top of page

Workplace investment, clean air, and culture - Future Cities Forum's Birmingham 2023 report

Cllr Courts, portfolio holder for HS2, energy and environment at the West Midlands Combined Authority and Leader of Solihull MBC speaks at Future Cities Forum alongside Paradise developer MEPC, Grimshaw, Stantec, Historic England and Birmingham City Council among other contributors.

Future Cities Forum held its April event in Birmingham at the offices of developer MEPC. The discussions focussed on the region's ambitions for tackling climate goals, attracting investment in new workspace and building on the success of last year's Commonwealth Games.

Important research was gathered from leaders in the region and included the West Midlands Combined Authority, The University of Birmingham, Stantec, PwC / West Midlands Growth Company, MEPC, Historic England, Birmingham City Council, Grimshaw and David Lock Associates.

Questions were asked around how the city can improve its green spaces and reduce emissions, whether office staff really did want to return to the office post pandemic and what kind of workspace would entice them back, as well as how investment in sport and culture can reduce inequality among diverse communities?

Birmingham's booming economy and tackling pollution

MEPC's offices are situated in Chamberlain Square, Paradise - an important area of growth for Birmingham, where international firms such as PwC, DLA Piper and Atkins - member of SNC Lavalin Group - have taken new work space. Goldman Sachs has also reached a long-term lease agreement for 110,000 square feet of permanent office space at One Centenary Way, part of MEPC’s £1.2 billion Paradise Birmingham development.

The new office space comprises five floors of the building, including a roof terrace overlooking Centenary Square. The office will have space for a headcount of several hundred, with the ability to accommodate more than 1,000 people in future years if required. Due for completion in early 2023, One Centenary Way is one of Birmingham’s most sustainable buildings with a pure electric heating and hot water supply system and cutting-edge technology, services and amenities.

Some 6,000 people left London in 2021 to relocate to the city for work and quality of life. Birmingham's economy is growing fast, with a young population - mostly university educated - and strong in terms of employment. Healthcare is the largest single industry in Birmingham and has experienced high growth, while the creative and digital industries are also now becoming part of the economic wellbeing of the region. 'Our future city plan 2040' is aimed at transforming Birmingham into 'an exciting, innovative and green city' with tree-lined parks and green walkways - a far cry from the perhaps outdated image of it with its famous 'Spaghetti Junction' and car-clogged streets.

Nevertheless, the city is not car-free and The University of Birmingham is currently carrying out research into the current health risks created by pollution, which statistics shows is responsible for 1,400 early deaths a year. Improving transport with greener alternatives is part of the solution but Cllr Courts, portfolio holder for HS2, Energy and Environment at the West Midlands Combined Authority, who opened our discussions, said the situation was complex in tackling poor air quality, but that the region was moving in the right direction.

In February this year, the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey visited the region as the WMCA was given almost £1million to tackle air pollution. Improving air quality is a key part of the WMCA’s long-term commitment to the environment, as outlined in its five-year Natural Environment Plan, launched in 2021, which sets out the actions the WMCA will take with its partners to enhance biodiversity, protect endangered species, and improve access to green spaces and waterways.

DEFRA has recognised that commitment by providing funding that will see the WMCA lead the most detailed monitoring yet of tiny particles in the air, known as PM2.5 and PM10, from things like wood-burners, factories and tyre dust. The WMCA is a project partner in the University’s WM-Air project, which uses data produced by the Supersite to inform local air quality policies. WM-Air will be involved in the DEFRA-funded project through supporting the particulate monitoring.

Cllr Courts told the Future Cities Forum:

'In the 1990's few people had a good impression of the region but it is clear today how we have come on. The big success has been the effect of collaboration between for instance, Solihull and Birmingham. It was my decision to work together with the city council and this ethos underpins the whole sustainable agenda. There are lots of challenges but the way I look at it, there are lots of opportunities too. Achieving clean air is tricky but it is part of our green growth. We have wonderful universities working on it and they have good relationships with business.

