A massive regeneration scheme to drastically improve a run-down part of Birmingham is under way with changes to a major route into the city.
A network of pedestrian subways under the A34 in the north of the city – branded a muggers’ paradise – are to be filled in.
The notorious Perry Barr tunnels under the Wellington Road roundabout will be blocked up and the island raised up to ground level.
It is the beginning of a wider scheme to regenerate the area, which includes the huge One Stop Shopping Centre, Birchfield Road shopping parades, rail station and greyhound racing stadium.
The subway work is expected to start next month and be completed by September and most of the £850,000 cost is being met by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.
Council officers are also drawing up a masterplan for the area which will set out new uses for the Gailey Park truck depot and the Birmingham City University campus, following its relocation to the city centre.
Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood said: “Filling in the subways is a good thing for the area, there have been serious concerns about safety and crossing the dual carriageway.”
He added that Perry Barr centre is in desperate need of regeneration. “We want to create more of a town centre and more opportunities for job creation. It needs to be a place that people from outside the area want to visit and businesses want to invest,” he said.
A key issue is the railway station, which is sunken beneath street level and often highlighted as an eyesore, unpleasant for passengers and regarded by many as unsafe.
Mr Mahmood said: “We need to do something about that, to make it safer and cleaner and more attractive for people to use instead of their cars. The station could be a great asset for the area.”
The masterplan will earmark sites for leisure, community, education, residential and convenience retail uses as well as some road and public space improvements.
It highlights the potential to create new office and retail space up to 2031.
Council cabinet member for development Tahir Ali said: “There are a number of development opportunities in this area and this subway project is just the start; it will improve public space and pedestrian links in the area, including future development sites and reduce the perception of crime and anti-social behaviour.
“We want all new development to be safe and attractive as well as providing high-quality pedestrian routes, and the subway project is fundamental to this aim.”
The university campus has already been earmarked for the next school in the Perry Beeches Academy chain, while a free school is currently under construction on the former IMI factory site opposite the campus.
Last month the gatehouses for the IMI factory were given the protection of grade II historic listing status after the Eden Free School submitted a planning application for their demolition.
There have also been repeated calls for improvements to the transport network at Perry Barr, where four major commuter routes meet. The entire network was gridlocked for a day when the A34 tunnels flooded in 2014 and accidents and shunts frequently bring surrounding roads to a standstill.