Memorandum by Birmingham City Council
A. WALKING IN
(i) Strategic development
During the 1960's and 70's Birmingham City Centre
underwent rapid change on an unprecedented scale in terms of building
and highway construction. Although this resulted in considerable
commercial activity and a very high level of vehicular access
into the heart of the City is also produce a physical environment
that fell short of public aspirations.
Part of the legacy of the 60's and 70's growth
was an Inner Ring Road drawn tightly around the City Centre. This
"concrete collar" created a pedestrian barrier around
the Central Core presenting a depressing and unfriendly environment
and a centre through which pedestrian movement was difficult,
lacking in cohesion and creating a very poor image. Quite often,
the only way around or across the City Centre for pedestrians
was through dark, unfriendly and threatening subways.
In addition, during the latter 70's and in the
80's the traditional economic strength of the city based on the
metal working industries ("City of 1,000 Trades"), went
into very rapid decline with thousands of job losses.
However, in the mid-1980's the City Council
took a series of key decisions to positively promote city centre
change. The construction of an International Convention Centre
was conceived as a "business tourism" flagship project
to broaden the economic base of the City by stimulating the service
sector, providing a combination of business and cultural facilities
emphasising quality and confidence in the future.
The development of the Convention Centre and
neighbouring National Indoor Arena gave the City impetus to improve
the quality of the environment in the centre, reduce the stranglehold
of the Inner Ring Road and create an environment which would be
expected of a premier European regional capital.
In 1987 the Council first published the City
Centre Strategy, the aim of which was to welcome and encourage
a mixture of new activities including housing, provide good pedestrian
access and an attractive, safe environment.
The Strategy also highlighted seven distinctive
areas or "Quarters" each based on past and present economic
and physical roles. The Strategy sought to reinforce the individuality
of each quarter by encouraging appropriate land use and an enhanced
physical environment. As the quarters are inter-related, the Strategy
recognised the need for better access between Quarters, particularly
for the pedestrian, and especially across the Queensway (former
Inner Ring Road).
The Council tested the principles of the City
Centre Strategy in 1987 at the Highbury Initiative. This was one
of the first City Centre Symposiums to be held in the UK involving
local politicians, officers and business leaders with national
and international planners, urban designers and architects to
"brainstorm" an action programme. This endorsed the
City's Strategy, identifying key action points including the need
to improve urban design standards and for better City Centre management
and critically to enhance the quality of the pedestrian environment.
It recommended that the concrete collar of the
Inner Ring Road be broken and proposed an east-west pedestrian
access from the International Convention Centre across the City
Centre into the heart of the shopping streets where a safe, clean
and pleasant environment would attract shoppers, workers, visitors
and city centre residents. It also recommended a closer dialogue
between the various actors who had a role in promoting, developing
and maintaining the City Centre.
As the importance of high quality environment
and building design become more apparent the Good Design Initiative
was established bringing together public and private sector designers
who's aim was to encourage and foster better quality design throughout
Two key consultant studies followed the Highbury
lead concerning streets and squares.
(ii) Pedestrian Movement and Open Space Framework
International planning consultants Land Design
Research were appointed in 1988 by the City Council and Government
sponsored City Action Team to produce an action strategy to strengthen
the relationship between economic activity, the pedestrian and
the quality of the city environment.
LDRs study examined the existing pedestrian
situation in the central area, assessed the implications of new
development projects, analysed the relationship between pedestrians
and vehicles and detailed pedestrian movement corridors and open
space and their inter-relationships.
It promoted a flexible approach to physical
change in the City Centre with an underlying principle being to
create a better physical integration of the various parts of the
centre with particular reference to proximity pedestrian movement
and ameliorating the effect of the Inner Ring Road on pedestrian
movement. Their main recommendations include:
Downgrading of the Inner Ring Road
at strategic points and the creation of urban boulevards;
Upgrading the Middle Ring Road (A4540);
Removal of traffic from certain core
Promotion of a number of individual
"Quarters" within the Centre, each with its own unique
character and role.
(iii) City Centre Design Strategy
The City Council commissioned consultants Tibbalds,
Colbourne, Karski, Williams, in 1989 to produce the City Centre
Design Strategy. The aims of the strategy are:
Relating buildings to streets;
Creation of a "people friendly"
city centre by removal of barriers to pedestrian movement and
an emphasis on legibility;
Better use of the city's natural
Support for the development of distinctive
Encouragement of new landmarks, buildings,
features and spaces;
Greening measures to soften the hard
The City Centre Design Strategy was the first
of the "Birmingham Urban Design Studies" (BUDS). Further
studies focussed on localities within the city centre have followed
Broad Street/Bath Row Development
Strategy LDR/Cambridge Economic Consultants 1990;
Sandpits Regeneration studyBirmingham
City Council 1992;
Urban Design FrameworkSt Paul's
and Environs Tibbalds et al- 1993;
Convention Centre Quarter PlanBirmingham
City Council 1993;
Gun Quarter Planning and Urban Design
FrameworkLlewelyn Davies 1993;
Digbeth Millennium QuarterBirmingham
City Council 1996;
Bull Ring and Markets QuarterBirmingham
City Council 1996;
Jewellery Quarter Urban Village Framework
Eastside Development FrameworkBirmingham
City Council 2000;
Draft City Centre Canal Corridor
FrameworkBirmingham City Council 2000.
