Archives for posts with tag: Birmingham City Council

Birmingham recently hosted world’s first zero emission vehicle summit where Chris Grayling, the transport secretary unveiled plans which related only to road traffic – despite a Birmingham university team pioneering the use of the hydrogen-fuelled barge, in a city blessed with a network of waterways.

The developers of Birmingham’s Icknield Port Loop – a joint venture involving Urban Splash, Places for People, the Canal & River Trust and Birmingham City Council – have today presented a site-wide masterplan showing family houses, apartments, business premises and leisure facilities. Birmingham Live reports that, following work on remediation and rebuilding of the canal walls started earlier this year, construction has started on the Icknield Port Loop scheme and the first homes are scheduled to be ready for occupation in Spring 2019 (artist’s impression above).

James Lazarus, Head of Property Development and of the joint venture at the Canal & River Trust, comments that more people will be encouraged to use the city’s canals and tow-paths to commute to and from work and travel to the city centre; he earlier wrote that C&RT is “aware of the potential to run a taxi service and provision is being made in the plans to facilitate this” (Email to CBOA chair, September 25, 2017).

Those attending the Recycling and Waste Management Exhibition at the NEC this week were given a CBOA presentation illustrated by series of slides showing the advantages of carrying materials and waste by water instead of road.

Will there be cleaner greener transport for Icknield Port materials, waste removal – and later for commuters?







The loss of Eastside Park (above) to HS2 , ‘more of a square than a park’, strengthens the case for greening Smithfield. Photograph: John Newson. 

John Newson points out that Birmingham Friends of the Earth earlier responded to the council’s 2011 Big City Plan, proposing that the open space on the Smithfield site should have should have functions of stalls/market space which could be combined with trees and some green space. He comments: “A park, in the sense of extensive grass and flower beds may not be achievable, given the intensity of pedestrian footfall, which is likely, and indeed desirable.  Eastside Park is more of a square than a park”.

The CityPark4Brum  2015 petition was followed by the council’s Smithfield Master plan (March 2016)  which may be downloaded here, with the August ’17 memorandum. There was a new consultation which included a proposal for a new park on one part of the site.

The petition, masterminded by James Tucker, now has over 5000 signatures and will be resubmitted to the council and the metro mayor. As he points out, “Birmingham does not have a large park in its city centre – a glaring omission for the UK’s second city. However, we currently have a unique opportunity to address this . . . Birmingham Smithfield is less than 5 minutes’ walk from New Street station and the Bullring, an ideal location for a green park that could truly transform our city’s landscape”.

He feels that the space allocated for this new park is too small – smaller than the Cathedral Green and  wedged in between other buildings adding: “ Therefore the CityPark4Brum campaign is continuing and is now into its third year”.

The artist’s impression

Though one correspondent concedes, “Green space is always nice” he continues: “it might well become repositories for litter and poorly disposed of dog poo bags. Probably best if fenced off and excluding humans”.

Steve Beauchampé expresses no such misgivings, writing firmly in the Birmingham Press: “Birmingham needs a city centre park, not the thin strip of tree-lined greensward offered in the Smithfield development”.

He found Birmingham City Council’s vision of a future mixed use of retail, residential, offices, eateries, a brace of public squares and some undefined cultural activities, ”all very predictable” and had replied by posting on the Press website that they should abandon the masterplan and simply lay out a park, one where you could walk a dog, kick a ball around, sit on a bench, enjoy an ice cream in a tearoom.

The CityPark4Brum has had some influence, with BCC agreeing to incorporate a grass and tree-lined corridor (linear park, illustrated below) into their revised masterplan although Beauchampé notes that the total amount of greenery promised still appears to be very modest – ‘a truncated boulevard’. He continues:

“Apart from the grounds of St Philip’s Cathedral, and St Paul’s on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter, there is almost no usable green space in or near Birmingham city centre. Taken as a whole Birmingham probably has more parks than Venice has canals, but the central core and its immediate surrounds – where the population is rapidly increasing (and will continue so to do) – remains bereft of anything resembling a park.

