For the Birmingham Prospectus, five theme groups examined the key issues facing the city. Chief Reporter Paul Dale looks at their findings and the sort of city Birmingham needs to be
Chaired by Greg Lowson, managing partner at the Birmingham office of Pinsent Mason.
Vision statement: To recognise the ever-increasing pace of change in a world economy.
Assets and strengths: Global business opportunities arising from the entrepreneurs emerging from Birmingham's diverse communities.
Proximity to London and the South-east making Birmingham a potential ‘back office’ location – able to offer good quality of life in terms of relative property prices, access to the countryside, internationally-renowned cultural institutions such as the CBSO, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the RSC theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon plus a wealth of sporting events in centres such as Warwickshire County Cricket ground and National Indoor Arena.
Proposed actions: Birmingham needs world-class transport links to compete. New Street Station and Birmingham International Airport require major investment if they are to handle increased passenger numbers and destinations nationally and internationally, as well as providing a positive travel experience.
Short term priorities: What is the Birmingham brand? Until Birmingham can give an answer to this question, how can it market itself effectively to the rest of the world? There is a need for a set of strong, confident messages about the city, particularly if we are to contradict perceptions of Birmingham often ten years out of date.
There may be a lack of awareness within the city’s own business community about our core economic activities. It should consider commissioning a small, high profile team to review the city’s economic life – its strengths and weaknesses – from both a national and international perspective, and to identify what makes Birmingham uniquely attractive as a place to do business.
The effectiveness of marketing and PR for the city should be assessed. The city could do more to welcome international delegations by using goodwill ambassadors to meet and greet them.
Longer term priorities: Could Birmingham companies do more to motivate young people to aim higher? Investment in the future workforce through corporate responsibility schemes would benefit the local economy as well as the students themselves. Following the release of the Stern report, issues such as global warming and sustainability are likely to become even more pertinent to businesses.
Birmingham could prepare a blueprint encouraging industries to be forward-looking, look for innovative solutions, as well develop our links with India and China, two of the likely major contributors to the increased carbon footprint. Has the appetite for continuing regeneration diminished following the construction of the NEC and ICC?
The need for a high-quality environment, with iconic buildings and attractions is an essential part of the city’s appeal.
Chaired by David Hersey, West Midlands regional director Royal Bank of Scotland.
Vision statement:To create the environment and services which enable local, national and international businesses and investors, residents and all communities to prosper and grow with confidence.
Assets and strengths: In 2006 the European Cities Monitor ranked Birmingham as the leading UK city outside of London in which to locate a business and the leading UK city in which to locate a new business headquarters. Birmingham is the leading UK centre for professional and financial services sector banking and accountancy outside of London. The sector is expected to create about 20,000 new jobs over the next decade. World-class conference and business tourism infrastructure makes Birmingham the UK’s leading location for exhibitions and conference events.
Birmingham has a thriving creative industries sector, ranging from the historic jewellery industry to software and media industries. Birmingham remains the UK’s manufacturing heartland, with a higher proportion of manufacturing employment than anywhere else in the country.
Existing projects: The Central Technology Belt – fostering the growth of high-technology, high added-value sectors by driving forward investment on key sites including the Longbridge Technology Park and the science park at Pebble Mill.
Eastside development – completing Birmingham’s largest physical regeneration project, substantially expanding the city centre through the development of a new learning, technology and heritage quarter and the creation of a new city park.
Priorities: Work more closely with businesses and investors to better understand their needs and to facilitate their growth and success through more ‘can do’, business-friendly processes and services. Work with universities to effectively promote Birmingham through their international links.
Work with further and higher education institutions to ensure Birmingham retains more of the high-level skills it develops. Ensure Birmingham has the appropriate infrastructure and skilled workforce to make it the natural choice for investment and growth in key sectors.
Identify and support a network of high-level ‘Birmingham ambassadors’, to speak with a united voice to champion the city’s strengths, successes and opportunities on a national and international stage.
Proactively encourage and support major public and private sector organisations to locate their regional, national and/or international headquarters within Birmingham.
Develop a stronger and more responsive planning process that works effectively with businesses, investors and residents to build and maintain a highly functional and dynamic city.
Establish and promote a clear ‘Made in Birmingham’ brand.
Chaired by Glenn Howells, Glenn Howells Architects.
Vision statement: Birmingham should over the next 20 years become known as one of the world’s very best places to do business, live, learn and enjoy.
Assets and strengths: Birmingham has strong assets, many of which are not celebrated. It needs to improve and promote its image, particularly to outsiders. Regeneration in the city centre and city living has proved very successful but there is an enormous amount of work that still needs to
be done. Birmingham is a safe city, the safest of all the core cities.
Birmingham is a strong brand both internationally and at the core of the city region. Birmingham has many very attractive neighbourhoods although there are some large areas of the city where big improvements are needed.
The upgrading of the city centre has been a great success and has acted as a catalyst for wider renaissance. There is a need to do much more both in the city centre and crucially to achieve a similar transformational effect in the areas beyond.