(iv) The Implementation Programme
Since the adoption of the City Centre Strategy,
a "streets and squares" approach to urban design and
physical enhancement has been pursued. This has improved the quality
of the pedestrian environment and thereby helped to stimulate
new activities and promoted the renaissance of the City Centre.
An east-west pedestrian spine link has been achieved from New
Street Station to the International Convention Centre with complementary
improvements to northsouth routes as well as significant
new urban spaces and redefinition of the role of the city streets
including part of the Queensway (former Inner Ring Road).
(v) Key Projects implemented to date include:
(a) The Broad Street Redevelopment Area
A City Council initiative whereby a 40 acre
site was assembled to create a new pedestrian friendly quarter
outside of the traditional City Centre core. This was to house
the International Convention Centre (open 1991), National Indoor
Arena (open 1994), Hyatt International Hotel, mixed use activities
in Gas Street Basin and subsequently Brindleyplace. The latter
is a 17 acre mixed use development by way of a response by the
private sector to a brief prepared by the City Council. Brindleyplace
has been created within a series of new public squares linked
to the key pedestrian routes to the surrounding residential area
and City Centre Core and extensive canal network.
(b) Inner Ring Road remodelling
The breaking of the concrete collar previously
exerted by the Queensway began at Centenary way where the road
was lowered and a new pedestrian street introduced to link a new
public square adjacent to the ICC/Brindleyplace through the City
The remodelling of the Ring Road has extended
beyond the Broad Street Corridor and has taken different forms
in different locations. In each case the reversal of priority
from cars to pedestrians and the elimination of subways by surface
pedestrian crossings has clearly improved pedestrian access and
hence the economic vitality and attraction for investment of the
new "quarters" beyond the Ring Road. Effectively the
City Centre has grown over the past 15 years from 80 ha to 800
Specific projects have included the lowering
of Smallbrook Queensway at Hill Street/Hurst Street to provide
a new surface pedestrian link from the City Centre Core to the
developing Chinese and entertainment area adjacent to the Hippodrome
Theatre. At Paradise Circus and Newhall Street a much cheaper
and simpler solution was adopted by merely infilling the subways
and "punching" through the central reserve with the
introduction of a pelican crossing, whilst at Suffolk Street the
developer of the Mailbox created a new public square which extended
beneath the elevated Ring Road. New parking materials, public
art and elevated lighting scheme has also helped to ameliorate
the dividing impact of the Ring Road at this location.
The importance of pedestrian access to the Mailbox
has been taken a stage further by the developer actually creating
a new public street, through the existing building linking through
to the canal network to the rear. A new canal bridge also provided
by the developer has completed a new circular leisure route which
extends to Gas Street Basin, Brindleyplace and beyond.
At Old Square (part of the Queensway) a jointly
funded English Partnerships/European Union scheme has replaced
an unpleasant roundabout, and subterranean shopping area accessed
by subways by a new public square and surface level pedestrian
As part of the creation of an east-west pedestrian
spine from the new quarter in Broad Street to the Central Shopping
and business areas a series of attractive nodes and spaces has
been created to provide a seamless pedestrian link across the
City. This has also taken different forms from the spectacular
transformation of Victoria Square from roundabout to extensive
public square and fountain to the remodelling of Paradise Circus
beneath the Central Library by "grafting" a glass atrium
and retail units into a concrete eyesore.
Elsewhere the full pedestrianisation of New
Street has taken place, eliminating vehicles and increasing footfall
by over 50 per cent thereby stimulating interest in retail and
increasing residential activities. Corporation Street has similarly
benefited from increased pedestrian priority in terms of wider
pavements, landscaping and more limited vehicular access. Most
recently the High Street was comprehensively remodelled following
the removal of buses providing a more attractive shopping environment
as the front door into the new Bull Ring Shopping Centre.
Enhanced public squares at Holliday Circus and
St. Phillips Churchyard have also taken place recognising the
value and importance of pedestrian squares for the attraction
of the City Centre as a whole.
Broad Street itself although remaining open
for vehicular use has been downgraded to reduce through traffic.
As a principle leisure and commercial destination a decision was
taken to widen the footways, introduce enhanced landscaping and
an innovative central median strip that visually narrows the highway
to create a more pedestrian friendly road within a major area
Other improvements to the extensive canal network
have sought to enhance the opportunities for pedestrian movement
along the towpath (linking the new quarters outside the traditional
central area) and stimulating new and activitiesparticularly
housing fronting a waterside environment.