'Air movement doesn't respect boundaries. We still have a lot of cars emitting exhaust but we are greening our transport with 120 new electric buses and more hydrogen ones on order. We are pushing out EV coverage and that will help with emissions. We need to tackle particulates whose origins are different and come from solid fuels and tyre dust. They also come from industry. They hang around in the atmosphere and spread. They also come from car brakes and we need to shift to EV. But it is also public opinion we have to tackle.

'The University of Birmingham has written an excellent air quality report but the actions to take around it are tricky. The West Midlands has many businesses such as the metal bashing sector which gives off particulates, so we need to be much more focussed on what actions we take but at the same time not cut industries off at the knees. We need less rhetoric from politicians and more focus on what we can deliver at scale and the health benefits to stop people dying. The question around HS2 is tough. Producing concrete in the construction is energy inefficient. Yes faster transport will do something for business but every project suffers disadvantages as it is built.'

Above: aerial view of the University of Birmingham's main campus at Edgbaston

Research into clean air

The challenge of tackling poor air quality in the region was taken up by Dr Suzanne Bartington, Clinical Research Fellow in Environmental Health at The University of Birmingham and a UKRI Clean Air Champion.

Suzanne is a public health clinician and environmental epidemiologist with research interests focusing on three core themes: health and environmental impacts of ambient and indoor air pollution; sustainable transport mobilities specifically links between active travel infrastructure and health; environmental public policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. Suzanne has cross-cutting interests in development of new methods for monitoring, analysing and modelling impacts of air quality and application of mixed-methods approaches to intervention evaluation.

Led by William Bloss of the University of Birmingham, WM-Air will provide improved understanding of pollution sources and levels in the region, and new capability to predict air quality, health and economic impacts of potential policy measures. It will support the application of these to specific case studies across the West Midlands, ranging from major infrastructure projects such as HS2, to making effective use of Green Infrastructure (urban vegetation) across the city.

Project partners include the West Midlands Combined Authority, Transport for West Midlands, local authorities across the region including Birmingham and Coventry City Councils, HS2, and the Birmingham & Solihull NHS Sustainability & Transformation Partnership, plus a number of private sector organisations and local businesses.

WM-Air is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council’s Regional Impact from Science of the Environment (RISE) initiative, which funds regionally focused projects up to £4 million each over five years, with each Institution providing a further £1 million each towards their projects. RISE aims to bring research organisations together with businesses, policy bodies and other actors contributing to economic development specific to their location, to deliver significant regional impact from NERC environmental science.

Suzanne stated:

'WM-Air programme reflects the University's civic ethos and is built into the current framework, where we are planning to become one of the top 5 universities in the UK. The programme came out of the industrial strategy and has a focus on people and infrastructure. It began in 2017 and the timing was very good as we were going through devolution for the West Midlands and had buy in from cross-sector partners such as the hospitals in the city and also HS2.

'There has been a dramatic change of policy on clean air where plans have been set out for the next 20 years. We have been making incremental gains where air quality has improved over the decades. We are on the right path but our knowledge of air problems has increased and we have started to realise that there are health harms at much lower levels that we thought. Particulates affect every part of our body and it also costs a great deal of money through healthcare to deal with the effects.

'Is the financial investment in our research enough? Five million of investment is good and it has allowed us to have built up strong relationships with organisations and understand their cultures. Academic work can take some time but we have supplied tools and briefing papers. We are now looking at the legacy of the work we have carried out and how we can upskill our researchers for the future.

'It has been positive working with the Government. We worked with Chris Whitty on our report last year and now other cities are looking to us to see what they can do. Our joint working with the WMCA I think is unique. Of course, London has its ultra low emission zone but the WMCA is assessing broader options. Other major cities are now approaching us to help them.'

