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Extending City Centre Gardens to the canal would IMO really enhance the city. This is such a central location for a recreational space it would be perfect. I can already imagine myself sitting on a park bench looking out at the canal and watching the world go by.

I have a young family and often visit the local parks around my local area of Solihull to grab some fresh air, clear the mind, let the kids ride their bikes and expel some energy in the play area. Best part of this it’s all for free.

I often think if I decided to live in Birmingham City Centre where I could do this without having to travel 3 miles out of the city to Cannon Hill Park. There is a small play area in Eastside Park but it’s very small and more geared up for use by toddlers. I also have a decent sized garden so why would I want to sell up and move to the city centre?

I love Birmingham City Centre and watching the city develop. I would like live in the heart of the city and watch it develop at close hand but unfortunately the current green space infrastructure just doesn’t work for families. I reckon a lot of family’s think like this so it’s no wonder most of the new apartments being built are only 1 or 2 bedrooms.

London on the other hand is so far ahead and has number of large parks, public squares, Thames path and better public transport to help get around. London also has a lot of is small beautifully planted and well maintained garden spaces dotted around in residential areas. They are like a small Oasis located within the bustling city. These areas are normally private gated areas with black iron perimeter fencing surrounding them.

In Birmingham these areas don’t exist. I’m not sure London councils insist on adding these areas during the planning process. In Birmingham on the other hand there a lots of surface car parks that could be developed and would also go a long way in enhancing green spaces in the city.

Great thread by the way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Extending City Centre Gardens to the canal would IMO really enhance the city. This is such a central location for a recreational space it would be perfect. I can already imagine myself sitting on a park bench looking out at the canal and watching the world go by.

I have a young family and often visit the local parks around my local area of Solihull to grab some fresh air, clear the mind, let the kids ride their bikes and expel some energy in the play area. Best part of this it’s all for free.

I often think if I decided to live in Birmingham City Centre where I could do this without having to travel 3 miles out of the city to Cannon Hill Park. There is a small play area in Eastside Park but it’s very small and more geared up for use by toddlers. I also have a decent sized garden so why would I want to sell up and move to the city centre?

I love Birmingham City Centre and watching the city develop. I would like live in the heart of the city and watch it develop at close hand but unfortunately the current green space infrastructure just doesn’t work for families. I reckon a lot of family’s think like this so it’s no wonder most of the new apartments being built are only 1 or 2 bedrooms.

London on the other hand is so far ahead and has number of large parks, public squares, Thames path and better public transport to help get around. London also has a lot of is small beautifully planted and well maintained garden spaces dotted around in residential areas. They are like a small Oasis located within the bustling city. These areas are normally private gated areas with black iron perimeter fencing surrounding them.

In Birmingham these areas don’t exist. I’m not sure London councils insist on adding these areas during the planning process. In Birmingham on the other hand there a lots of surface car parks that could be developed and would also go a long way in enhancing green spaces in the city.

Great thread by the way.
I really hoped I would get a response such as this. If there is anybody in the council's planning department reading I think they should pay attention to this post.

Going back to Erebus555's post I agree that increasing the size of a park doesn't necessarily make it better. Often we have to look at what purpose the park/ green space carries and whether more people will use the space in accordance with the increase in size. You mention that Birmingham has many open spaces and in Ladywood, for example, there are many open green spaces and although I don't know the viewpoint of the residents in that area I can imagine that they wouldn't feel any real benefit from an increase in that space. In fact there was talk a while ago that a secondary school would operate from there and that would be a sensible option given the employment opportunities it creates for the local area.

However, bringing it back to City Centre Gardens I would choose to include this particular green space within the anomaly category that you mention. I think the increase in size to approximately 9-10 acres (not massive) would provide a discernible benefit. It is my suspicion that the Gardens go a little under the radar at present but that would be difficult if they were increased in size and had a name change to City Centre Park. Think of all the UCB, BCU and Aston students who would regularly use it for instance. In the medium to long term to some extent it may even make those universities more attractive to a wider pool of students and staff as Birmingham city centre's reputation for green space fundamentally changes for the better.

I apologise o'flaneurie I think there has been a little misunderstanding with my belief that there will be no park in Smithfield. There is certainly room for green space for this development and any development! I just consider a park to be somewhat larger and if we were to create a 10 acre park it would take up a third of the available space approximately. Incidentally there is an area of council owned land in Digbeth which is currently used as a refuse disposal centre. It may have the potential for park use - not so attractive for residential development due to average accessibility and with it be so close to the train lines. Would make a nice entrance for HS2 however and could be used by BCU students. It depends on how it fits in with Curzon masterplan however.