“One need look no further than Birmingham’s geographical neighbours to realise how notable Birmingham’s lack of a gloriously unstructured and unregulated, egalitarian central zone park is: Coventry, (War Memorial Park) Solihull (Tudor Grange, Brueton and Malvern Parks), Walsall (Arboretum), West Bromwich (Dartmouth Park) and Wolverhampton (West Park) all boast large parks on the periphery of their centres, easily walkable from their respective retail and civic hearts”.

Warning that in a year or two there may simply be no parcels of land available on which to develop a central park, he foresees future generations looking at:

  • a plethora of apartments that they will not be able to afford to rent,
  • hotels that they will never need to stay in
  • offices that they will probably never be needed to work in
  • and nowhere to walk their dogs, kick their footballs
  • or relax with their friends.

Beauchampé points out that national and even international perceptions still imagine Birmingham as the motor city, an unattractive urban sprawl, full of underpasses, flyovers and rain-soaked concrete, concluding:

“A well-designed city park or green space would change perceptions of Birmingham in a way that 25-30 additional 25-30-storey high new buildings never could . . . potentially as ‘impactful’ on the city as staging the Commonwealth Games or the arrival of HS2: a gift that truly would keep on giving, day after day, decade after decade. A place for relaxation, exercise, for cultural and communal experiences, where the city can celebrate and commemorate and which can be enjoyed without cost by rich and poor, young and old.”




The Planner reported last year that 73 Councils in England are now piloting the new brownfield registers in an attempt to bring forward derelict and underused land for new homes. Dudley’s register may be seen here.

The Government’s brownfield land register project is intended to help to bring forward previously developed land for new homes and fulfil its pledge to get planning permission in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites for housing.  

Leeds City Council’s website records that it has put together a pilot register of suitable sites able to accommodate 5 or more dwellings or be at least 0.25 hectares in size, with the capacity for building 20,000 new homes. Details, with a map of 84 sites in the six separate zones, are published on the Council’s Open Data platform Data Mill North

Developments include the Climate Innovation District at Low Fold, which will offer 312 zero-carbon apartments, and mixed tenure communities, including local authority-owned housing such as East Bank (Saxton Gardens).

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds has one of the fastest growing economies and workforces in the UK with 140,000 people working in the city centre alone. Transforming our brownfield sites into these attractive communities supports regeneration, continued economic growth and public services, helping to avoid the problems that some cities have faced of low levels of occupation of the city centre at weekends.

The authority is looking to work in partnership with the private sector with funding models including pump priming, patient investments and grant funding, as well as looking at ways it can underwrite risk.

Councillor John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council. “By expanding our partnership working and targeting funding to revive brownfield sites, either by financing infrastructure or supporting individual schemes, we can give developers and investors the confidence to get to work and provide badly needed homes.”

Since 2012, the council has been developing new homes on the estate – a brownfield site – where a clearance programme of poor quality housing has been ongoing for a period of years.  Rebranded as Abbey Fields, one of three schemes being undertaken as part of the council’s Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust programme. The first phases of the redevelopment are now completed providing 141 new family homes. Of these 76 were for outright sale and 65 for social rent as new council homes. Income generated by the sale of these homes will be reinvested into the council’s own housing stock.

A new four year programme will see small and medium sized house builders working for Birmingham City Council’s house building arm – Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust. It was launched on 22nd March at Birmingham’s Council House.






On the 10th of January in the Sunday Times, Kiki Loizou wrote about founded by Matt Dredger: “Ventures such as Matt Dredger’s rental website Borroclub have led experts to proclaim a new entrepreneurial age for Britain”.

She described him stumbling across unused tools and appliances in his garage and dreaming up a website that allowed him to lease them to neighbours. He explained: “A few years ago there was nowhere someone like me could go to work on a business while learning from other people. There was no one-stop shop for people starting up who needed advice on things like finance or IT”.

mattborroclub logoMatt used £9,000 of his savings to start Borroclub in Birmingham last year. His venture lets users lease anything, from golf clubs to marquees, from locals instead of buying the kit at a much higher cost.

