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Sustaining Birmingham's clean growth

9 September 2019
Reading Time: 4 mins

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Two years on from the World Business Council’s Zero Emissions City Framework for Birmingham, the City is stepping up its commitment towards delivering a greener, healthier and happier future for its citizens and demonstrating what can be achieved in reducing the carbon impact of growth.

International Sporting Event, Festival Square - Birmingham Smithfield – by permission of Lendlease.


Birmingham is arguably a victim of its own success. Mercer rate the city in the top 50 globally for quality of life. Affordability is strong in the Midlands, as is access to jobs and good wages, all of which attracted 7,000 people to relocate to Birmingham from the South East last year and upwards of 10,000 to date this year. This has created quite a challenge for the city’s planners who need to plan homes, jobs and infrastructure for 150,000 more people by 2031.

With growth comes great opportunity but also huge pressure on infrastructure, resources and the environment. As a city committed to reducing its impact on the global climate, its ambitious targets for carbon reduction provides acknowledgement that its future success will depend on it.

Richard Cowell is Assistant Director of Development at Birmingham City Council leading multidisciplinary teams covering Development Planning, Planning Management, City Design, Enterprise Zone and Curzon Delivery, and Business Development & Innovation. He has been at the City Council since 2008 and has led a wide range of transformational projects including writing the Big City Plan, establishing the City Centre Enterprise Zone and securing its extension, creating a series of masterplans to unlock significant growth and bringing forward major regeneration initiatives including Birmingham Smithfield and the Curzon HS2 Growth Strategy.

On the subject of Birmingham’s growth strategy Richard says,

“Urbanisation and continued population growth is placing greater pressure on land and infrastructure across cities. Birmingham has a clear strategy in place to deliver 51,100 homes, employment space for 100,000 new jobs and £4bn of infrastructure. While we are unable to accommodate all the homes and employment space to meet the needs we are seeking to make the most efficient use of land and increase average densities.

Achieving our ambitions for growth will require a clear focus on creating high quality places and ensuring we embed environmental sustainability and meet the targets on carbon reduction. This will require a holistic approach. This starts with creating higher density mixed developments that are well connected and supported by the vital social, physical and green infrastructure.

Improving connectivity and prioritising those modes of transport that can move more people at higher density will be essential. This means focusing on public transport, walking and cycling. The City has major plans, working with TfWM, to expand the Midland Metro Tram network and introduce SPRINT bus routes. Well over a Billion pounds will be spent on the new tram network and we have already created a pedestrian-friendly city centre, with public realm that connects the key development areas.

We assess all new planning proposals on their sustainability credentials, and our development plan includes policies on green infrastructure and low carbon energy use. We are promoting a fabric first approach to ensure buildings are the most efficient they can be. The potential to adapt and retrofit is also important. We must also ensure our spaces have the flexibility to accommodate new technology, which could be urban agriculture, it could be driverless vehicles. The key is ensuring we create coherent urban environments that are easy to navigate.

Equally critical is energy. There needs to be a focus on creating new, de-centralised energy. In Birmingham we have a significant bio-mass plant at Tyseley and are promoting environmental technologies as part of an Economic Zone. The City Council is also set to publish an Energy Prospectus establishing our strategy for delivering cleaner and greener energy into the future.

An important part of our Development Plan is also the clarity on where we will focus growth. The most significant location is the city centre, where we are planning 20,000 homes and over one million sq. m of commercial, leisure and cultural space.

One of the City’s most significant development schemes in the city centre is a perfect example of how we are bringing a holistic approach to creating a new urban quarter. Birmingham Smithfield, which formed part of the ZEC initiative, will be a 17ha redevelopment in the heart of the city centre delivering a transformational mixed use scheme with leisure, culture, retail markets, innovative workspace and a 2000 home new residential community. Public realm and new public spaces will create a high quality environment which embeds green infrastructure across the site. Significant investment in public transport and walking and cycling routes will provide sustainable modes of travel and social infrastructure will underpin a successful community. As a joint venture between Birmingham City Council and Lendlease the site of the old wholesale markets will become an international exemplar of sustainable placemaking.

Our development plan also sets out ambitious proposals for the wider city and we are bringing forward urban extensions, major new employment sites and the regeneration of suburban areas such as Selly Oak, Edgbaston, Icknield, East Birmingham, Longbridge - well known for its former motor industry; and Perry Barr where much of the Commonwealth Games 2022 activity will be based. So, taking that example, we planned the Athletes Village as a new community from the start so that it will deliver 1,400 homes alongside public realm and community facilities. This will provide the catalyst for a further 3000 new homes in the area, in addition to employment uses and investment in sports, recreation and community facilities. In the north of the City we are extending the urban area, taking 274 hectares to create a new 6,000 home community and 70 hectares for new employment land.

If we are to deliver our growth plans we need to work collaboratively across the public and private sector to ensure that the developments and the infrastructure will meet the needs of current and future generations. So ultimately we are focused on creating more resilient places for people to live, work and spend their leisure time.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]