Ell the photos for Peace Gardens and Highgate Park are really good ones. It shows that Highgate Park only needs some tlc to be turned into a decent Victorian park once again: re-tarmacing the path, upgrading the benches and possibly some street lighting. Possible Heritage Lottery grant once all the new residents arrive into the surrounding streets? The Peace Gardens, which from a map can look like the third brother of the squares in relation to St. Phillip's and St. Pauls's, has more problems because it relies in my opinion on the surrounding developments which have really poor street scenes. Hopefully if the real estate to the east of the square was to be redeveloped an active street would be considered.

DBadger I am originally from Shrewsbury and the Quarry park makes a massive difference to the town, especially with it being located by the river, although you probably already know that. If something like the Dingle was to find a place in Birmingham I guess it would be located at Cannon Hill Park.

Sorry for going on so long and I will from now on speak more about other green ideas rather than City Centre Park!
 

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Something like this maybe:

That would be brilliant, the lake is a nice touch, very Hyde Park. I was thinking more of a narrow strip extending down to Rea St or even Barford St, taking in the River Rea. You can see a large car park there atm. It borders the Smithfield site, so would link that area with southern end of a redeveloped Digbeth.
 

· Kingsheathen
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Green Infrastructure (Inc. parks)

I'm surprised so many SCC forumers think demolishing the Wholesale Market and building a park is a feasible idea.

Surely we all have a fair understanding of the cost of such a scheme? Who would pay for it? There's no profit in a park. That means the tax payer would have to pay for it. They'd have to pay for the yearly maintenance as well.

Now I would love it if more of my council tax was spent on parks. I wouldn't mind a council tax increase to pay for some more parks, but I am in the minority. Most people do not want tax rises.

The council's current plan would be funded by private developers. The council will probably make money out of the scheme. A smaller park will be built as part of the scheme and this will probably be funded by the overall development.

If all of the Wholesale Market is turned into a park it would be surrounded by the existing buildings which are not all in a good shape. This might make the park feel shabby and neglected and that could lead to antisocial behaviour in the park. We all know this is often a problem in parks. Just look at east side park.

I think it would be better to invest in our existing parks.

Highgate Park could be really good if it was smartened up. It could be extended as suggested by others already.

The Peace Gardens are already nice but could be improved if they removed the railings that restrict the access. Also some cafes around the perimeter would be good.

We have a really good park in Park Central that hardly ever gets mentioned and is always very quiet when I go there.

There are also lots of poorly used green spaces amongst or 1970s social housing. I've heard them called 'green deserts' due to the fact they are so poorly used.

My understanding is 70s social housing was built to corbusiean theory. The idea was people would live in high rise towers surrounded by public green space. The roads would be in underground tunnels or elevated on viaducts. Sounds great but as we all know it was disastrous in the UK.

Because of this there is now a lot of wasted green space in the city centre. I think it would be a good idea to redevelop the social housing so that new and better designed parks can be created.

Here are some examples of poorly used green space in social housing areas.











There are more green deserts just outside the ring road too. Lots of potential.
 

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There is also the Skypark proposal to create a linear park on the disused Duddeston viaduct in Digbeth, that should hopefully come about on the back of HS2-led development in Digbeth. This is in the vein of New York's Highline, and (more appropriately imho) Paris's Viaduct Des Arts/Promenade Plantée/Coulée Verte.
Ah cheers,I wondered where this could be after seeing it mentioned in Alice Fowler’s book Hidden Nature (where she kayaks around the canals of Brum), but never specified where it is (runs from the junction of Adderley St/Lower Trinity St over the Rainbow venues up to Montegue st to save anyone else looking).

I love the idea of a canal-side park in central Brum too, must be loads of scope for that in the central area
Always said that demolishing the crappy Wharfside offices on Bridge st and making a small park along the canal between the Premium Inn and the Canal House would be ideal (for me) :)
 

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There's more to a park than just some green space, as I think those photos show. I'm not sure Birmingham has an equivalent to Wolverhampton's West Park, but that would be a good place to start. For one thing the presence of officials makes it feel safe, and the regular events and general focal points all around draw people. Plus the central location of the park really helps (it straddles the Ring Road).


http://allabout-wolves.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/victorian-west-park-wolverhampton.html

The park is lined with lovely houses, which face the park, and give the street a feeling of completeness and planning.

Note that even around the park are areas of green space. Green space is a given and a necessity, parks are more than that.
 

