Buried amid the relentless news of COVID-19, a virtual webinar announced potentially one of the most consequential documents for Birmingham’s future – the Future City Plan 2040. The City Plan is a welcome reprieve from the gloomy realities of living during the worst health crisis of a century. And bounded by four core principles, it is immensely reassuring that this document has made a sincere attempt to reflect the future ambitions and desires of the Birmingham populous.
These four principles of a Green, Equitable, Liveable and Distinctive city are nouns which, unsurprisingly, the entire city can support. Yet it is encouraging to see that this document has shown a determination to go beyond vague terms and instead set a powerful tone for what is to come. By insisting that Birmingham should be at the front of a green revolution, that the city should leave no one behind and should promote and be proud of the diverse Brummie character, the council have answered a call from the city’s 1.4 million residents.
Great strides have already been made at releasing the existing cultural, architectural and natural capital of Birmingham. Yet so much of the city’s great assets remain wrapped up by the cobwebs of historic poor planning and underinvestment. There are canals which are desperate to be reincorporated into the city landscape, and underused public spaces, such as the Edgbaston Reservoir, which require more imagination, drive and investment from the city’s built environment sector.
However, many parts of the city are already unrecognisable from just a few years ago. Paradise Circus, one of Birmingham’s leading city centre developments, is now starting to bare the fruits after years of planning, investment and construction. The city’s metro system has also been expanded significantly, and the West Midlands Combined Authority should be praised for their ambition and successful delivery of this project.
Yet the challenge of delivering a city that is truly inclusive and prosperous, which isn’t just concentrated around a tight radius of Victoria Square, is startlingly big. In response, the City Plan rightly makes note of removing planning ‘red lines’ to reach areas outside the city core which have an important part to play in the city’s future. PLMR Birmingham is a strong advocate of this agenda, and we were proud to work with Moda Living on their Great Charles Street project – a scheme which will play a vital role in reconnecting the Jewellery Quarter with the central heart of the City.
Birmingham can and should be a leading European city. It is an unfortunate truth that the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled much of the momentum which had been building over previous decades. But together, residents, businesses and institutions now have a Masterplan to build from as we look to emerge from the pandemic stronger, fairer and more inclusive than before.
The consultation on the Future City Plan is now open and runs until 26th March, with the results set to be published in Autumn 2021. You can submit your feedback here: www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/people-1/our-future-city-plan-shaping-our-city-together