Developers are “oozing confidence” about future regeneration schemes in Birmingham, despite the worst global economic downturn for a generation, city council leader Mike Whitby insisted.
He promised details of a number of land sales and major construction projects over the next few months, beginning with a cabinet decision to enter into an exclusivity agreement with Argent to bring forward plans for a £1.2 billion transformation of Paradise Circus.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said the interest in the scheme shown by Argent, the developers of award-winning Brindleyplace, demonstrated that economic growth in Birmingham was far from dormant.
The project involves demolishing all buildings at Paradise Circus, including the Central Library and Conservatoire, and building a mixed-use scheme of offices, flats and shops.
It would be one of the largest city centre construction projects for years, although it has been on the drawing board for almost 10 years with the council unable until now to attract a prospective developer.
Coun Whitby told a cabinet meeting: “This is likely to be the largest strategic development in terms of the significance of the site outside of London. It is a major piece of land as far as impact and standing is concerned.
“We all know these are trying times at the moment, but this shows the city of Birmingham still has momentum.”
Coun Whitby promised he would be returning to the cabinet in the coming weeks and months with announcements of “further exclusivity agreements and regeneration schemes that at the moment are not in the public domain”.
He added: “This is a narrative of confidence. This is a city where the private sector is oozing confidence.”
His comments followed further mayhem on the world stock markets, with severe falls in the value of shares in the Far East, Europe and the UK.
The council’s leader’s confidence-building attempt also came on the day it was announced that the David McLean Group, one of the three joint partners behind the Masshouse development at Birmingham Eastside, has gone into administration.
Coun Whitby pointedly did not refer to a written report to the cabinet by city council finance officials warning that plans to pay for future regeneration projects by raising millions of pounds from land sales are in danger of being derailed by the economic downturn.
The report predicted that capital receipts earmarked by the council from selling development sites to private sector developers are likely to be “much lower than previously projected, if they can be realised at all”.
The council was unwilling to comment last night on its attempts to sell the 21-acre Wholesale Markets site at Digbeth.