Plans to create up to 7,000 new jobs in the life sciences sector have taken a step closer after a deal was agreed for a nine-acre site.
Birmingham City Council plans to attract cutting edge health and pharmaceutical research firms to the Battery Park manufacturing site in Selly Oak after its Cabinet approved a deal to buy part of the land.
It is expected that the campus, which will form part of a wider Life Sciences Economic Zone in the city, will provide up to 2,400 jobs on site and generate a turnover of up to £243 million, and support thousands more jobs indirectly.
The proposals are part of the wider regeneration of the Battery Park, which includes a new Sainsbury’s and canalside development.
Councillor Karen McCarthy (Lab Selly Oak) told the cabinet the plans were welcomed in the ward – even if the supermarket proposals were less popular.
She said: “This is the last piece of the jigsaw that will support world class research at the University of Birmingham and the local hospitals and that it is felt will be of benefit to local people as will be the creation of jobs and retention of graduates in the area.
“It is disappointing that the plan for the rest of the Battery site doesn’t reflect the work of the local community to get Sainsbury’s to build something that will enhance the area.”
The council is working with Land Securities and Sainsbury’s, jointly known as Harvest Partnership, on the mixed-use scheme.
The partnership submitted a planning application for development of the derelict, 30-acre, former industrial and landfill site in March, but the wider proposals proved controversial, with developers being accused of reneging on plans to regenerate a potentially beautiful canal.
However, community and business leaders are unanimous that life sciences presents a valuable growth opportunity. The city’s life sciences sector has grown by 45 per cent since 2005, boosted by cutting edge work at Birmingham and Warwick universities, and it already contributes £180 million to the region’s economy.
The council says the life sciences hub will include laboratories and offices for research in the fields of pharmaceuticals, medical biotechnology and medical technology, and will become the principal location nationally for parts of the life sciences sector.
The campus will account for a third of the 12-hectare Battery Park site, and Coun Ian Ward, deputy leader of the city council, said the city’s growing reputation as a leading international centre would attract more firms. He said: “We want to see a thriving and globally competitive life sciences sector, building on our current provision, including the world class clinical practice, research and trials to be found at the university and hospital.”
The University of Birmingham collaborates with the majority of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies including Glaxo SmithKline, Lilly, Pfizer, UCB Celltech, AstraZeneca, Bayer and Novartis, and with the Battery Park site nearby – and also close to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – it is seen as an opportunity to build on those successes.
Harvest’s proposals include a new Sainsbury’s store with 80,000 sq ft net sales area, an eight-pump petrol station, a range of shops and student accommodation.
It said the Worcester and Birmingham canal will be improved with a new canalside square and a bridge connecting the site to Selly Oak centre, as well as pedestrian and cycle routes.
Land Securities project director Neil Carron, commented: “This is a positive step forward in the regeneration of this very challenging site into a high-quality, mixed-use development.
“It is a strategic opportunity to create a Life Sciences Campus, which will unlock wider economic benefits for Birmingham.”