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The problem with Highgate Park is that it is on the outskirts of the City Centre, just like a lot of the green deserts that Kingsheathen mentions. We need a park in the city that is central so that most people can visit it whilst going about their daily business, not having to walk any great distance away from the centre. Perhaps Paradise would have been an ideal location although that's obviously not going to happen.

I would probably extend City Gardens as some have said but then that would involve demolishing four tower blocks and other buildings. The other area I'm thinking of is by Curzon Street station and linking it with Eastside Park, or converting the surface car parks by Moor Street station.
 

· It's Sting. So What?
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I'm surprised so many SCC forumers think demolishing the Wholesale Market and building a park is a feasible idea.

Surely we all have a fair understanding of the cost of such a scheme? Who would pay for it? There's no profit in a park. That means the tax payer would have to pay for it. They'd have to pay for the yearly maintenance as well.

Now I would love it if more of my council tax was spent on parks. I wouldn't mind a council tax increase to pay for some more parks, but I am in the minority. Most people do not want tax rises.

The council's current plan would be funded by private developers. The council will probably make money out of the scheme. A smaller park will be built as part of the scheme and this will probably be funded by the overall development.

If all of the Wholesale Market is turned into a park it would be surrounded by the existing buildings which are not all in a good shape. This might make the park feel shabby and neglected and that could lead to antisocial behaviour in the park. We all know this is often a problem in parks. Just look at east side park.

I think it would be better to invest in our existing parks.

Highgate Park could be really good if it was smartened up. It could be extended as suggested by others already.

The Peace Gardens are already nice but could be improved if they removed the railings that restrict the access. Also some cafes around the perimeter would be good.

We have a really good park in Park Central that hardly ever gets mentioned and is always very quiet when I go there.

There are also lots of poorly used green spaces amongst or 1970s social housing. I've heard them called 'green deserts' due to the fact they are so poorly used.

My understanding is 70s social housing was built to corbusiean theory. The idea was people would live in high rise towers surrounded by public green space. The roads would be in underground tunnels or elevated on viaducts. Sounds great but as we all know it was disastrous in the UK.

Because of this there is now a lot of wasted green space in the city centre. I think it would be a good idea to redevelop the social housing so that new and better designed parks can be created.

Here are some examples of poorly used green space in social housing areas.

There are more green deserts just outside the ring road too. Lots of potential.
Postwar housing built on an interpretation of Le Corbusier's theories but really poorly executed. There are obvious elements to his theories that were executed and disastrous (elevated roadways arrgggghhh) and then other elements were poorly executed. One of those was the green spaces around blocks. We started building blocks closer together than Le Corb proposed so that space received less light and felt more claustrophobic. Also parks became secondary to providing car parks at tower blocks - whatever was left over from adding tarmac was grassed over with little imagination.

There's a mantra that loosely goes "people move through negative space, people dwell in positive space". Unfortunately we didn't quite understand that enough back in the 60s and 70s.


It's funny to see City Centre Gardens mentioned here as it is really a happy accident. It was all going to be built on as part of the Civic Centre scheme until World War II broke out. It really suffers from a lack of connectivity with the rest of the city centre - Baskerville House, library and the Rep form a barrier against it and turn their backs to it. If there were several clear pedestrian connections and some activity facing on to it, it would be much more popular I suspect.

Also for anyone particularly nerdy about public spaces, there's an interesting documentary from the 70s called 'The Social Life of Public Spaces' or something to that effect that goes into that almost scientifically analyses successful and unsuccessful open spaces in New York.
 

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Just thinking how you could extend City Centre Gardens to create a large park from Cambridge Street to the canal on a small budget.

Ideally you would take down the 4 tower blocks but with some creative landscaping and design the towers could be left alone and incorporated into the park. The additional park space could be created by landscaping over the towers access roads and parking areas. Planting of tall shrubs and trees could be higher around the towers so they would blend in to the park landscape and still feel private to the residents. Free parking could be offered to the residents within one of the council run car parks on Brindley Drive so residents would not lose out.

I would only remove the low rise social housing block on Kingston Row meaning a small number of residents would need rehousing as a result. Maybe 20-30 I would guess?

To part of Cambridge Street I would create a service road for the buildings facing Centenary Square with remote controlled barriers at both ends. Remove the roundabout to make the park a little bigger and resurface the service road by continuing the paving scheme from Centenary Square.

The main entrance to the park would be from the passageway between the ICC and Rep Theatre and also directly from the canal network.

So if all this was costed I don’t think this would be a great deal of money to achieve. I will leave this with someone in the council to do the Cost-Benefit Analysis.
 

