Great cities are defined by the policies, strategies and plans which they subsequently implement and deliver on.
I have been looking for an innovation plan for Birmingham – there isn’t one. Then for a design strategy – there isn’t one. Then a HS2 strategy – there isn’t of those either. For two years I have been looking to see who is saying what about the very likely arrival of the most important piece of national infrastructure in the heart of our city.
The good news is, things are coming together with the Curzon Masterplan launch. The joining up is now visibly starting to happen. About time too.
The Curzon Masterplan looks to embrace exactly how we should be striking out at an ambitious vision for the station, including its architecture – still only hinted at and rather flabby – and the design of the renewed cityscape around it; the streets, routes and spaces, how they should look and feel and what sort of uses ought to be encouraged.
More importantly, it carefully looks to keep the most important routes between Eastside and Digbeth and energise them through station entrances and exits including along New Canal Street, which will add footfall and vibrancy to both of these quarters of the city centre. There is an opportunity to loop the Metro route along the edge of Eastside City Park, then south to Digbeth, which will be the perfect route for the rapidly growing cohort of students and people working across Eastside.
The station will be on such a scale that the Moor Street Queensway will need to be a significant and civilised space to allow breathing space. There are ideas as to how the rather rude back edge of the buildings which have for decades ignored Eastside will be turned around and be more friendly.
The plan also starts to have a real understanding of the interplay between cars, cyclists, buses, pedestrians and taxis at what will be a very busy station. We need to campaign to keep this rather important ambition alive on the ground, as traffic engineers will do their best, once again, to defy it.
The plan defines real development opportunities. Brussels, Paris and Canary Wharf will be one connected ride away to Birmingham.
To me the headline is that Birmingham is now being clear and joined up in its response to this most enormous opportunity. The pen-holders are the city council, but we all should embrace it, comment upon it and ultimately adopt it as the vision for our city.
Philip Singleton is the chief executive of Millennium Point