Birmingham and its Big City plans

As well as a slightly nerdy interest in trains, as you can see from my previous posts, I’m also moderately interested in city planning, particularly as I’ve lived 37 of my 39 years in a place, Birmingham, that’s ties itself up in knots about planning. Given that it’s 20 years since the Highbury summit thing that represented the last big shake-up of the city it had been my intention to write about the new Big Cty Plan for Birmingham at Strategy Digested.

As ever I never got round to it but I was reminded by a ‘your books are overdue’ message from the library that as part of my research I went and found previous plans or vision statements for Birmingham to act a comparison. My angle was to compare new with old and before I have to give them back to the library I thought I’d offer a glimpse here:

1952. This plan was all about rebuilding Brum after the war: Birmingham is still a bomb site with slums all over the place therefore we need new houses, more schools, more open spaces but also, given the increasing popularity of the motorcar – a great big inner ring road.  

1973. I couldn’t actually find the ‘New Plan for the City’ that this was reffering to but this is a record of a public meeting at which the plan was discussed. It has illuminating quotes in it from concerned citizens:

“A few months ago there was an advertisement in the National Press… to attract people to Birmingham and the central figure in this was a drawing of someone conducting an orchestra and it was pointed out that Birmingham had a large range of recreational and entertainment facilities to offer people. I am sure it will help in stopping the decline in population, it will help in attracting people to the City and ultimately in an increase in the rates.
Mr King-Farlow, Edgbaston


1980. This is the best of the documents in giving a rounded view of what the central area is like and what city planners of the time valued about it. Plenty of stuff on conservation areas and the insensitivity of previous planners. Its big message: maybe that Inner Ring Road was a mistake after all.

“The desire to maintain free flowing traffic routes must produce areas which are not safe for pedestrians and even cyclists…. It also results in high noise levels and atmospheric pollution… [and] produce drab, inhuman areas”




2008. It’s all about the big ideas to take us forward through the next masterplanning stage. I haven’t yet taken on board what the plans are this time round but it’s worth a read of Stef Lewandowski’s blogging on the subject and the video is certainly fresh and glossy:


2 thoughts on “Birmingham and its Big City plans

  1. Interesting post Dave. I wrote my dissertation at Uni on the role of Birmingham’s Street Commissoners in the 1800s which was an interesting insight into early town planning. As a history geek I find it fascinating to look back to see if any lessons have been learnt, and more often than not the same themes come up time and again. If my memory serves me correctly, one pre-occupation of the Street Commissioners was to get the Birmingham Town Hall built before Leeds and Manchester. They succeeded, although it managed to bankrupt the architect. I also learnt from the Library’s archives that my distant grandfather was in charge of putting in the sewerage system!

  2. Wow – my Brummie heritage only starts in 1961 when my folks came over from Ireland. Yours is highly impressive.

    After a bit of twitter chat with others I may expand the above for my Birmingham Post blog.


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