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I also like the idea of filling in the voids on the approaches to New Street Station. As these voids would be extremely difficult and expensive to construct buildings over it make them ideal to be filled in to create green spaces within the heart of the city. There are 4 voids off Navigation Street and 2 off Smallbrook Queensway opposite the Bullring.

Currently the use of diesel trains in New Street Station makes the filling of the void impossible due to ventilation issues at the station but with central governments changing stance on diesel engines and the announcement of a complete ban on petrol and diesel engines by 2040 you would expect government to lead by example and come up with a plan to phase out the diesel train fleet in the not too distant future. If they continue with diesel trains government would be seen to be hypocritical. I mean would it be fair not to be allowed to drive a diesel car but able to use a diesel train?

So all this said now is the time to start looking at this in detail and at least someone at BCC needs to start a conversation with Network Rail. This project will take a long time to achieve so let’s not delay. Don’t leave this to the last minute please. Show ambition.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
Regarding the voids, I'm curious does anybody have any information as to why there have to be multiple voids to the west of New Street station rather than the one to the east?

Whilst walking in the centre today at lunchtime I was struck by how much the Centenary Way footbridge could do with a freshen up whilst viewing it from afar - possibly with the inclusion of some green? It doesn't seem right that it sits in between two developments which have a lot of money being spent on them whilst it sits neglected of attention. Certainly during the Commonwealth Games it could be given some gravitas by being lit up with a little flair.

I think with the Highgate Park upgrade you could be talking about a 10-15 year wait whilst the area around it becomes steadily more residential which would then generate the demand for improvements.
 

· Kingsheathen
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I also like the idea of filling in the voids on the approaches to New Street Station. As these voids would be extremely difficult and expensive to construct buildings over it make them ideal to be filled in to create green spaces within the heart of the city. There are 4 voids off Navigation Street and 2 off Smallbrook Queensway opposite the Bullring.

Currently the use of diesel trains in New Street Station makes the filling of the void impossible due to ventilation issues at the station but with central governments changing stance on diesel engines and the announcement of a complete ban on petrol and diesel engines by 2040 you would expect government to lead by example and come up with a plan to phase out the diesel train fleet in the not too distant future. If they continue with diesel trains government would be seen to be hypocritical. I mean would it be fair not to be allowed to drive a diesel car but able to use a diesel train?

So all this said now is the time to start looking at this in detail and at least someone at BCC needs to start a conversation with Network Rail. This project will take a long time to achieve so let’s not delay. Don’t leave this to the last minute please. Show ambition.


Perhaps mechanical ventilation could be used to remove the diesel fumes. Chimneys could be built to release the fumes at a high level away from pedestrians. Maybe 15m. They could be designed into attractive, interesting features.

The infill could also include large glass sections. People could walk over them and look down at the trains and the tracks. They would also let light reach the tracks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Just thinking how you could extend City Centre Gardens to create a large park from Cambridge Street to the canal on a small budget.

Ideally you would take down the 4 tower blocks but with some creative landscaping and design the towers could be left alone and incorporated into the park. The additional park space could be created by landscaping over the towers access roads and parking areas. Planting of tall shrubs and trees could be higher around the towers so they would blend in to the park landscape and still feel private to the residents. Free parking could be offered to the residents within one of the council run car parks on Brindley Drive so residents would not lose out.

I would only remove the low rise social housing block on Kingston Row meaning a small number of residents would need rehousing as a result. Maybe 20-30 I would guess?

To part of Cambridge Street I would create a service road for the buildings facing Centenary Square with remote controlled barriers at both ends. Remove the roundabout to make the park a little bigger and resurface the service road by continuing the paving scheme from Centenary Square.

The main entrance to the park would be from the passageway between the ICC and Rep Theatre and also directly from the canal network.

So if all this was costed I don’t think this would be a great deal of money to achieve. I will leave this with someone in the council to do the Cost-Benefit Analysis.
I went for a walk around the whole of the Baskerville Wharf site beyond the City Centre Gardens at lunchtime in order to assess a little more about how decent an extended park would actually be in reality.

I can report back and safely say an extension would be genuinely GREAT!

I now have no doubts whatsoever that a park extension to the canals would be a wonderful addition to Birmingham city centre for all the residents and vistors to enjoy. From the tranquil and beautiful but neglected surrounds of James Brindley Walk to the attractive canalscape on the other side which includes the Canal and River Trust's regional headquarters the park would bring something of an oasis of calm to the hustle and bustle that surrounds it.

