Environmental group renews call for city park in Birmingham

Local initiative challenges Smithfield masterplan with alternative vision for city centre.

The community-led campaign group, CityPark4Brum, is pushing city officials to rethink the Smithfield Masterplan in order to provide a much larger open and green space to serve the existing and growing communities in the heart of the city.

The group argues that a park should occupy a much larger footprint than currently earmarked in the council’s plan for . Whilst Birmingham is served well by parks and open spaces farther out from the city centre, there is a notable lack of functional open space at its heart, particularly when compared to other major cities like London, Edinburgh and Barcelona.

The group, part of the Greener Birmingham initiative, argues that this is the last opportunity to establish a landmark area of open and green space in the centre of Birmingham since the site – previously occupied by the Wholesale Markets – is still almost entirely in city ownership. Once the masterplan is confirmed, land ownership is likely to change and the potential to create a singular world class open space that has the input of the local community and ability to be controlled through the council will be lost forever.

A petition circulated by CityPark4Brum, which is prominent on Twitter and Facebook, now has over 6,000 people signed up in support of the campaign. This has prompted the group to send it again, this time to both the council leader Ian Ward and to Andy Street, the West Midlands Mayor. It now also has the backing of other groups and charities, including the Birmingham Open Spaces Forum, the Impact Hub and the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country.

Jim Tucker, leader of CityPark4Brum says: “There is plenty of evidence that creating more green space in cities make sense as it improves health, reduces air pollution and brings communities together. This is our last chance to create a signature park right in the heart of our great city, one that creates a lasting legacy for generations to come as Birmingham continues to grow. A city can’t expand without also increasing and improving its green and open space provision. The council should now do the right the thing and listen to what thousands of local people want.”

The group is working with architect Peter Culley of Spatial Affairs Bureau to help demonstrate possible high level opportunities for the park. It intends to meet with council planners to show how commercial and residential targets could be met in order to remain a viable proposition in both space and economic terms.

It has suggested that a possible strategy would be to develop a joint venture between the council and a developer to fund the construction of a park and its future maintenance. It proposes that a major competition would be launched to ensure an appropriate process and design strategy is developed to serve the various sectors of the local and wider community.

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