Above: CGI back view of HS2 Curzon station Birmingham (designed by Grimshaw)

Cllr Courts added:

'I am looking at a clean air map here of the region and the majority is coloured blue which is alright. Many areas of the country are nowhere near that. We still need to be focussed and on our international competition. We cannot afford to lose our industries.

'Of course planting trees helps, that's one measure as well as green transport. But we have to help industry adjust. Political action tends to be short term. A retrofit campaign lasts six months. I think if the Government insisted in five years time that no one is allowed to burn solid fuel like logs, we could really achieve something for climate action.'

Above: St Philip's Cathedral, Colmore Row Birmingham - three minutes' walk from Chamberlain Square and the Paradise development

Behavioural change for sustainable transport

Stantec Director, Daniel Griffiths, also joined the forum discussion and talked about the important role that behaviour change can bring about with regards to transport choices and lowering emissions.

The firm has worked on sustainable transport plans for Birmingham City University which originally comprised three different campuses, reducing to a two-campus estates strategy to focus development at its existing sites. The University needed travel plans that would play an essential role in the accessibility of these sites and the future development of the University. Stantec prepared the new travel plans in a way that encouraged staff and students to use sustainable modes to reach the new campus configurations.

It liaised with several stakeholders—including Birmingham City University, Birmingham City Council, the HS2 High Speed rail promoters, and Transport for West Midlands—and held engagement events across the university buildings to encourage staff and students to complete a travel survey. It advertised the survey through social media and other marketing material, prepared to get the maximum response. The result was a useable report that identified existing travel behaviour and the possible changes that could be made to encourage a shift to more sustainable modes.

Dan commented on the important vision of the future for better transport and being climate aware:

'What we are focussing on is trying to create transition and enable people to make low carbon emissions. We need to be taking HGV's off the road and onto rail, invest in the Metro, stop creating more infrastructure and focus on EV. But you have to understand that out of the people who live in my area, forty per cent don't have a car. What is particularly positive is that Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry are coming together to work on better transport.' Cllr Courts reminded the discussion group of the important work that is being achieved in the area of sustainable construction and transport:

'The work that is happening is exceptional. One of the bridges over the M42 has prefabricated panels. Five hundred people have been taken off unemployment and given training to do this. This company's diversity credentials are so good.

'We are working with autonomous vehicles in Solihull, its a better thing to do than try to fiddle with existing transport infrastructure which just messes everything else up.'

Daniel Griffiths continued:

'The problem with the visitor destination (theme) for example is that the focus is always around the car. We have to be more balanced and aligned around long term infrastructure. The Green Book needs to be accelerated.

'Again with joined-up housing and transport, we have to remember that a lot of people don't have the wealth to have access to a car. The public transport system needs to be expanded and we need to make behavioural changes to achieve good air quality. We have to ask ourselves how do we get over current obstacles and every resident has to consider what does this mean for me and what evidence is there that can be drawn on and considered. It is so important for these people to inform themselves of better travel options through WhatsApp groups for example. The big question is how we improve communication so that people can make better and informed decisions about how they travel sustainably.'

Above: Number One (on left with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery reflected) and Number Two Chamberlain Square with the Chamberlain Memorial on right

Investment in the workplace

The forum discussion turned to how to attract talent and businesses to invest in the region for economic sustainability. Of course a city's reputation on clean air and healthy environment is part of this, but the attractiveness of well designed places and sporting / cultural facilities and events is also important.

PwC has its largest mainland regional office outside London in Birmingham with over 2,000 people located in One Chamberlain Square. The economy of the Midlands with its balance and mix of industries and international businesses was a key factor for its investment in Birmingham.

