Recently Birmingham City Council released it’s Core Strategy for the City for the next twenty years, providing a framework for long-term sustainable growth for the city, proposals include; to provide 50,600 new homes and deliver 100,000 new jobs by the year 2026. It is currently at consultation stage where residents of the city can have there say up until March the 18th, this can be done online here. ‘The B44’ Blog set about examining the draft and seeing what benefits the B44 area of Great Barr, Kingstanding and Oscott will receive.
To provide opportunities for new housing development, including the development of a new Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood at Greater Icknield.
To protect the important areas of Green Belt which border the area, including Sutton Park.
To support centres in the area, and in particular to promote retail and commercial growth in Sutton Coldfield and at Perry Barr.
To take advantage of the potential of the A38, A34, A457 and A41 corridors to promote commercial activity and employment at appropriate locations.
To protect and improve the quality of the Core Employment Areas, and to secure the development of a new Regional Investment Site at Aston.
To improve the quality of housing and residential environments, particularly but not only, in the Urban Living Housing Market Renewal Area.
To maintain the character of the important mature suburban areas to be found in parts of Sutton Coldfield.
To improve public transport by the reopening of passenger services on the Sutton Park railway line which connects Birmingham to Walsall (with new stations at Walmley and Sutton Park).
From reading this alone it is noticeable that the area covered by the blog is not mentioned by name. In fact a whole core strategy document search of the words ‘Kingstanding’ and ‘Oscott’ only produces two results. Already it is becoming clear that this area is not a key priority in the plan. When you look at the proposed map of development for the area the situation doesn’t improve.
At just a quick glance you can see how much is going on in all the areas (in particular Sutton Coldfield, one of the more affluent parts of the city) except for the B44 region. Yes it acknowledges that Hawthorn Road, Kingstanding Circle and College Road are ‘Neighbourhood Centres’, but these get no definition of how they will prosper, especially as all the investment is going into ‘Sub Regional Centres’ such as Perry Barr and Sutton Coldfield. If you take Hawthorn Road for example, which is soon to have open another take away and has also recently been granted permission for a new amusement arcade a clear sign of lack of opportunities coming to the area. Instead where are the plans for creation of new independent shops? Social Enterprises? Even new commercial opportunities? The proposal map does acknowledge the area around Shady Lane where David Lloyd Gym etc. are situated as a ‘core employment area’ but again gives no details of how this will expand. It also worrying how this employment area will attract new investment when all the other areas will be creating new retail and commercial opportunities and places such as Aston are given ‘Inward Investment’ status.
Likewise the area is not given any ‘transport development’ status, which considering all transport fares have risen this New Year you have to ask what are the residents of B44 contributing to with the increase in fares? There are also no planned open spaces, no cycle routes and no plans for any sustainable urban neighbourhoods. Failing to plan for a new cleaner, greener, healthier and more energy efficient area, both in terms of the community itself and in its housing stock. Although the housing in the area is not in as severe need as other parts of the city, much of it still needs to be bought in line with new sustainable housing policies. This is particularly important when energy prices are rising as the more energy efficient homes would help reduce fuel costs for local residents who are already feeling the pinch. Instead it is said that Kingstanding will be looked at as a potential area for future improvement, but instead priority for this strategy is given to the areas of Shard End, Druids Heath, Kings Norton and Meadway.
There is no doubt that the Birmingham Core Strategy has many good points, and no one is disputing that the investments made in the City Centre and the planned growth of Aston, Perry Barr and Sutton Coldfield will not have knock on effects for the B44 region, providing jobs and increased retail and leisure opportunities. But with all these things it is those areas that will see increased spending in local shops and services from the jobs and homes created and not Great Barr, Kingstanding and Oscott, which is in danger of falling behind. Aston, Perry Barr and Sutton Coldfield will see the benefits of the multiplier effect, where as B44 will be at the giving of the trickle down effect.
It is with all this in mind that ‘The B44’ Blog calls upon all residents of the area to ask for a fairer share of investment and higher priority to be given to Great Barr, Kingstanding and Oscott in the Birmingham Core Strategy. It is still only the consultation stage and we highly recommend that you all campaign for more to be done for the area. You have until March the 18th.