Civic and business leaders joined forces yesterday to debate a vision to turn Birmingham into a world-class city.

More than 150 representatives from the commercial, industrial and political world gathered at the International Convention Centre to discuss how to boost regeneration and roll out successful city centre redevelopment to the rest of Birmingham.

The gathering set an aim of promoting Birmingham into the top tier of world cities by 2026, behind London, Paris, New York, Sydney and Tokyo.

The Summit for the Future, organised by the city council, aimed to signal a new united approach by local government and the private sector, work-ing together for the common good.

Delegates were warned that the alternative to cooperation was a Birmingham that would slip back into a spiral of decline and be over-taken in wealth-generation by competitor cities.

Mike Whitby, the leader of the City Council, said Birmingham was a city that worked best when it worked together.

The summit would help compile a prospectus for Birmingham, identifying key objectives behind which the public, private and voluntary sectors could unite, Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said.

Coun Whitby set out five themes for the way forward - a global city; a visible city; a connected city; a prosperous city; a growing city.

He urged the Government to grant Birmingham the "wherewithal and the independence" to set the agenda and lead a city region.

Coun Whitby added: "This city needs to be exciting, dynamic, welcoming and generating the civic pride that our forefathers displayed.

"We have a substantial belief in ourselves and an understated success story.

"The city council is a powerful driver to take forward the growth agenda but we need to work with the private and voluntary sectors to take forward realistic growth ambitions for the city. Today is about taking forward that partnership and getting the most from it."

He said the Birmingham skyline had to change, to make it "instantly recognisable" and the city had to be clean, safe and welcoming if it was to stand comparison with the best in Europe.

Coun Whitby added: "We want Birmingham to be a 24-hour city, vibrant and welcoming all the time. There is no magic solution, but by working together we can really change people's lives."

The summit was the culmination of a concerted effort in 2005 by organisations representing the Birmingham b usiness community to develop a successful economic strategy.

The work, a partnership between Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Birmingham Forward, the CBI, the Engineering Employers' Federation and the IOD, set out key objectives for the next 20 years. Priority areas for action included:

* Improving the city's built environment by developing a world class skyline.

* Improving accessibility, in particular the redevelopment of New Street Station.

* Creating a Birmingham Business School and improving workforce skills.

* Making Birmingham a city where businesses and individuals get wealthier faster and more often.

* To ensure the business community speaks with one voice.

The prospectus for Birmingham, setting our an action plan for the next 20 years, will be published by the council in October.