Matthew Hammond, Chairman of the Midlands region for PwC, Senior Partner for the Birmingham office, and Chair of the West Midlands Growth Company, told the forum that PwC has had a long history with Birmingham but the question remains that you have to continue to work at making the city liveable and attractive to the workforce:

'We must consider the next generations that will live and work here. I have two and a half thousand people who work just over my shoulder at our office with an average age of thirty, they don't have cars or bikes and some don't even own a suit. We have to appeal to a generation as being the agents for change. How do people want to live and work? Graduates leaving university are looking at where they can live in order to get to work and there are massive upsides to this in this city. Then there are the working patterns. I think we are misleading ourselves if we think that everyone came to the office every day before the pandemic. They did not. On an average day out of 2,000 employees, I perhaps only have 800 to 900 of them in. The rest are out seeing clients or on a train. The three years of the pandemic is a very short time in the history of working life and I do not think it is the end of the office. Young people still need to be mentored in the workplace and network. So I have confidence in the expansion of workplaces in the centre of Birmingham.

'With my work for the West Midlands Growth Company, I see great unprecedented success in Birmingham over the last decade as a city with a strong visitor attraction. Then came the pandemic and the Commonwealth Games, which had to be organised very fast and with issues such as emissions and diversity at its heart. But the transport worked and the visitors that came to the city realised that Birmingham had changed dramatically since the 1990's. Whether you regard the £870 million as a cost or investment in the Games, it was very successful and we are now onto our second part of tourism and investment programme.'

On expanding the region's strong visitor economy, leading figures from the West Midlands have welcomed the news that it is one of 12 new destinations to gain a special status aimed at boosting tourism. An agreement between VisitEngland and West Midlands Growth Company will see a new Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP) formed representing Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

The Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country LVEP aims to give destinations a voice at a national level, using its new status to shape national strategy and activities, and roll them out regionally. The partnership with VisitEngland will give access to expert advice, as well as dedicated toolkits and training programmes, enabling the partnership to better support the region’s visitor facing businesses.

Above: view of Number One Chamberlain Square just before the Commonwealth Games in July 2022

Workplace design and environment

MEPC's regional director Rob Groves expanded on Matthew Hammond's view of the future of the workplace in Birmingham. He agreed with Matthew that we are not seeing the 'death of the office':

'The pandemic really accelerated what business needs to do. The workplace needs to be different. There is always going to be a purpose in coming into the workplace and that is collaboration. You learn by sitting and listening to people around you and it doesn't have to be five days a week. But you can't do that at home, if you do mistakes are made.

'All sorts of factors go into creating a quality workplace and how attractive it is with break out spaces etc. But people working also need to step outside and go to cafes and often like the independents. So you can build the workplace but it's how it also works outside in its location. That is paramount. I have worked a lot in the past on business parks and often they were not delivered to their master plans. We must have locations with sustainable public transport.

'MEPC is now part of Federation Hermes, which says it can't recruit in London, so the emphasis is up here in Birmingham. There is good transport into the city but it is not the death of the car because you still need that individual transport for evening events or shopping.

'We have to also think about patterns of residential living in the centre of Birmingham. We are building The Octagon which will have apartments on the high side of price in the build to rent sector. The city has become much more attractive to enjoy and at night and we are experiencing a new type of urban living for younger people working in professional services. These are not flats for families that need more space outside of the city where their children can have space to play. So we are living differently than in Europe, with single people and older people living closer to the centre. We don't want 'student-ville' either but a mix of people living in the city centre. We are now looking to find other projects across the UK, which will be the big city centre schemes.'

Above: signage and the night sky - CGI of proposed Lendlease regeneration development at Smithfield (David Kohn Architects)

Protecting heritage while allowing for 'the new'

Birmingham has seen large scale road building post war and there has been concern about how much heritage has been lost in the process. While progress is to be welcomed, with new buildings in the city, Historic England is continuing to campaign to save significant heritage sites.

Currently Historic England wants developer Lendlease to make revisions to their £1.9 billion plans to transform Smithfield Market in Digbeth, where events were hosted at the Commonwealth Games last year. It says the proposals could harm the city's landscape, and that they fail to meet national planning policies. The concern also lies with 'expected harm' to the remains of a medieval manor site. The character of Deritend and Bordeslay are also threatened, it states. It says the plans fall short of what should be expected of England's second-largest city and are a missed opportunity.

