Planning Application – Eastside Park

Birmingham's brand new city centre park is a step closer to reality as an outline planning application has now been submitted.

The planned park is an unusual long, narrow shape snaking its way through the Eastside area. Beginning by Moor Street Station off Park Street, the park will wrap around the front of the new BCU campus building up to Thinktank's Science Garden in front of Millennium Point. The park then runs alongside most of the length of Curzon Street.

Commuters and travellers arriving in to Birmingham New Street from Birmingham Airport and London will get a full view of the park. For too long this major route in to the city has given visitors a negative impression of the city. It also gives the increasing number of city centre residents a space to enjoy, along with families wanting a break from shopping trips in the city.

You have the chance to comment on the proposals up to 18th February using the Council's Planning Online tool.


Planning Application – Tesco Superstore

Site for proposed new Tesco storeTesco has submitted plans for a new superstore on the edge of Birmingham City Centre, within walking distance of the Jewellery Quarter and much of Ladywood.

The land, bounded by Camden Street, Icknield Street and Spring Hill, has been derelict since 2002 when the former Brookfield shopping precinct was demolished. It had long suffered from a lack of tenants and vandalism. Tesco have owned the land for some time so an application has been expected.

But the application is for more than just a Tesco!

The existing Spring Hill Library is sympathetically blended into the development, benefitting from a new glazed entrance and external lift. There will also be four smaller retail units facing Spring Hill with office space above, a small number of maisonettes on the Brookfields side of the development and undercroft car parking.

I'm cautious of new supermarket developments and the impact they can have on local businesses. However in this case I think the development will benefit surrounding businesses - and help provide new jobs in the constituency with the highest unemployment in the UK.


Happy 100th Birthday to the Old Fire Station!

The Old Fire Station - Jewellery Quarter
The Old Fire Station - Jewellery Quarter

The Old Fire Station - Jewellery QuarterThis afternoon I stopped by the Old Fire Station on Albion Street for a ceremony to mark its 100th birthday.

The centenary celebrations were organised by the Jewellery Quarter Neighbourhood Forum with help from the History group of the West Midlands Fire Service and the owner of the building, which is now predominantly a nursery school.

Children from the nursery came outside to meet the firemen and take part in the celebrations. Simon Phillips from the Neighbourhood Forum gave a short speech before 100 red balloons were released to mark the centenary. TNT News were also on hand to film the day so watch out for their report soon!

A few of us also got to see inside the courtyard. Once home to firemen and their families, the buildings are now home to numerous creative and media businesses.

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Jewellery Quarter – Slum of Tomorrow?

Some of the Jewellery Quarter apartmentsI’m very disappointed at Conservative City Cabinet member for Housing John Lines’ comments that Jewellery Quarter apartments are the “slums of tomorrow”.

I think it’s clear to all that some developers are struggling to sell all their units, while some are struggling to even finish building them. Some have apparently approached the Council hoping to do a deal to make them available to Council tenants – but Councillor Lines has said no.

I strongly disagree with his view that these apartments are “not good enough for our people”. Whilst I agree they are not necessarily suitable for families, that doesn’t mean that individuals or young couples wouldn't be perfectly happy living in them.

I live in the Jewellery Quarter and I am not alone in being insulted by Cllr Lines’ comments. The Jewellery Quarter has a fantastic community spirit thanks to the incredible work of the Jewellery Quarter Neighbourhood Forum and its partnership working with others including the Regeneration Partnership, JQ Association and others. Branding its potential future in this way will not help future investment or the bid for World Heritage Status at all.

Of course, high quality family homes should be built across the city and I am pleased with the progress being made in that regard. But we should not ignore housing stock that is available now – and that includes apartments. In the middle of a recession we need to find sensible, good value solutions to all our problems.

What we must do though, is ensure any future developments are put through a thorough planning process that scrutinises the quality alongside current demand and potential future demand - before planning permission is given for any more apartments.