When listing items online at, the lender sets the price per day, plus a security deposit. When the item is returned and its condition is confirmed, the deposit is returned. Both the lender and the borrower can decide whether the item is to be handed over at their home, or if they prefer, Borroclub can collect and deliver it. He notes: “In the past couple of weeks, our borrowers have saved over £1,300 and in the process, over 300kg of CO2 has also been saved”.

mattborroclub lwmheader

In August, Karen Leach wrote on the LWM blog, I was happy to discover Borroclub, a good example of a sharing economy initiative, last week whilst looking for a large gazebo for my mother’s Significant Birthday picnic. Despite it being a very new venture, they even actually had a gazebo listed already – so I’m convinced this enterprise has legs….”

Other items featured on Borroclub include a sewing machine that would cost £52 to buy, but can be loaned for £5 per day, a jet washer and a hedger trimmer, both with original values of £130, but can be rented for £5 per day. A roof box with an original value of £270 can be loaned for only £2 per day, while a tent with a value of £600 can be borrowed for £5 per day. Other popular items include folding beds, pet carry cages, life jackets, an air compressor and lawn scarifier.

Borroclub is especially useful for those living in apartments and homes with no garages and limited storage space. It enables people to engage with their community in a practical, helpful and mutually beneficial way. Lenders often give guidance to borrowers on how to use an item.

mattborroclub2 innovation campusInnovation Birmingham Campus (Birmingham Science Park Aston, now wholly owned by Birmingham City Council) launched Borroclub as part of its Entrepreneurs for the Future programme, which provides business incubation to tech start-ups. The benefits include up to nine months free office space, telecoms, meeting rooms and superfast broadband. In addition, there is continued mentoring from the Entrepreneurs in Residence, regular visiting expert sessions, a series of workshops and events, networking opportunities and peer-to-peer support.

All this support comes free of charge; Innovation Birmingham does not take an equity stake in the start-up businesses, as enrolment onto the Entrepreneurs for the Future programme is part-funded by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, which – aiming to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union – invests in innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and the low-carbon economy.

David Cameron has rewarded a senior civil servant who committed a “catastrophic leadership failure” in the new year’s honours list.

lin homerValentine Low and Lucy Fisher in the Times record that Lin Homer, the chief executive of Revenue & Customs, becomes a Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath, despite being heavily criticised in a succession of jobs.

Dame Lin has repeatedly been seen to fail during her meteoric career, note a 2012 article:

  • She was criticised in 2005 when she was chief executive of Birmingham city council; a judge said that she had “thrown the rule book out of the window” in an effort to increase postal vote applications. Richard Mawrey, the election commissioner, described the following electoral fraud as one which “would disgrace a banana republic”.
  • In her role as chief executive of the UK Border Agency (2008), she was accused of repeatedly misleading MPs over the size of the backlogs in asylum and immigration.
  • In 2010, when she was permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, where she stayed for less than 12 months, she was among officials criticised by Sir Richard Branson for ignoring concerns over the franchising competition for the West Coast main line.
  • In her present role as head of HMRC, she has been accused by the public accounts committee of “an unambitious and woefully inadequate” response to a deplorable National Audit Office report – see an earlier Political Concern post .

Why has Ms Homer been given this accolade?

john clancySteve Beauchampé informed readers yesterday that Cllr John Clancy has been elected to succeed Sir Albert Bore as the new leader of Birmingham City Council, by a meeting of the 78-strong Labour group of councillors.

The first round saw Clancy poll 31 votes, Holbrook 23, Ian Ward 22 and Barry Henley 1. Clancy was finally successful in his fifth leadership attempt, elected by a single vote over Penny Holbrook, securing 38 votes to Holbrook’s 37.

There are now grounds for real hope as new Labour leaders are elected at city and national level.

Steve summarises some of John Clancy’s most promising policies:

  • he has pledged to focus less on grand city centre projects
  • and focus more on the rejuvenation of the city’s 40 wards through a package of devolution measures transferring decision making to the most local level possible.
  • He plans to consider replacing the current Leader and Cabinet system by returning to the Committee system and
  • intends to renegotiate the Council’s controversial outsourcing contracts with Capita and Amey.
  • He has promised an ‘open data’ council where such contracts are open to public scrutiny.