It describes how the site occupies an important position in that it is regarded as Birmingham’s birthplace. It is where the settlement first developed around the moated manor house of the de Birmingham family, the Parish Church of St Martin’s and, subsequently, its marketplace, the Bull Ring.

Historic England provides advice on planning applications, but also on planning policy. Since 2021, Historic England has been engaging with Birmingham City Council’s on its Our Future City Plan vision and on its draft Local Plan, which will shape the direction of growth and associated planning policies up to 2042.

A further public consultation on Our Future City Plan is expected in the spring of 2023 and Historic England hopes that the vision for the city has progressed.

The next public consultation on the draft Local Plan is expected in the autumn. Historic England will be engaging with both to explain the role that heritage can play in regeneration and is encouraging anyone who lives, works or plays in the city to make their views known too.

Rosamund Worrall, Development Advice Team Leader from Historic England joined our discussions:

'Certainly we are on board about the city changing as a place to live and work but we have to ask how that can happen without reducing what we have. Smithfield is not a designated asset, but it is where Birmingham began and where the volleyball for the Commonwealth Games was held. Lots of people watched the volleyball without having a clue about the history of this important site. There was a moated manor house there and later the medieval market and all the trades that started in medieval times have there origins there. It is where the 'City of a 1,000 trades' began.

'Since the second world war there has been so much road building and it has had a knock on effect where we keep clearing and building. We are now facing climate issues and how do we get the balance of planning right for the city. Of course in some instances the growth of buildings are appropriate, but how can we come up with plans that are truly transformational for Birmingham with different areas, green spaces and use for our canal infrastructure?

'Saving the historic sky line is perhaps something more for cathedral cities than Birmingham. We have a number of cathedrals and no main focus because we have so many different communities, but there are key views. It is good to see the old and new together and taking in the Selfridges building in one of them is excellent.

'The work we have done of the Burges in Coventry is a very worthwhile project to help the high street and I hope 'Our Future City Plan' and Local Plan will demonstrate everyone's aspirations for best of city and town design.'

Rob Groves picked up on the green agenda that Rosamund referred to:

'The important issue is carbon and that has affected changes in the design of new buildings. Tenants out there want to understand what they are moving into and we can do a lot to minimise the impact on climate. One way is to re-purpose existing buildings for the wellbeing of tenants and for sustainability and this could be a way forward for the historic side of the city.'

Above: The Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square, sharing a performance space with the Hippodrome and providing a cultural focus for people relocating to the city

The value of culture to the economy

Cllr Jayne Francis, cabinet member for digital, culture, heritage and tourism at Birmingham City Council agreed with Rosamund that visitors come to Birmingham for a variety of reasons, not least to see historic buildings, such as the art galleries. She said culture plays a large part in the city economy, so Festival 23 this year would be a way of building on the success of the Commonwealth Games.

The city council has unveiled plans for Birmingham Festival 23 to mark the one year anniversary of the Commonwealth Games. The festival it says will celebrate the city's creativity, as a sign of its ongoing commitment to funding culture. Commissioned and supported by Birmingham City Council, the Festival will take place in Centenary Square with a ten day programme of free events that showcase the City’s rich cultural offer, which will be announced in June.

Birmingham Festival 23 will be delivered by the team behind the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Festival, including Outdoor Places Unusual Spaces (OPUS) and JA Productions, led by Creative Director Raidene Carter and Executive Director Will Mauchline, and with programme partners including SAMPAD, Fabric, ACE Dance & Music, and United By 2022 Legacy Charity.

Proudly outdoors and free to access, the Festival it says will echo the city-centre experience of the Games, taking over Centenary Square with live music and performance, creative and participatory activities, and big-screen content to conjure the shared experiences, magic and memories of the summer of ‘22. The Festival also serves to celebrate the city’s rich cultural offer through programming committed to diversity, inclusion and homegrown talent.

