The revival of Birmingham’s ‘creative quarter’ takes another step as the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) allocates £15.4 million from its Enterprise Zone Investment Plan (EZIP) to Birmingham City Council to redevelop Digbeth High Street. An additional £272,000 is being provided by the Council.
The scheme will transform Digbeth High Street into an attractive, pedestrian-friendly space, with major improvements to public transport, and a reduction in traffic.
The work will be completed as part of construction for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension which is being planned, designed and delivered by the Midland Metro Alliance on behalf of Transport for West Midlands.
The Metro will be realigned to allow for wider pavements, better cycle routes and increased cycle parking along the corridor. These enhancements will make the area more attractive for pedestrians and residents, increasing footfall, supporting future commercial investment and growth in local businesses.
The public realm improvements are expected to complete next summer and will include:
- A two-way Metro running on the southern side of Digbeth (closest to the coach station) linking this area to the West of Birmingham and the Black Country by fast, frequent and sustainable public transport options;
- A wide area of attractive public space with planting, trees, street lighting and flexible spaces for seating;
- One lane in each direction for general traffic on the northern side;
- Removal of some turning movements for traffic onto and off Digbeth, and at junctions on nearby side roads and changes to the direction of traffic flows on some of the surrounding roads;
- A ‘bus, cycle and hackney carriage’ priority on one part of the road to remove through traffic while allowing access for local servicing (provision for loading will be from designated bays and side streets).
Tim Pile, Chair of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership GBSLEP said:
“Digbeth High Street is at the heart of Birmingham’s Eastside. This redevelopment will transform how visitors, business and residents use this major city centre corridor. The £15.4 million Enterprise Zone funding will make a difference through enabling wider public realm works that will complement the West Midlands Metro as well as proving improving the environment for walkers, cyclists and public transport users. These improvements will also maximise Digbeth’s location near the landmark Curzon HS2 station.
Across Birmingham, our Enterprise Zone locations have acted as the catalyst for wider investment and development. This scheme is just another example of how working with our partners in Birmingham City Council, we are driving inclusive economic growth whilst creating better places for our communities to live and work in.”
Birmingham City Council consulted with the public on the plans for Digbeth High Street early last year. The plans received overwhelming support from respondents, and the feedback was used to create the final designs.
Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, Cllr Waseem Zaffar said:
“I’m delighted that our funding application to transform Digbeth High Street has been successful. We are investing significantly in the Eastside area of Birmingham, with a focus on improving public transport to make it a sustainable, reliable and better option for everyone living, working and visiting Birmingham.
The plans for the public realm with seating, greenery and lighting will help the local economy to thrive and walking and cycling will be a safe and pleasant experience. I’m looking forward to seeing the plans come to life.”
The £227m Birmingham Eastside extension will be approximately 1.7km in length and will run from Bull Street, in the city centre, to Digbeth, adding four new tram stops to the Metro network. More than half of the route is planned to be free of overhead wires, similar to the recently opened extension from Grand Central to Centenary Square. Utility upgrades and diversions for the scheme began in 2020 and construction in Lower Bull Street is also set to begin next month.
Due to the complexity of the parallel work at the HS2 Curzon Street Station, discussions are currently underway to determine a suitable opening date for the Birmingham Eastside Metro extension that would benefit all parties. Transport for West Midlands will continue to work with HS2 and partners to open the route for passengers as soon as possible.
Peter Cushing, Director of Midland Metro Alliance, said:
“The expansion of the Metro to the east of the city will make it easier for those living, working and travelling in Birmingham to get around. This is an exciting scheme that will help transform and support the regeneration of Digbeth by improving connectivity and making the most out of HS2.
I am delighted, that even before passenger services are running in Digbeth, that the area will be renewed through these ambitious street scene improvements and look forward to seeing progress made on the project over the coming months.”
To enable a central reservation to be built, lane closures will be in place from when the work begins in July 2021, and as with any major infrastructure project, there will be some disruption. Every effort will be made to minimise impacts on traffic and reduce any disturbance as far as possible, and travel advice will be provided by TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and transport operators.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who chairs the West Midlands Combined Authority, said:
“These improvements to Digbeth High Street demonstrate how investment in transport infrastructure, in this case, our Eastside Metro extension, can have a transformative effect and trigger further investment in our towns and cities.
It is great that work is set to start this summer, creating local jobs at what is a critical time as we recover from the Covid pandemic. The improved transport links and street environment will also help support jobs and investment in the Digbeth area for years to come.”
The broader funding for the West Midlands Metro is being provided by the Department for Transport and Transport for West Midlands. The public realm improvements are set to be delivered in Summer 2022.
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