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Birmingham's Radical Car Plan, No Longer So Radical?


Driving into, and out of, Birmingham city centre could be about to change forever. But will it change for the better?

Plans presented to next week's meeting of the council's ruling cabinet envisage limiting journeys across the city, and only allowing access from a limited number of points.

The plan is part of a raft of measures, including a workplace car parking levy, a change to council car parking strategy, and an emissions charging zone, designed to improve air quality. Access to the city from the A38 ring road will be limited, the road could be rerouted, and speed limits on many city streets will fall to 20mph. The full details of the plan can be found here.

The result could be pedestrianisation of many more city streets.

Property industry sources admire the plan's ambition, but are increasingly concerned about implementation.

“Birmingham needs to take big steps to improve air quality and to achieve its target of being carbon neutral by 2030," CBRE Director Simon Phillips said. "The Birmingham Transport Plan is a statement of intent and you can’t fault its ambition. However, timing and deliverability is crucial: if car access to the city centre is denied, this needs to be accompanied by affordable and attractive alternatives, especially beyond the city centre. This will take time, funding commitment and political buy-in from local and national stakeholders."

Some point out that recent changes in attitude and car use mean the plans no longer feel as radical as they once did in a city largely built for cars.

“The company car parking space was one of the first perks to go during the downturn and there hasn’t been a U-turn since," CBRE Executive Director Ashley Hancox said.

“Occupier attitudes have shifted considerably. They are more climate-conscious and as the costs of parking have risen — and continue to do so — it no longer makes economic sense. Improvements in technology, such as Skyping, FaceTime and webexes, have also reduced the need to travel. As a result, reducing car parking allocation within new buildings is no longer the issue it once was for developers.”