Cllr Francis stated:

'We have a golden opportunity of the back of the Commonwealth Games to build on our cultural offer and through these events we can re-profile our cities. We can also look at Birmingham and ask questions about how the city is developing. Birmingham is so huge, I am concerned about our local centres.

'Festival 23 will make sure we go out to local communities and we must get the connectivity right to bring young families in the city centre. Despite huge levels of investment in the region we still have large numbers of children on free school meals and despite decades of regeneration, too many people live with poor housing or access to a car. There are still huge health and education disparities.

' But what we saw last year at the Games was how to do things differently. There is real swagger and a level of confidence in Birmingham. People got involved in arts and culture and had a go at sporting activities. We mustn't lose sight of that and how all our partners worked so closely across the region.

'There have been investment spin offs and a confidence from investors, we have confidence from the BBC for example and we are growing our cultural and digital quarters with the help of our academic partners.'

Above: CGI of new North Stand and new club facilities at Villa Park Stadium (Grimshaw for Aston Villa FC)

Regenerating sports stadiums for all

New designs and plans for the £100 million redevelopment and expansion of Villa Park have been submitted for planning. Led by Trivandi and international architecture practice Grimshaw, the proposals increase the capacity of the stadium beyond 50,000 and, as part of the Aston Villa’s commitment to the local community, enable Villa Park to operate as a thriving year-round destination.

The first phase of the proposals focuses on the design of a new North Stand which will accommodate the increased stadium capacity, a series of community and club facilities, and the redevelopment of the public realm. The design, a distinct change from the gated Villa Park of today, dissolves the boundary between the stadium and its surrounding streetscape, transforming the fan and visitor experience.

Grimshaw's project lead, Sarah Williams, joined our discussions and described the development in more detail:

'It began a few years ago with our team asking how we could help the Park to become a more enjoyable venue for sports fans. We decided that something had to be done about the North Stand which was built in 1897 and is a true British icon. We wanted to work with it in keeping with its history and open out the fortress style of the building as well as create a new generation of Villa Park fans. It is important to make it accessible to the community as it is next to a very deprived area which needs regeneration. We need to break down the barriers and make it a positive destination with community facilities.'

Birmingham City Council recently said it was delighted to announce that Birmingham and Villa Park have been selected to be a host city and stadia as part of the UK & Ireland UEFA EURO 2028 Bid. Earlier this year, the UK & Ireland submitted the final bid to host UEFA EURO 2028 - a key milestone in the bidding process to host one of the most prestigious football tournaments in the world.

'Yes there is digital pressure for people to stay at home and watch sport but what the pandemic has taught us is that more often they want to get out to watch the theatre of live sport. The EURO 28 will be a great showcase for Birmingham but there is pressure to get the transport right. Villa is in a terrible location to get to. At the moment everyone drives and parks anywhere they like, then walks across the field. As architects we always talk about integrated destinations but we really mean it. The stadium is on the edge of gardens and we want to create a new breed of fan who enjoys not only the football but other elements such as the open spaces around. It was sad that hardly anyone came to the local consultation about the project because they assumed they didn't have a voice, but the project will impact them in a positive way. The stuff that Villa is doing for the community is incredible and it will empower young people to go and participate.'

Above: entrance to Villa Park at dusk (Grimshaw)

'One thing the project is aiming to do is change people's behaviour and give them proper and sustainable transport. Our design team at Grimshaw was so heartened at how Perry Barr Station was built so fast (in 2022), and we are trialling all sorts of different options for travel around EURO 28.'

Suzanne Bartington added the research insight that interestingly there were no adverse impacts on air during the Commonwealth Games and that through monitoring it proves that it was able to deliver such a large event without emissions.

Cllr Courts took the opportunity in the conversation to say that on transport the city has focussed on the centre too much and now disparate communities need a well connected bus network. He said there is a need to understand how better to connect housing and jobs. In rural areas the elderly are not going to jump on bikes, so one transport strategy won't fit all. In Solihull there is a trial with 'on demand' buses that run to Coventry and that may be a worthwhile measure.