Another couple of things were checked. Firstly, having read Erebus555's comment regarding connectivity matters to accessing the park I can now say that there are now no connectivity problems: there are direct pedestrian links both to the Jewellery Quarter and the Paradise development whilst you only have to cross Cambridge Street in order to get to Centenary Square or Brindleyplace.

Secondly, I had some concerns as to whether there were any chunks of land that were not owned by the Council. After having spoken to a credible source I can say that the Council do indeed own all of the land (apart from the Baskerville Wharf development site which is rather small comparably).

Admittedly from one side of the Gardens you do have the back end of Baskerville House, the Library and the Rep which isn't the best sight but from another side you have the Summer Row bars and Paradise whilst from another you have the very picturesque views of the canal and wharf. I think the back end of some buildings is a detail we can overlook somewhat.

Brum Boy I would be happy to meet up to discuss how to approach the Council if you like. Alternatively I can provide you with my telephone number. My own viewpoint is that it would be better to seek the full extension of the park in one go as I have concerns that if it was to be split into phases the whole process may drag out and lose momentum. Visible progress may take more time initially but once the funds are available matters should soon speed up and then doing it that way we wouldn't have to wait around for a second pot of funding.
 

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Just thinking how you could extend City Centre Gardens to create a large park from Cambridge Street to the canal on a small budget.

Ideally you would take down the 4 tower blocks but with some creative landscaping and design the towers could be left alone and incorporated into the park. The additional park space could be created by landscaping over the towers access roads and parking areas. Planting of tall shrubs and trees could be higher around the towers so they would blend in to the park landscape and still feel private to the residents. Free parking could be offered to the residents within one of the council run car parks on Brindley Drive so residents would not lose out.

I would only remove the low rise social housing block on Kingston Row meaning a small number of residents would need rehousing as a result. Maybe 20-30 I would guess?

To part of Cambridge Street I would create a service road for the buildings facing Centenary Square with remote controlled barriers at both ends. Remove the roundabout to make the park a little bigger and resurface the service road by continuing the paving scheme from Centenary Square.

The main entrance to the park would be from the passageway between the ICC and Rep Theatre and also directly from the canal network.

So if all this was costed I don’t think this would be a great deal of money to achieve. I will leave this with someone in the council to do the Cost-Benefit Analysis.
If privacy to the residents is an issue, how about repurposing the tower blocks completely?

With their proximity to the NIA and ICC they would make great hotels.

Alternatively, demolish the right hand two blocks and create a square park, then use the left hand two as hotels.
 

· It's Sting. So What?
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Just thinking how you could extend City Centre Gardens to create a large park from Cambridge Street to the canal on a small budget.

Ideally you would take down the 4 tower blocks but with some creative landscaping and design the towers could be left alone and incorporated into the park. The additional park space could be created by landscaping over the towers access roads and parking areas. Planting of tall shrubs and trees could be higher around the towers so they would blend in to the park landscape and still feel private to the residents. Free parking could be offered to the residents within one of the council run car parks on Brindley Drive so residents would not lose out.

I would only remove the low rise social housing block on Kingston Row meaning a small number of residents would need rehousing as a result. Maybe 20-30 I would guess?

To part of Cambridge Street I would create a service road for the buildings facing Centenary Square with remote controlled barriers at both ends. Remove the roundabout to make the park a little bigger and resurface the service road by continuing the paving scheme from Centenary Square.

The main entrance to the park would be from the passageway between the ICC and Rep Theatre and also directly from the canal network.

So if all this was costed I don’t think this would be a great deal of money to achieve. I will leave this with someone in the council to do the Cost-Benefit Analysis.
It depends what you consider to not be a great deal of money, especially for a cash strapped council. The cost of demolition and rehousing alone would be a substantial outlay.

I think resurfacing Cambridge Street would be a major positive impact though. Referring to jd88's response about the pedestrian connections, I didn't just mean physical but also psychological. It's amazing how a patch of tarmac can completely change the route someone walks.

But also there's little visual connection from Centenary Square and Paradise Forum - if you don't know the park's there, then there's little chance of you stumbling on it as there's nothing else immediately facing on to it that will draw you there.


As for the New Street station voids, covering them was explored in the early stages of the New Street project but was largely abandoned due to cost and logistics. (Remember the little bridge extension to the Hill Street entrance could only be installed at Christmas when the trains weren't running and had to be delayed by a year because it was too icy on the scheduled day)

The voids are a hangover of the various iterations the station has gone through over 150 years whilst retaining the street layout. It would be nice if they could completely move the station to the HS2 station site but I try not to dream too much :)
 
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