Work has begun to create a £2 million public park – the first to be built in south east of Birmingham in five decades.

St Modwen has started creating Austin Park, at the heart of its Longbridge town centre plans, which will feature a 840ft stretch of the River Rea which has been buried for nearly 100 years.

Named after Lord Austin of Longbridge, who founded the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge in 1905, the park will be of a similar size to the bustling St Philips Square in Birmingham city centre.

Mike Murray, senior development surveyor at St Modwen, said the park could be the centre of the new community with open space, footpaths, dramatic views and public art reflecting the site’s automotive history.

When complete in 2013 it will feature more than 20,000 plants, 550 trees and scores of seating areas in addition to a pedestrian footbridge over the river.

Mr Murray said: “Austin Park will be the centrepiece of Longbridge, providing a pleasant and inspiring place for residents, workers and visitors, delivering lasting benefits that will help transform the former Longbridge site into a sustainable urban community.

"We are particularly pleased to be able to reflect the area’s history and culture.”

The regeneration of Longbridge is a £1 billion project covering 468 acres. It aspires to create 10,000 jobs through a diverse range of industries, together with 2,000 new homes, the new town centre, parks and public open spaces. Next year’s opening of Longbridge town centre will bring investment at the former MG Rover site up to £250 million since it was acquired by St Modwen, creating 1,160 jobs.