Priorities: Population growth is not just about numbers but about quality. It is vital to attract, develop and retain energetic, young talented people, and particularly those in their 20s and 30s. Birmingham can also attract energetic 30 and 40-year-olds from London. Key to this is having a clear story about what is positive and communicating it, internally and externally.
The quality of experience in moving around the city is important, particularly for non-car users. This needs an integrated plan. We need to grasp the issue of roads and redress the balance between traffic and pedestrians. The future success of the city will depend largely on the quality of experience of people walking and visiting the city by public transport. A ‘tube map’ of the key local centres relationship to the core is needed.
Rolling programme of action to support local centres setting out a clear story, able to draw competitively on new funding, adopting town centre management and coupled with a sustained marketing and promotion programme to develop new ‘destinations’.
The city needs more diversity, in particular more small independent shops, to balance the current emphasis on larger brands Whilst employment in the city centre is presently strong we need more than large finance and legal companies to drive the city forward. We should maximise the potential of Birmingham’s cultural diversity and youth through an annual programme of festivals and events.
We should also increase the range and quality of cultural and leisure opportunities possibly through another major destination – the next Tate? We also need to make more of the city’s collections and industrial heritage and consider a new venue for large-scale outdoor events.
Chaired by Christine Braddock, principal Matthew Boulton College.
Vision Statement First class links to the rest of the world and the infrastructure to support our growth.
Assets and strengths: A hub for national road and rail networks; an airport of increasing UK and international prominence; a pioneer in urban digital applications; a wealth of vibrant cultural diversity; one and a quarter hours from Euston and passage to the rest of the world; success of NEC in achieving 40 per cent of the UK business conferencing market.
Existing projects: Putting in a Digital Challenge bid to build a ‘digital toolbox’ that enables local people access to information which suits their lifestyle.
Birminghamusic.com – the first city music platform of its kind covering all genres of music in Birmingham. Has 8.5 million hits a month from all over the world.
Developing the ‘Wireless City’.
Developing a National Open Source Centre in Birmingham for business.
Birmingham has the international digital image festival.
Developing projects that enable access to learning and e-health information, e-participation through citizen email.
Birmingham Gateway Project: a half billion pound project to transform New Street Station.
Cross Country / West Coast main Line network improvements are preserving central rail network role.
Spaghetti Junction project is addressing the need for a ‘gateway’ welcome to the city.
Building a new coach station at Digbeth.
Future priorities Completing the development of wireless within the city, and extending the ‘walled garden’ concept which provides free access to a range of services and information into local communities.
Extending the main runway at Birmingham International Airport and associated infrastructure to improve international connectivity.
Bringing together Marketing Birmingham, the city council and other key organisations to map out a digital events calendar for the city. Agree a series of joint promotional campaigns.
Building connections through festivals and events such as Digital Dwvali celebration which can be celebrated with other cities.
Bringing together the ‘world class’ organisations within Birmingham to support each other and the city as a whole.
Strengthening strategic links with other parts of the UK and world markets, particularly within Asia and North America through the development of the airport.
Expanding the coverage and service level of the Metro network.
Chaired by Sophia Christie, chief executive Birmingham East and North Primary Care Trust.
Vision statement Increased population, growth supported by an increase in the number of homes schools and services; Growth that has enhanced the quality of the housing stock and the environment. Renewal of the housing stock that has reduced the carbon footprint of the city; An integrated city of sufficient connectivity to make it work; Pathways for all members of the community to reach their potential; Older people choosing to retire in Birmingham; Engagement by politicians to enable residents to play their full part in society.
Assets and strengths: Birmingham has a diverse population with relatively good community cohesion. We have links through our citizens to emerging world markets. There is capacity to increase residential density and housing numbers. Existing models of entrepreneurship, the Custard Factory for example, provide a foundation to build on and to promote our successes.
Existing projects: Government has named Birmingham, working with Solihull, as a New Growth Point. This will bring funding of #4.2 million into Birmingham and Solihull to bring forward sustainable house building projects, regenerate local centres and carry out further studies on delivering increased housing. The money will be provided in 2007/8 and in the longer run could lead to the allocation of more funds. The Birmingham and Solihull proposals focus on plans to revitalise local centres through new development – initially in East Birmingham and North Solihull – and deliver new quality housing to meet the diverse needs of the city’s growing population.
Birmingham needs more affordable premises to incubate new businesses and entrepreneurship. We must remove systemic barriers to integration. Enable people from different cultures to meet. Idea of "multi-faith" schools open to people from a range of denominations and faiths, but with a curriculum rooted in faith values.
Possible 80,000 new homes – balanced to meet spectrum of needs, with an appropriate number of new diverse schools. To achieve our aims growth will be focused on transformational change in four key parts of the city:
City centre including Eastside – revised and updated housing target (to be defined); North West Birmingham (with links to Sandwell and branded as ‘Urban Living’); Eastern corridor (with links to North Solihull) South West Birmingham.