Last week saw a key set of announcements were made by the Birmingham Team. This was to coincide with the annual global bash at Cannes called MIPIM (Le Marché International des Professionnels de l’Immobilier – to give the proper name for its acronym!). This is the international property event where, this year, 21,000 people from 93 countries showcased there investment and development ambitions as well as seek to enter new financial and development deals with willing clients. Its a kind of global marriage bureau really. The Birmingham Team’s prospectus was undoubtedly one of the best yet to showcase, due to the many development projects being both completed in 2015 and also announced for the future. Mark Rogers (Birmingham Council’s CX) has produced a very helpful blog on the “Birmingham is bouncing back” messages and publicity achieved, and Marketing Birmingham has also reviewed outcomes from MIPIM – so I won’t attempt to add much more on that – especially as I wasn’t in Cannes! But, as I mentioned in my blog on “HS2 – will it improve place and transit systems in the Birmingham conurbation” , I remain a wee bit worried about the overall strategic plan. As at times the Birmingham package announced at MIPIM still seems like a long (and I do accept that some very exciting) list of individual development projects and a “Housing Prospectus” which has a long list of individual housing sites announced for up to 80,000 homes. But I am still unsure what kind of city this all adds up to as a whole.
- Where is the truly sustainable vision to drive down the city’s overall energy bill £2bn per annum?
- Will all these developments be built to the super energy efficient standards which the city needs? (for example there is only one mention of “energy” in the Housing Prospectus – and then only in the foreword! Not as a requirement!)
- Will they for example all be connected to the city’s expanding district energy network? Indeed will the Planning Committee insist that approvals will only be given if the development does connect to such systems?
- What are the clear plans to ensure that the wider energy, walking, public space, conurbation transit systems, water efficiency, waste (i.e. resource value capture)
These are just to name but a few matters (!) which should, could and must be considered. But will they be reflected in the decisions of the Planning Committee? It would be very interesting to see the answers to these questions. But I wait with bated breath! Of course, any reply, will be couched in language reminiscent of the still draft Birmingham Development Plan , which supposedly sets down what Birmingham is planning to do by 2031. But in reality none of the questions I have set down above are seen as real priorities within that plan. I realise that this is as much to do with the legalistic framework of the Planning Act and the dead hand of centralised planning diktats through the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), but if Birmingham is really going to be a truly sustainable city, then the Birmingham Development Plan will have to be much better than it currently is, and central government has to let go its nanny apron strings. But is Birmingham really willing to be a “leading green city” as the Leader has continually stated in his Policy Statement since he became Leader in 2012? And take the bull by the horns and drive truly sustainable policies forward?