Rob Groves said that importantly it has been sticks that have helped improve transport in other cities like Oxford where people do not have any other option but to get on buses in a more sustainable transport plan, and that could be useful in Birmingham, where if you are wearing a suit, there is a reluctance to get on board.

Above: improvements to public realm under construction on Colmore Row as it joins Victoria Square with Birmingham Town Hall in distance


Future Cities Forum's discussions in Birmingham drew together important contributors to the debate on how to grow the regions' economy sustainably, attend to health concerns such as tackling clean air and recognise the ongoing energy and enthusiasm from last year's Commonwealth Games to propel the city forward to encourage new investment into cultural and sporting events for the diverse range of communities and the international visitor. Please read our conclusions to the recorded discussions at MEPC's offices in Paradise:

  • Birmingham's economy is booming and investors in workplace are keen to move out of London to re-locate in the city. The region remains important as a manufacturing and engineering centre employing over 100,000 people and also as an important innovation hub in smart transport. Healthcare is the largest single industry in Birmingham but new workplaces are being keenly snapped up by large international companies in the areas of law and financial services, with Goldman Sachs saying it wants to make Birmingham its new headquarters.

  • Place-making is important because workplace tenants want to spill out to enjoy the bars, restaurants and squares along with the cultural and sporting attractions of the region. 'Our Future City Plan 2040' is aimed at transforming Birmingham into an exciting, innovative and green city, with green walkways, tree-lined parks and open cultural spaces.

  • Research into tackling pollution is continuing at The University of Birmingham and the UK government is funding work to highlight the danger of emissions and particulates for health. The WMCA believes that measures such as banning the burning of solid fuel could make a dramatic difference. While WM-Air's work could save lives in the long term and other cities are keen to learn from this work, tackling pollution is also linked to saving the NHS large costs in treating illness and achieving future economic prosperity.

  • Behaviour change is key to creating more sustainable transport measures. Investment could be directed in more joined up bus and train services linked to new housing. How can the public make informed choices and what information do they need? Can greater awareness come about through WhatApps groups? Is there a carrot and stick approach that would be successful in getting people to use buses more frequently than the car in Birmingham? Solihull is continuing to test out autonomous vehicle travel.

  • Planners need to consider how a mixed-age population can be encouraged to live in the city centre, so that housing can support a growing professional sector and allow for a sustainable night-time economy. Birmingham has many successful universities and the city has a young thriving population, but developers do not want the centre just to be dominated by students. Can families and older people live comfortably in the centre (as they do in many European cities) or are they better suited in future to living outside?

  • Historic England is concerned that heritage from medieval times is preserved in the city and this is particularly true around protecting Smithfield Market. The 'city of 1000 trades' has many stories to tell but has already suffered from post war road building. The 'new' is to be encouraged but in balance with heritage and the planning of green open spaces. The visitor economy relies on a mix of historic streets and museums as well as the thrill of encountering new iconic buildings.

  • Birmingham City Council and the WMCA are keen to build on the success of the Commonwealth Games from last year and show that investment in culture and sport can really make a difference to local communities as well as the larger economy of the UK. The project to regenerate Villa Park Stadium and a new training ground across the river within walking distance has - potentially - huge benefits for the local community which can have a real voice in decisions made about improving the district around it. Hosting the EURO 28 tournament will enable the spotlight to fall on Birmingham, but good transport solutions must be found, as they were for the Commonwealth Games.

Thank you to MEPC for hosting Future Cities Forum's clean air, workspace development and cultural/sports-led regeneration discussions, which has allowed important research to be collated on Birmingham and the region's climate action goals, investment ambitions and economic drive on creating a legacy from the success of last year's Commonwealth Games.

Above: Housing along one of Birmingham's famous canals


Recent Posts
bottom of page