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New Battle of Digbeth Begins

Digbeth High Street

Everyone knew there would be a fight in Digbeth sooner or later. It is Court Collaboration’s bad luck that it has become the focus for anxiety about the scale of residential development in potentially the coolest and fastest-growing central Birmingham neighbourhood.

Court Collaboration's 928-unit Stone Yard scheme was unveiled in September 2019. The proposal is for seven towers, including one of 30-storeys, on a former car showroom site.

Now an online petition has been launched to halt the tower plan. The #DigbethDeservesBetter campaign said it wants to stop Digbeth being "plunged into darkness" if the 30-storey tower gets the go-ahead from Birmingham City Council.

Campaigners said that businesses next to the site, including owners of the Grade II*-listed building The Old Crown and those located in The Custard Factory complex, are concerned that the height of the tower will cause a potential loss of light and a year-round shadow.

They are also raising concerns about the level of affordable housing in the scheme. The Digbeth Deserves Better group have requested that all correspondence between the council and the developers regarding the scheme’s viability assessment be published. The story is complicated by a large dose of local politics, Vice News reported.

A third front in the battle against the scheme has been opened over the extent to which new residents at Stone Yard will complain about noise from Digbeth’s lively after-dark entertainment scene.

“The Old Crown is the oldest pub in Birmingham and has stood the test of time since 1368, and as Digbeth operators, of course, we welcome development,” Old Crown pub owner Ciaran Healey said. “But The Stone Yard proposal is just ridiculous. The sheer height of it alone would completely overshadow the pub and other listed buildings in the area.”

Birmingham planners will consider the Stone Yard application later this spring.

The long-simmering concerns about residential development in Digbeth come as the Birmingham private rented sector shows no sign of slackening.

New research from CBRE, based on Office for National Statistics data, suggested Birmingham will see 10,000 new PRS units developed in the years to 2028. This will take the total to 109,000 PRS units, the largest single cluster outside London.

According to latest estimates, 21% of Birmingham’s households are private renters. This is forecast to rise to 26% in the next five years. The percentage of private renters in the city centre is significantly higher, currently accounting for 56% of households and forecast to rise to 63%.

CBRE said that of the 5,000 residential units currently under construction in Birmingham, around a third are build to rent. Developments include Phase 2 of Exchange Square (375 apartments), Holloway Head (484 apartments) and Gilder’s Yard, Jewellery Quarter (156 apartments).

Manchester will also see growth of nearly 9,000 units taking its total to 70,000 by 2028. Leeds will have 78,000 new private-rented households by 2028, and tops the list in terms of the pace of growth. Bristol and Glasgow will have 60,000 and 70,000 units, respectively.

Where next for Birmingham residential? What will decide the future of the city's residential market? Join the conversation at the Bisnow Birmingham State of the Market event on Tuesday 24 March by registering here.