Innovative ways of raising funding for economic regeneration will help create 50,000 new jobs and expand the central core of Birmingham by a quarter, city council leader Mike Whitby has forecast.
Launching the Big City Plan setting out strategic goals for transforming the city centre up to 2030, Coun Whitby said the country’s economic woes could not be allowed to stand in the way of progress.
Speaking during the launch of the 90-page document at the Fort Dunlop headquarters of BPM Media, the council leader revealed that he is talking to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the possibility of Birmingham becoming the first UK city to set up Accelerated Development Zones – clearly defined areas where the council would be able to borrow against the rate income paid by new businesses.
ADZs could raise millions of pounds for the council, enabling it to work with public-private partnerships to kick start stalled regeneration projects such as the redevelopment of Snow Hill and Arena Central off Broad Street.
If all of the aspirations in the Big City Plan are delivered, Birmingham’s economy is forecast to benefit by £42 billion.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said the council could not achieve the plan’s aims purely by working on its own.
He called for a “true partnership” with the private sector, adding that he hoped the financial and property sectors would be reassured by the content of the Big City Plan.
He said: “As a council we can work to support the vision, but it’s through the partnership and support of the private sector that we can come together to have the credibility.”
Coun Whitby added: “I know that several people wondered if the Big City Plan would be the first document to be put on the shelf when the world economy struggled. Nothing could be further from the truth, it is more important than ever to Birmingham.
“The measure of a great city is not only what it does in the years of growth and prosperity, but how it responds and copes during the more difficult times. And while times could not be more difficult today, we are going to cope with that challenge.”
Describing the plan as the “most ambitious, far reaching set of ideas for the development of a world class city anywhere in the UK”, Coun Whitby said the difference made to the lives of Birmingham people would be immense.
The document identifies five major areas for transformation. They are Eastside, New Street Station, the Southern Gateway around the wholesale markets site and Westside stretching from Broad Street to Icknield Port Loop.
New public squares are proposed including a development to be called Moat Square on the markets site based around the archeological remains of the original medieval Birmingham Manor House.
Coun Whitby said he hoped the Government would recognise that the expansion of Birmingham city centre would be good for the whole country. “The success of our city plan will not only support Birmingham’s prosperity, but be a catalyst for regional growth and underpin the UK growth agenda.
“Today we are saying to the Government that Birmingham is ready to test your ideas. We have already built the framework for growth and done all the preparatory work, let Birmingham be the UK’s pilot for tomorrow’s innovative funding mechanisms.”