An overlap with Corbynomics, casual dress and negative colleagues

john clancy 3More likely to please those who like their politicians snappily dressed, he can also unwind; there is no fear of him losing votes because he does not habitually wear a tie – as did Corbyn. Clancy’s pledge to launch a Birmingham Bond to raise finance for housebuilding and other infrastructure projects calls to mind Colin Hines’ presentation of Brummie Bonds – a project undertaken with Richard Murphy – one of Corbyn’s advisers.

Steve Beauchampé ends: “However, given that he commands less the support of less than half of the city’s Labour councillors, compromise will need to be high on his agenda in the months ahead, not just as far as the Improvement Panel are concerned, but with regard to his party colleagues too”.

Read Steve’s article here:


As Urbaser Balfour Beatty hopes to impose a new incinerator on Gloucestershire – one of the last actions of former planning minister Eric Pickles which will be contested by Stroud District Council at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on June 25th – Birmingham Friends of the Earth is calling on the city council to introduce a greener waste system, to make it easier for everyone to reduce, re-use and recycle, so that the city makes best use of its local resources.

The City Council’s contract with the owners of the Tyseley incinerator, Veolia, expires in 2019, leaving four years in which to find a better solution.

tyseley infant deaths chart

Though other factors will be involved in higher rates of infant death in areas surrounding the incinerator, regular rigorous examination of the data on these deaths should have been made and measures taken to address them.

BFOEAs part of its upcoming Go Local: Waste isn’t Rubbish campaign, Birmingham Friends of the Earth is calling on Birmingham City Council to introduce a greener waste system, to make it easier for everyone to reduce, re-use and recycle, and so that our city makes best use of its local resources. They have set up a Waste isn’t Rubbish petition:

I want Birmingham City Council to:

  • Make it easier for people like me to recycle food waste, by providing a food waste collection and more support for home and community composting.
  • Make it easier for people like me to recycle more types of waste from home.
  • Use local companies to process our waste.

Readers may sign it here.


 A few days ago a 24 year old visitor from London cycled three miles from the station to his destination. His verdict on our local condition: far more dangerous than cycling in London, car drivers are not so used to sharing the road with cyclists.

In a recent FT article, Anthony Impey who runs Optimity, which installs and runs “superfast” wireless broadband for offices across London, said, “Our ability to get around London is fundamentally important,(“No end in sight to traffic jam misery”, October 18). “If a customer has lost their broadband connection and we’re delayed by half an hour, that’s half an hour that an office of, say, 50 people, can’t work.

boris bike“We’ve had to put our engineers on Boris Bikes to get to clients because that’s been the fastest way. Some days traffic congestion is appalling – it’s by far the biggest external challenge we face.”

Professor Stephen Glaister, president of the RAC Foundation solution believes:

“[A] national system of time- and distance-based pay-as-you-go driving will eventually have to replace existing motoring taxation.

“It is hard to see any other mechanism that would simultaneously help cut congestion, reduce carbon emissions and address the Treasury’s long-term decline in fuel duty income as the vehicle fleet gets greener.”

Timothy Waller’s FT verdict:

“It strikes me that this is an extremely innovative approach to making sure that Anthony Impey manages to operate within whatever service levels he has agreed with his clients. Mr Impey should be congratulated rather commiserated with. I travel from Liverpool Street to Canary Wharf most days with my trusty fold-up, and at 15 to 20 minutes’ cycling time it’s the healthiest and swiftest way of getting about”.

bfoe header

Catherine Palgrave, a cyclist and BFOE campaigner, said: “30% of households in Birmingham cannot afford access to a car, making little or no contribution to problems such as air pollution which disproportionately affects them.

“There is only one way to increase low numbers of cycling in the city, and truly make it a form of transport for all Brummies. This is to invest in cycling infrastructure, which makes cycling safer and more appealing, and at the same time cutting congestion and helping clean-up the city’s air.

