Birmingham’s Icknield Port Loop regeneration scheme has been given support by city planners – but developers have been urged not to reintroduce back-to-back housing in to the city.
British Waterways and the Homes, Communities Agency and Birmingham City Council, who are joint developers, were also told to provide a greater mix of housing densities on the massive Icknield Port Loop site in Ladywood to avoid creating the “slums of the future”.
While critical of the layout and designs, the council’s planning committee was very supportive of the principle of up to 1,150 homes and commercial development on the huge 54-acre site off Ladywood Middleway.
They are keen to get the development up and running and transform the run-down area. It will include a major hotel, small shopping and cafe area, canal-side improvements, a park, playground and a pub.
But they have also backed a 667-name petition from residents calling for a swimming pool to be included in the new estate as council plans for a £58 million Olympic sized pool next to the NIA have been shelved due to lack of funding.
The comments follow the committee’s visit to the site and talks with the architects, residents and local councillors.
Labour councillor Barry Henley (Brandwood) was most critical of the proposed design and layout and called for a rethink.
He said: “I was brought up in a terraced house with an outside lavatory and I am not convinced that sharing a yard is the way forward.
“I am keen that we are not building the slums of the future.”
He also criticised the building layout, with low density, high value homes on land nearest the ring road scheduled to be built first and higher densities, including high rise blocks, situated in the middle.
He said: “The architect wants to build right up to the edge of the canal because he quite likes Amsterdam. I would like to see more space.”
Coun Henley suggested that some of the blocks could be taller to allow for higher densities with more space between buildings.
Committee chairman Peter Douglas Osborn (Cons, Weoley) agreed: “There are concerns about building family houses at densities of 70 dwellings per hectare and above.
“We are particularly concerned about the concept of back-to-back houses and would wish to see some examples to be persuaded that such houses could provide high quality homes.”
But he backed the broader proposals, adding: “Too many people move away from the city core to the suburbs and commute. We want a high quality development which will give them a reason to stay.”
He added that there are also concerns over the “canyonisation” of the canalside.
Coun Douglas Osborn added that the committee supported a swimming pool on the site instead of a proposed sports hall.
There should also be a contribution to provide new sports facilities at Ladywood Health and Community Centre at St Vincent Street West, while the construction of an artificial pitch at George Dixon School has already been pledged.
Plans to divide the new park with the Rotton Park Street road were also described as “unsuitable” by the committee. They would instead like to see the park redesigned to fall on one side of the road or the other.
The decision to retain a historic stable block and tube works buildings, which could be restored as a community centre, was welcomed, while the committee also supported the demolition of a derelict Art Deco garage, as long as the industrial history of the site was reflected either in public art or the design of some buildings.
These views must now be considered by the joint developers as they finalise their formal planning application for the scheme.
Confirmation of a share of a £15 million Government grant towards local infrastructure projects, following an application from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership is also expected this week.
In an earlier presentation to the planning committee Peter Weatherhead of planning agents DTZ said: “This proposal will create a sustainable urban neighbourhood and place where families will want to live.
“The community wants something to happen and should we receive planning permission the developer will be able to deliver that vision.”