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Mixed reactions to Birmingham’s Big City Plan

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Birmingham has launched its Big City Plan (BCP) – a 92-page masterplan which has been three years in the making and which aims to guide development over the next two decades

The plan selects five areas for 1,500,000m2 of development potentially worth £10 billion, and will become part of Birmingham City Council’s Core Strategy – the authority’s statutory planning document.

The proposals split the city into five key areas for transformation, with sites marked for huge retail and office-led expansion and has been hailed as ‘the most ambitious, far-reaching development project undertaken in the UK’.

Glenn Howells, founder of Glenn Howells Architects who worked on the masterplan’s Eastside proposals, said: ‘The BCP will prove invaluable, not only in repairing urban fabric torn apart by highways, but by encouraging new developments to be integrated.

’In this respect, this work is very well timed since we are at the point at which a number of significant city centre projects are being designed, the Big City Plan shows how a clear pedestrian wiring diagram can connect these and strike a new balance between the car and pedestrian.’

The document includes a number or previously unseen images and plans, including Howells’ initial concept for how a proposed High Speed Rail route and station would be incorporated into the Eastside district (pictured).

This is about retrenchment

But Tom Jefferies, head of Birmingham’s School of Architecture, is not convinced: ‘The city goes through visionary planning [phases] and then retrenchment. This is about retrenchment.

He added: ‘There is an opportunity to really engage with the sustainability agenda – but the plans don’t grasp this by the horns. It is sensible and careful rather than exciting.’


Ken Shuttleworth of Make said:

‘Birmingham has for a long time been superb at large-scale development of which Bullring, Brindleyplace, The Mailbox and The Cube designed by ourselves, and soon the new library and station, are all good examples, but the days for major schemes like this are now a rarity. What the city now needs to focus on is the smaller scale interventions: the  ‘glue’ that links the main districts and developments together and opens up new areas for expansion.

‘The Big City Plan will actively tackle this need and  with a new political agenda and tightened economic belt, it is arguably more important than ever.  It is inevitable that piecemeal development will take place over the coming years and the Big City Plan will provide a coherent focus and framework for this; enabling the council to retain its teeth despite its lack of budget.

Ken Shuttleworth founder of Make

Source: Zander Olsen

Ken Shuttleworth founder of Make

‘Make has been involved with a part of the Big City Plan – the Retail Design Strategy which has taken the retail core and helped to define character areas for development, highlighting the design principles that will ensure the streets, squares and places are as thriving as the shopping centres.’


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