We are the second city. Lets grow in a way that puts more people first
05 August 2022
I’m proud of Birmingham. It’s the city I grew up in, and a place that makes me feel good when I work in it today from our offices overlooking Snow Hill Station.
It’s a visibly powerful and ambitious city, all the way from the swathes of investment and regeneration in the city centre to its Clean Air Zone. We have just finished hosting a spectacular Commonwealth Games, and we can see already the scale of the national opportunity HS2 high-speed rail is opening up.
While other parts of the country are scrambling to secure Mayoral Combined Authorities, we’ve enjoyed the benefits of West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the drive of Andy Street for years. We’ve got the West Midlands Growth Company telling our story, and Midlands Connect joining the dots of regional infrastructure.
As a built environment professional, I’m always ambitious for more. I’m also a dad of two boys and there’s one issue which I think that everyone who wants this city to become even more prosperous ought to reflect on: 40% of Birmingham’s children live in relative poverty, and 90% of the city’s wards are more deprived than the national average. None of us should be comfortable with the stories those numbers tell about people’s lives. And although amazing local organisations such as BWBs regional charity St Basils are providing vital support to tackle issues such as youth homeless in the West Midlands, more must be done to address the issues these statistics highlight.
That people in power know about these challenges is written all over policies like Levelling Up and the Towns Fund. Both recognise that if investment is going to improve people’s lives, then it has to travel beyond bustling city centres and reach into our communities. Yes, development or redevelopment of sites should continue to be the trigger for unlocking wider benefits, but place-making and plan-making must target need as well as opportunity.
With all the opportunities in front of it, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands is on the cusp of something special. So, what can we do to take advantage of the unique position we find ourselves in and spread the benefits? If this is our moment, then we should pursue a better future in principle and in practice:
• Press our authorities and our elected representatives to ensure investment is fair and equal, reaching communities which need it most.
• Work collaboratively to achieve mutual benefits through sustainable development. BWB has sought to achieve just this through open and extensive consultations with the Lead Local Flood Authority and the Environment Agency for developments at both Pebble Mill (for Calthorpe Estates) and at Warners Fields, Southside (for Dandara Living). Together, we can continue to identify and deliver fantastic development that unlocked widespread benefits.
• Embrace the carbon neutral agenda in placemaking, challenging ourselves to drive sustainability as a defining characteristic of high-quality development across the whole region.
• Support Local Planning Authorities and developers in decision-making and ensure the value of Sustainable Drainage features, sustainable transport, and low/renewable energy is embedded into design.
• Use digital technologies to make all our developments and our places smart. Like the way we’ve deployed machine learning to automatically identify HGVs using prohibited routes at Redditch Gateway, and used digital public consultation for the IM Properties and Birmingham City Council development at Peddimore, both of which are great examples of the way we can use technology to protect communities from traffic impacts and provide a means for all to engage in effective Public Consultation.
Birmingham and the wider West Midlands have taken some giant steps since I was a child, and we’re proud as a business to work on developments that will continue to define the region’s future.
We need to lift our ambition to the next level. I’m proud to be a Brummie, but what will make me even prouder is being able to say that the projects we deliver with partners in the UK’s second city play a part in putting more people and more communities first.