Members of Birmingham Future - the voice of the city’s young professionals – and sister organisation Birmingham Forward have been given an update on The Big City Plan, Birmingham’s city centre masterplan.
Clive Dutton, director of planning and regeneration at Birmingham City Council, and Kelvin Campbell from Urban Initiatives, lead consultants on The Big City Plan, took Future and Forward members through some of the Big Ideas at a breakfast event sponsored by Masshouse Developments and staged at Opus on Thursday.
Opening the event, Birmingham Forward chairman Richard Edwards said: “The Big City Plan represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It will impact the city for the next generation and beyond – not just economically, but in social, cultural and environmental terms too. It is essential everyone in the professional services sector and the wider business community plays their part in helping to shape this crucial plan.
“The Big City Plan will be key in determining Birmingham’s – social – cultural, physical, environmental and economic future - and is vitally important to the quality of life of all it’s citizens in the years ahead.
“The importance attached to this ‘once in a generation’ opportunity has been shown by the huge level of interest in this event today.”
Kelvin Campbell reflected on the Big Ideas put forward by Birmingham stakeholders and emerging strands of the masterplan.
The new New Street station would be a crucial part of the city centre, providing a front door to Birmingham right onto its “high street” – access from which no other comparable city benefits.
Development opportunities to the south of the city’s core area –the ‘backlands’ of the current station - would present the most significant potential. Opening up links to a new Highgate Park also featured strongly in Mr Campbell’s presentation, along with developing new forms of urban housing and utilising sustainable sources of energy.
On improving transport, Mr Campbell suggested: “This has to be the main priority for improving Birmingham’s place in the global cities league table. With four universities in the area with automotive expertise, if Birmingham can’t do it, who can?”
Alex Bishop, chairman of Birmingham Future and a member of the Big City Team, said at the event: “I am a proud and passionate Brummie who desperately wants the city to be all it can be. I live in the city centre and absolutely love it!
“I think extending an invitation to the young professionals of Birmingham to join the Team was recognition that the decisions made now will create the city that the next generation of leaders will inherit.
“One of the revelations from the Big City Team has been the apparent generational differences of opinion regarding city centre dwellers’ needs and wants. Some have been surprised by just how many young people want to bring up their children in the city centre, but feel they have no option but to move out to the suburbs because of the lack of good quality family housing and the necessary infrastructure in the city.
“We asked – why can’t we have an Islington in Birmingham? Why can’t we have attractive townhouses with gardens? Where are the crèches, schools, doctors, dentists and other amenities?”
Mr Bishop, who is also a Partner at law firm Shoosmiths, added: “I have very high hopes for this masterplan.
“I want a city that can attract and retain the best talent in the country and indeed the best talent from around the world. I also want a city that will attract investment from clients and potential clients.
“I want a city that can aptly showcase the vibrant, diverse and world class professional, financial and business services sector in Birmingham. I want a city that will, frankly, blow away the competition!”
Clive Dutton added: “This promises to be a historic piece of work. The largest of its kind in Europe, the Big City Plan covers an area of 2,000 acres. It is a once-in-two-generations opportunity which we must and will get right.”