The Cube – Modern Masterpiece or White Elephant?

The final phase of The Mailbox development is nearing completion. Named The Cube, the mixed-use development will provide a new hotel, with more shops, offices, apartments, bars and restaurants around Birmingham's canal district.

Many residents have contacted me to say the look of the building is nothing like they expected and could turn out to be an embarrassing mistake.

It was a similar story when the Mailbox itself was constructed and of course when the silver disc covered Selfridges building opened. But in time, Brummies seem to have taken both to their hearts.

So take a look at the artists impression, followed by the actual construction of the Cube. What do you think?

The Cube - artists impression

The Cube - during construction, August 2009

Birmingham City Skyline

Here's a few snaps from the 31st floor of Cleveland Tower on Holloway Head.

Beetham Tower from Cleveland Tower, Holloway Head, Birmingham
Looking east, directly across Holloway Head at Beetham Tower, with New Street station and the Rotunda behind.
Looking north from Cleveland Tower, Holloway Head, Birmingham at the BT Tower and Jewellery Quarter
Looking north with the BT Tower and the Jewellery Quarter in the distance.
Looking north-west from Cleveland Tower, Holloway Head, Birmingham, over the Mailbox and Centenary Square
Looking north-west over the Mailbox and Centenary Square.

Planning Application for New Library of Birmingham

Site of the new Library of Birmingham
Proposed design of the new Library of Birmingham

The detailed planning application for the new Library of Birmingham has been submitted, which kicks off a public consultation period. It would appear the controversial design concept remains, although the height has been slightly reduced after complaints it would dwarf its neighbours.

I am pleased to see the building will be connected to the Broad Street CHP (Combined Heat and Power) network. I am also intrigued by this:

Publicly accessible terraces at the third and seventh floors will provide outdoor green spaces for a range of activities, including quiet areas to read and relax with views over the city – while a ‘brown roof’ will provide a natural habitat for wildlife.

Planning Online is currenlty down, having some much needed improvement work, but the plans will be available to view there in the next few days. Alternatively, you can view the plans at the Planning Office, Alpha Tower.


Work Underway at St Georges

Future site of the Kettleworks in the Jewellery Quarter

Work is underway on the new St Georges development on the fringes of the Jewellery Quarter. The mixed use development covering 2.75 hectares will be built in 5 phases, eventually resulting in new office space, apartments, retail, bars, restaurants and 2 new hotels. It will be built around the Icknield Street, Carver Street and Pope Street area, which is mostly composed of vacant warehouse and factory buildings.

Preparatory work has started on the first phase, The Kettleworks, which will provide 236,176 sq ft of office space and a multi-storey car park. The first phase should be complete by late next year.

I'm very keen on this development not only for the job creation, but also because it opens out the Jewellery Quarter and creates a new gateway on the Ladywood side - something desperately needed.

There are still a number of developments - "The Quarter" on Warstone Lane and the Birmingham Mint - where work has stalled. Hopefully St Georges will not suffer a similar fate.


Catch-Up From The Capital

Blogging has been non-existent this week as I'm down in the big smoke for a few days. People need to smile more in this city.

Here's a round-up of what's been going on back in Birmingham:

  • Soldiers from Birmingham and the West Midlands will be welcomed home today with a march through the city centre. A one-minute silence will be observed and I will be joining in from 100 miles away.
  • The "Gym For Free" scheme, so successful in its trial across Ladywood, looks set to be rolled out across the city.
  • Jewellery Quarter based company Life has developed the brand concept “WorldF3rst” for the Formula 3 vehicle developed by Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre.
  • Birmingham's Chief of Regeneration Clive Dutton has left the city for the London Borough of Newham, managing the transformation of the area due to the 2012 Olympics.
  • The City Council is taking advice on hitting tough CO2 targets from environmental guru Jonathon Porritt

There's also plenty of talk about the proposed UK City of Culture bid on which I have very strong views, so will blog about that separately.