Birmingham is a ‘shining beacon’ for the UK construction sector with an array of new projects pumping vital new life into the city economy, says council leader Sir Albert Bore.
The £700 million redevelopment of New Street Station, the new library, the city centre enterprise zone, the new John Lewis store and other major schemes can transform the economic landscape of the city, according to the Labour leader.
Ahead of the vital MIPIM conference in Cannes this week, Sir Albert revealed that estimated population growth creating a need for up to 125,000 new homes over the next 20 to 30 years would strengthen the momentum for construction activity.
The council leader, who was speaking after a construction sector event in Birmingham held as part of the Creating Britain’s Future campaign, said: “I think that Birmingham stands out like a beacon across the UK – we are talking about a substantial amount of construction activity in coming years.
“The launch of the enterprise zone is a great opportunity in Birmingham city centre and is going to add to the construction scene in Birmingham in the next few years.
“Wilmott Dixon have their own training academy, there is the new library which has led to 280 job opportunities of which 80 or so are apprentices, New Street Station was a £700 million redevelopment and that will be followed by the new John Lewis store. You have got St Modwen at Longbridge, Keepmoat at Newtown, Paradise Circus – there is a buzz around Birmingham.”
Sir Albert said population growth to over 1.1 million in Birmingham would create a demand for new housing.
“We have accepted that Birmingham is in need of 85,000 to 125,000 new homes over the next 20 to 30 years. We were thinking that we were between 60,000 and 80,000 but the Census has pushed that figure up from 80,000.
“Whether it is 80,000 or 120,000 it is a hell of a lot of activity. We have got population growth which is driving the agenda – there is a lot of buzz around Birmingham housing activity.
“I have been talking about the problems of the public sector – I have been full of doom and gloom as far as public sector funding is concerned. But it is not all doom and gloom – I would like to think that we are a beacon of hope.”
Sir Albert said growth would not be confined to Birmingham city centre.
Chris Webster, chief executive of Miller Construction, who was also a key speaker at the event, said construction would play a key role in kick-starting the economy, with £2.84 in spin-offs generated by every £1 invested in building.
“There is an awful lot happening in Birmingham – a number of people have come up from London and they were all very surprised. The real message is that we have to keep it going.
“The opportunity is there but we need to make sure that we have got all the politicians behind us, that we have Westminster behind us, and the people of Birmingham.”
He said six per cent of jobs in the region were construction-based, a total of 160,000 directly employed in the West Midlands.