In the future we are to see further remodelling
of the 1960's infrastructure and the creation of a more pedestrian
friendly environment. However this approach is now being pursued
by the private sector rather than the lead being taken by the
City Council. To the east of the City Centre at Masshouse Circus
and the new Bull Ring Shopping Centre private developers in association
with the Regional Development Agency and City Council as part
landowner is engaged in a massive dismantling project to "knit"
part of the traditional City Centre back with the core area. This
will create a new and exciting mixed use development opportunity
based upon the three themes of learning, heritage and technology
and improve pedestrian access to the Millennium Point Development
due to open later this year.
(vi) Public Transport
The promotion of the pedestrian environment
as part of the revitalisation of the City Centre has been accompanied
by a concerted effort to improve access to and within the City
Centre by all modes of transport.
In terms of heavy "rail services"
this has taken the form of the electrification of the principle
north-south commuter services, the creation of a new suburban
cross city line, and by re-opening Moor Street and Snow Hill Stations.
The first light rail service for Birmingham to Wolverhampton was
also opened in 1999 and proposals are well advanced for various
surface level extensions.
Numerous bus priority measures including Bus
Show case routes have also been introduced in recent years.
In recognition of the poor state of repair of
our existing coach station the City Council has taken a bold decision
to release a key site alongside Snow Hill heavy rail station for
a new coach station to be provided by AMEC in 2001-02 in association
with a mixed residential and commercial private development.
Although a strong implementation programme to
enhance the pedestrian environment has been progressed by Birmingham
in recent years it's success has only been achieved by other complementary
policies and projects.
These include the creation of a more functional
Cityour promotion, both direct and indirect of mix use
activities, particularly incorporating housing has resulted in
a 24 hour, seven day a week City Centre which is both lively but
also commercially sound. We have also sought to increase the density
of development but not where this diminishes the quality of the
environment which would be counter productive. An approach which
values urban design qualities as much as the quality of the architecture
has been vital. The early adoption of the "Places Street
and Movement" principles in our planning has helped to create
attractive new developments which have transformed the City Centre
over the past decade. The leadership provided initially by the
City Council was essential to demonstrate confidence but now the
role has evolved to one of partner and facilitator.
This is best exemplified as part of the Eastside
Initiative described earlier but also by the City Watch Initiative.
The provision of a CCTV system within the new pedestrian space
has been by means of a partnership been the public and private
sectors such that the level of street crime is now extremely low.
B. SPECIFIC RESPONSES
(i) Reasons for decline in Walking
There are clearly many reasons for the decline
in walkingparticularly since the War. In Birmingham there
has been a combination of factors including the high incidence
of car ownership which has become part of the car culture of the
City. This ownership was reflected in the provision of infrastructure
and indeed policy which encouraged car usagethis was reflected
in terms of large scale highways, vehicular rather than pedestrian
priority (the "Concrete Collar" of the Inner Ring Road)
and the large extensive provision of workspace (free) car parking.
In addition as car ownership increased there was a resultant decline
in the quality and provision of public transport and total lack
of an integrated transportation provision. Concerns regarding
the fear of crime and personal security associated with a city
dominated by subways and large scale roads also acted as a deterrent
Mainstream policy particularly concerning the
growth of out of town retailing and introduction of parental choice
for schools both also contributed to the decline in walking to
more neighbourhood based community facilities.
(ii) How to promote walking
The example of how Birmingham has attempted
to revitalise it's City Centre provides lessons as to how to promote
walking. This emphasises:
the improvement in the pedestrian
the improvement in public transport;
the promotion of mixed use development
the provision of town and city centres
as the focal point for community development (and the resultant
opposition to out of centre development);
the provision of a more secure and
(iii) Skills base
It is certainly the Birmingham experience that
the skills do exist in the local authority to promote walking.
However what has been necessary was the establishment of multi-disciplinary
teamsincluding links to health professions in order to
implement successful projects on the ground.
Funding has been sought from a wide variety
of sources in Birmingham ranging from ERDF, EP and the Regional
Development Agency as well as from the City Councils own resources.
There is however never sufficient and we have constantly sought
to expand our resource base by harnessing the resources of the
private sector. Thus we regularly utilise planning obligations
(including commuted car parking sums) to improve the pedestrian
environment and encourage walking.
Where new large developments are planned we
now ensure that the Transport Impact Assessment properly assess
the need for pedestrian movement and ensure the development provides
what is needed.
Whilst it is straightforward to promote and
seek funds for major pedestrianisation schemes in the City Centre
it is less easy to fund the incremental improvements that are
needed particularly in suburban areas where a package of relatively
minor measures could significantly improve conditions for walking.
It is here that multi-disciplinary working and budgeting could
Before targets can be set accurate information
on walking is needed. The lack of this information from national
travel surveys etc prompted the City Council to commence the Birmingham
Travel Survey. This is a household interview travel survey that
specifically seeks to establish the importance of walking and
cycling in the trips made. Eight wards a year are surveyed and
the ongoing work will establish bench marks and a means of monitoring
Appropriate targets can have a role in focussing
thoughts, but the evidence so far from the travel survey is that
levels of walking vary considerably across the city, and hence
"blanket" targets may not be an appropriate way forward.
Group LeaderLocal Planning
Birmingham City Council,
Policy Team Leader
Birmingham City Council