“This is why our Let’s Get Moving campaign is calling on Birmingham City Council to invest £10 per person per year for at least 10 years, to truly make us a cycling and walking city, and tackle our air pollution and congestion problems.”

birm greener commission header

25 new local authority eco-homes have been built in Dimmingsdale Bank, Quinton – 13 for rent and 12 for sale at ‘affordable’ prices. The development meets two objectives on the city’s Carbon Roadmap: reduced heating bills and lower carbon emissions

The two, three, four and five-bedroom homes have been built to meet high insulation standards, including cavity wall, loft and under-floor insulation, high efficiency boilers, high performance double-glazed windows and photo voltaic panels to assist residents in reducing energy bills.

birm ecohomes

The new council homes have been developed by Birmingham City Council’s house building programme, Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) with its partners, Capita, Mansell Homes and the Homes and Communities Agency in the Midlands, which provided funding through its affordable homes programme.

birm carbon commission reportBirmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Development, Transport and the Economy, said: “The handover of another phase of our eco-homes can now be added to the 2,025 houses already completed, or in various stages of construction under the BMHT banner. Bringing new homes to local people is a particularly rewarding part of my job.”

Birmingham’s Green Commission published a Carbon Roadmapin November 2013 to identify the projects which will help to realise this ambition and achieve a 60% reduction in total carbon emissions.

* A slow loading pdf, be patient.

A Surrey reader sent a statement by the Muslim Council of Britain, whose members include over 500 organisations, mosques, charities and schools. MCB is a broad-based organisation with both Sunni and Shia traditions represented and has always spoken out consistently and loudly against extremism and sectarianism, advocating positive integration of all communities. A summary follows.

The Muslim Council of Britain responds to Peter Clarke’s report on the “Trojan Horse” letter: 23rd July press release

The Muslim of Council of Britain welcomes the Education Secretary Nicola Morgan’s assurance that the government supports ‘the right of Muslim parents to be involved in their children’s schools and their commitment to take leading roles in public life.’ The Education Secretary was responding to the latest report issued by Peter Clarke, who was asked to investigate Birmingham schools following the so-called “Trojan Horse” letter.

“The Muslim Council of Britain unequivocally condemns all terrorism and extremism and we have not seen any evidence to date of such activities in Birmingham schools”.

Other points made:

  • The document proved to be a fake, but accusations of an extremist plot still persists.
  • Mr Clarke says in his report that “I have seen no evidence to suggest that there is a problem with governance generally” (10.1).
  • However, there are issues of poor governance as outlined in this and previous reports by OFSTED, and last week, by Ian Kershaw who was commissioned by Birmingham City Council.
  • The evidence of social media conversations exhibiting inappropriate behaviour are indeed very disturbing and may constitute grounds for disciplinary, procedural and legal action.
  • We call for stronger guidance from OFSTED to ensure parents can continue to be encouraged to be strong members of the governing council, empowered to be effective in those roles.
  • As we have stated time and again, the causes of terrorism are complex, but there is scant evidence that the education system or the Muslim community are the reasons why people turn to terrorism.

Contrary to fundamental requirement of fairness, Mr Clarke has not invited the MCB to explain its position. This is a serious failure on the part of Mr Clarke’s investigation, particularly considering the questions raised about his appointment for this task. The MCB continues:

“We take issue with Mr Clarke’s approach that chooses to ascribe guilt by association, and by conflating conservative Muslim practices to a supposed ideology and agenda to ‘Islamise’ secular schools. Without ever approaching the Muslim Council of Britain during his investigation, Mr Clarke nevertheless chooses to describe the MCB as part of a movement that aims to ‘to increase the role of Islam in education’ and ‘Islamise’ the provision of educational services.

”We agree with point 187 of Ian Kershaw’s report which states that the MCB guidance offers practical guidelines and should not be interpreted as a prescriptive code. And while schools are encouraged to accommodate Muslim parents, they should be read alongside statutory government guidance and toolkits, for example the DfE Guidance on the Equality Act 2010 and the “Public Sector Equality Duty Guidance for Schools” published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

Empowering and Achieving

”The primary responsibility of schools is to prepare children for life, assisting them to acquire skills and help them to be successful citizens and professionals. Educational attainment built on academic rigour and critical thinking is at the heart of that task.

”The schools investigated as part of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ affair had made great strides over the years with some moving from single figure pass rates to some of the best results across the country. The government needs to appreciate that this was possible due to determination and commitment of parents, pupils, teachers and governors.

“Unfounded and malicious allegations threaten the life chances of a generation of our young people, the onus is clearly on OFSTED and Department for Education to monitor the progress of academies and not be side-tracked by culture wars initiated by divisive commentators”.

The full statement may be seen here: