Business leaders in Digbeth have outlined concerns about pedestrian and cycle access to the city centre – and called for a major new promenade to be built now.

In a letter published in the Post (below), members of the Digbeth Forum say ensuring good pedestrian, cycle and public transport routes are created through to the city centre are key to regenerating Eastside.

They warn the current plans for Curzon Street Station sever three of the four main routes into Digbeth from the city centre, Fazeley Street, Bordesley Street and Park Street, leaving the only access via an already restricted Digbeth High Street.

They are calling for Paternoster Place – a major promenade linking the city core with Eastside – to be fast-tracked to stop Digbeth from being cut off.

The letter states: “Build Paternoster Place now and Digbeth will flourish in readiness for HS2, if not the huge opportunities for business and jobs that Digbeth offers will be on hold until the station is complete and may not happen at all.

“It is vital that HS2 sign up to the Paternoster Place concept now and commit with the city council to the earliest possible start.”

The Birmingham Curzon Masterplan – which puts the HS2 station at the heart of plans to regenerate vast swathes of the city centre – seeks to bring Digbeth into the city core with greater connectivity.

But the businesspeople, who include architect Glenn Howells, Mike Hopkins of South and City College and Custard Factory boss Lucan Gray – say without careful management that part of the city could be cut off across a seven-year construction period.

The Custard Factory
The Custard Factory
 

Their concerns come despite Birmingham City Council’s plans to make the city as bike-friendly as Amsterdam.

The city has been awarded £24 million by the Department for Transport for three years of work to create or upgrade 130 miles of routes and launch cycle-friendly schemes such as London’s “Boris bikes”.

A city council spokesman said: “Along with the businesses and organisations in the area, we are concerned about the connections to Digbeth from the city core at Moor Street that are proposed by HS2 within the HS2 Hybrid Bill.

“The council has presented an alternative proposal – Paternoster Place – within the Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan, that seeks to deck part of the railway cutting to form a wide pedestrian plaza between Moor Street and Park Street.

“This proposal would open up pedestrian and cycle connectivity and provide a high quality, direct link from HS2 and the wider City Core into Digbeth.”

Ben Ruse, HS2 Ltd spokesman, said: “HS2 does not have any objections to the Paternoster Place concept. Although this was not included in the hybrid bill for phase one, this will not hinder the council’s plans to get this scheme delivered before construction works start at Curzon Street.

“The bill does, however, include a direct link between Moor Street Queensway and Park Street to help improve footfall to Digbeth.

“It is important to stress that pedestrians and cyclists will not have to share this link with motorists, including taxis. HS2 will continue to work with the council on any proposals to help regenerate Curzon Street.”

The letter in full:

DEAR Editor, The building of HS2 will have a massive impact on the future of Digbeth. Get it right and the city will have an exciting and vibrant creative area which will rival the Kings Cross development in London.

Get it wrong and Digbeth will be marginalised and this incredible opportunity will be lost to the city for ever.

The renaissance of Digbeth is dependent on ensuring that good pedestrian, cycle and public transport routes are created through to the city centre and neighbouring Eastside and Southside.

The current plans for Curzon Street Station sever three of the four main routes into Digbeth from the city centre, Fazeley Street, Bordesley Street and Park Street, leaving the only access via an already restricted Digbeth High Street and the tortuous new route through the 70-metre New Canal Street Tunnel under the new station.

This will be heavily used by diesel-belching taxis and will eventually take the new tram route to the east of the city, hardly an appealing route for pedestrians and cyclists.

The new Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan for Growth, produced by the city council, proposes a major public square between Moor Street and the new Curzon Street Station.

This will give a direct, wide and attractive link between the city centre and Digbeth, maintaining the Bordesley Street/Fazeley Street access and creating a new route through Coventry Street to the Custard Factory, Fazeley Studios, South and City College, the Bond, and numerous small businesses historically located in Digbeth.

This imaginative proposal will partly cover over the West Coast Main line leading into New Street and will take the name of Paternoster Place from a former street obliterated by the 1960s ring road development.

Currently, all that HS2 is offering is the potential of a three-metre wide alleyway between Park Street and Moor Street that may also be used by taxis, which again will be intimidating to both pedestrians and cyclists.

There needs to be a clear commitment to the Paternoster Place proposal from HS2 and it needs to be constructed before the work starts on the new station so that these essential links are maintained throughout the build period.

Speaking at the launch of the Masterplan, Lord Deighton, chairman of the HS2 Growth Taskforce, recognised the huge potential for Birmingham to benefit from the wealth and jobs created by the building of HS2.

Build Paternoster Place now and Digbeth will flourish in readiness for HS2, if not the huge opportunities for business and jobs that Digbeth offers will be on hold until the station is complete and may not happen at all.

It is vital that HS2 sign up to the Paternoster Place concept now and commit with the city council to the earliest possible start.

Charles Gillet – Pennycuick

Glenn Howells – Glenn Howells Architects

Sarah Crawley –iSE

Mike Hopkins – South and City College Birmingham

Patrick O’Neill – South and City College Birmingham

Lucan Gray – The Custard Factory / Fazeley Studios

Phil Burrows – Friends of the Earth

Peter Stratton – Great Barr Street

Jonnie Turpie – Maverick Television

Marcus Chaloner – Canal and River Trust

John Gordon – Digbeth Residents Association

(Digbeth Forum)