Global investors are queuing up to cast their eyes over Birmingham’s new vision for the future outlined in the new city centre masterplan.
The Big City Plan, which sets out ambitions for a larger, more family friendly city which welcomes investment and big business, won cross-party support at the city council cabinet last night.
An 80-page draft brochure detailing the issues and options facing the city over 25 years has been launched for public consultation, giving citizens until late February to have their say.
A key element will be expanding the city centre from the concrete collar of the Queensway to the middle ring road and increasing the connectivity of areas like the Jewellery Quarter and Digbeth.
An enthusiastic city council leader Mike Whitby (Con, Harborne) told cabinet colleagues the Big City Plan won support from an audience of Chinese investors, developers, politicians and journalists during his recent visit.
He said: “It was extremely well received by 50 or so investors who saw Birmingham has a vision for the future. They could see our aspiration. While much of the western world is in recession, China is enjoying eight per cent growth on GDP and they are asking themselves ‘where do we want to invest tomorrow?’.
“Well our plan is for tomorrow and there were 50 investors who can see Birmingham is a place to do business.”
He urged citizens and business to have their say on the plan.
“For the plan to succeed it is crucial everyone with an interest in the city takes this chance to have their say and shape the future,” he added. He stressed it is a work in progress. ++Coun Whitby said the plan would help break into the top 20 world cities according to the international Mercer Quality of Life index. Birmingham is joint 56th with Glasgow. The third UK city on the list is London, ranked 38th.
It was stressed this is not just a planner’s document, looking at buildings and transport, but would consider the environment, culture, communities and housing. The opposition Labour group gave unequivocal support to the plan.
Labour leader Sir Albert Bore (Ladywood), pointed out his party led the way in breaking the concrete collar, and setting up the Jewellery Quarter, the Convention Centre Quarter and Eastside over 20 years.
He said: “We downgraded the inner-ring road to the Queensway a long time ago. Much of this plan is not new. But it is the right way forward. This consultation will set long term objectives for us to work towards over 25 years.”
And he laid down the first challenge of the consultation period by calling for the Great Charles Street Queensway tunnel to be extended, with a boulevard at street level.
“The plan talks about increasing the connectivity of the Jewellery Quarter to the core centre. I know it will cost a lot of money, but it is the only way I see of achieving this.”
He won support from the cabinet member for regeneration Coun Neville Summerfield (Con, Brandwood) who added: “I share Sir Albert’s view something big needs to be done about Great Charles Street. This is what this consultation is about, sharing and developing ideas for our vision of the city.”
Interested parties can have their say at the website www.bigcityplan.org.uk.