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Birmingham's Brand New Big City Plan: The Details

Digbeth, as envisaged in the new Birmingham city plan

A new Big City Plan for Birmingham will see the city centre spilling out into neighbouring districts, a rethink of development around the Curzon Street HS2 station, potential backing for the new studio complex touted for Digbeth, and more creative use of city council property to stimulate development.

There will also be a new list of major development sites.

The proposals are part of a new strategy for central Birmingham in the years to 2040. The Our Future City Plan document will replace the existing Big City Plan, published in 2010.

The new framework is now subject to public consultation until 26 March. You can read the full document here.

The framework envisages the city centre breaking out from within the Middle Ring Road. This means strengthening the links with the city centre and its integration with surrounding inner city suburbs such as Aston, Nechells, Balsall Heath, Small Heath and Sparkbrook.  

Launching the document, council leaders said the ambitious strategy focuses on creating people-centred environments, opportunities for growth in emerging green industries, improving health and wellbeing through access to green spaces, and making cycling and walking easier, safer and more attractive.

The document offers tacit support to proposals by Nikal for a £500M Mercia Studios complex in Digbeth. “How could we expand Digbeth’s creative vitality and celebrate our culture and diversity with a major visitor destination, maybe a new museum and film studio complex?” it asks.

The Grand, Colmore Row, Birmingham, base for the new Galliard/Apsley joint venture

“How can we transform this major gateway to the city, reduce the dominance of the A38 and add much needed green space for people to enjoy? Could the city council better use its land and buildings to encourage and support wider development and change?” the document added.

A new list of major development sites will be drawn up that stretches beyond the traditional boundaries of the city centre. “Looking forward, within a wider area of opportunity, additional Major Development Sites will be identified and promoted to secure investment across Central Birmingham,” the document said.

For now the focus remains on Paradise, Arena Central and Icknield Port Loop, Smithfield, Axis Square, Martineau Galleries and New Garden Square.

The plan asks whether the buildings around the forthcoming HS2 Curzon Station could be rethought to provide new workspaces and new homes, as part of a push for more mixed-use neighbourhoods.

The document warns that the traditional business core around Colmore Row also needs to become more mixed-use.

“The role of the traditional ‘Central Business District’ at the heart of the city has to adapt; it will need to provide for increased flexibility and quality of spaces and uses, becoming a place that encourages social interaction, collaboration and shared experience — responding to new ways of working, living, shopping, enjoying leisure and culture,” it said.

A draft plan will be completed by the autumn with approval expected in early 2022.

“This plan marks a major change from previous approaches to the city centre, with a clear intention to spread the benefits of development and investment into inner city areas, supporting access to infrastructure, jobs and improved public spaces,” Council Leader Ian Ward said.