victoria Square) outside here.”
He said that was in additional to the rooftop gardens which would be available to residents.
A previous set of plans for Connaught Square, on Digbeth High Street were approved in 2008 but never delivered due to the economic downtown.
Planning committee members were supportive of the long-awaited development.
Cllr Peter Douglas Osborn (Cons, Weoley) said that he had recently visited the White Swan pub and Irish Centre where people were delighted that this development is going to happen.
He said: “The river opening up is a plus for it, as is the public area and three-bedroom flats introducing a family aspect to the area. All in all this is a magnificent Seven Capital project.”
While there was support for the over all development councillors did raise a few concerns and asked for amendments - particularly over the relatively high number, 355, of smaller single person apartments proposed.
Committee chairman Mike Sharpe (Lab, Tyburn) said: “I think people should be able to live in a decent sized property. We should be encouraging people to stay in Birmingham.”
His colleague Barry Henley (Lab, Brandwood) suggested added some extra storeys to the large tower to fit larger flats. He added that he thought the housing market would be moving away from smaller apartments.
In response it was pointed out that with 113 three-bedroom flats also planned the development had a higher than usual number of units suitable for family living.
Councillors also called for more character to be added to the designs of the 20 storey tower.
Cllr Henley said that it needs to look more striking as it will be compared to Selfridges as people move up the High Street.
Seven Capital has agreed to consider the comments carefully as it finalises the design before returning for a final decision on planning permission later this year.