Although Birmingham is famous for its parks and open spaces there is one park it has never had. It would be its equivalent to Central Park in New York, the Prater Park in Vienna or the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. In other words an attraction in its own right, a magnet for those visitors from home and abroad craved by the city’s hoteliers and restauranteurs. At the same time it would be an amenity for local people and, properly designed, a home for wildlife. It is the one thing that has always been overlooked in the multi-billion pound development schemes of recent decades.
The most recent missed opportunity is the Eastside Park. There is nothing wrong with this except its ordinariness, the lack of vision behind its design and its minimal area. There could have been a green space permeated by streams and waterfalls, starting in the Old Square and running down to the river Rea in the Eastside , landscaped to showcase the region’s main habitats, its forests, rivers, uplands and wetlands. This would have directly linked the city centre to Eastside. If this sounds ambitious so did Symphony Hall , Brindleyplace , the Bull Ring , the new Library and New Street Station : Birmingham does ambition.
Now there is another chance; the redevelopment of the wholesale markets area is being consulted upon. A group calling itself CityPark4Brum recently organised a petition to have a major new park included in those plans. Although the scale of such a park would be limited if restricted to the markets site, according to a recent Birmingham Post article Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Sustainability, has asked the planners to consider the idea along with plans for the neighbouring Southern Gateway.
The major once-natural feature of the Southern Gateway is the river Rea. There it is again: wherever you turn south and east of the city centre you come across the Rea. I mentioned it in my last piece on water ( See here ), it runs through Eastside, and here it is again. A park, perhaps including the proposed ‘wet boulevard’, with a revitalised Rea as its focal point, providing amenity, wildlife habitat and flood management, is so obviously right that this time surely something must be done.
You can learn more on CityPark4Brum’s Twitter feed @CityPark4Brum .