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Watch Out Birmingham, City Planners Have Big Plans For 2020

Birmingham's seat of power: The Council House

New year, new resolutions, and during 2020 Birmingham City Council will be rethinking two of the city's busiest development zones, and will introduce new guidelines to regulate the spate of Birmingham skyscrapers.

New planning guidelines are planned for both the Jewellery Quarter and Digbeth, each the focus of development for new build-to-rent and build-for-sale apartments.

A new statutory development plan for the booming Jewellery Quarter will be produced during 2020.

Proposals for a Jewellery Quarter Neighbourhood Development Plan, being drafted by The Jewellery Quarter Development Trust Neighbourhood Planning Forum, have been rebooted.

The original effort to write a plan to govern development of the Jewellery Quarter began in 2014, but ground to a halt when the neighbourhood area designation expired in April 2019. A new designation was made in October 2019. Plan documents can be found here.

Concern during 2019 focused on the loss of historic buildings and the potential for the Jewellery Quarter to lose its unique mix of uses.

Digbeth, where the pressure for development is now intense, will be the subject of a new supplementary planning document. Public consultation is anticipated to commence in late spring/early summer 2020, with adoption of the final SPD in late 2020.

Digbeth developments in prospect include Nikal's plans for a 30- to 40-acre studio complex with up to 1,000 new homes and 1M SF of commercial floorspace, and Oval's plans for a 45-acre site bounded by High Street Deritend, Milk Street, Digbeth Branch Canal and Liverpool Street, where 3.76M SF of new development including shops, offices, hotels, apartments and student housing is envisaged.

A third area where residential developers have high expectations will also see new planning giudance: the Rea Valley will now be subject to a new masterplan. Consultation on the draft SPD took place from May through July 2019, and the draft can be found here. It is anticipated that the final SPD will be adopted in spring 2020.

The Rea Valley plans includes 5,000 new homes in a green corridor expanding out from the Birmingham Smithfield development controlled by Lendlease. There will be 12 acres of open space with a multitude of pocket parks and green roofscapes.


City council planners will also be turning to two controversial subjects in 2020: the loss of industrial sites to residential use, and to tall buildings policy.

The council's capacity to manage a rash of skyscraper applications from residential developers has been doubted for some time. The most recent effort to rethink tall building policy stalled in 2017 with the publication of a draft "visioning" document. This was before the latest rash of tall buildings proposals.

Now the city council will revive the proposals and prepare a new Birmingham Design Guide which will regulate tall buildings policy, and which will have the status of a supplementary planning document.

The design guide will be "used to assess and guide the design of all new development across the city, from household extensions, to tall buildings in the city centre; ensuring they deliver high quality proposals," a report to city councillors said.

The city council said that a new draft design guide will be available for cosnultation early in 2020, with a view to adopting the plan by the summer. It is anticipated that a draft version of the guide will be consulted upon in early 2020 and the final versions adopted in summer 2020.

The city council will also work on proposals to control the loss of industrial land to alternative (mostly residential) uses, a common complaint in both Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter. The existing policy dates from 2006, long before the current residential boom. An updated supplementary planning document is proposed.

A full rundown of Birmingham City Council's proposals for new planning policies in 2020 can be found here.