A34 flyover demolition 'right decision' - council leader

People will “come to see” the demolition of the A34 Perry Barr flyover was the “right decision”, Birmingham’s council leader has said.

Illustrative view of Perry Barr 2040
Illustrative view of Perry Barr 2040

The controversial scheme which was subject to a legal challenge by residents was defended by Councillor Ian Ward as the city council unveiled its masterplan for the redevelopment of Perry Barr.

Some £700 million of investment is going into the area in the run up to and beyond the Commonwealth Games next year – for which Perry Barr’s Alexander Stadium will play a key role.

New artist’s impressions show aspirations for areas such as Walsall Road and the new “Perry Barr village” alongside the 1,400 homes being built as part of the Perry Barr Residential Scheme.

Once billed as the Athletes’ Village for the Games, Covid delays have meant the scheme will not be ready in time for the competition – and alternative accommodation arrangements are being made.

But the homes - part of more than 5,000 planned in Perry Barr over the next 20 years - are still due to house new residents.

The draft masterplan - which will be consulted on from next week - suggests leisure, transport and other enhancements to improve the area for the new and existing community alongside existing plans such as the redevelopment of Perry Barr railway station.

Council leader Councillor Ian Ward said: “The heart of the masterplan is very much a green agenda so it focuses upon the parks, the open spaces and the waterways that run through this part of the city in order that we can have a green heart to the new Perry Barr in the future.

“It’s about creating a place where people would choose to live, where people would want to come to work and where people would want to visit."

Planned for the area is a bus interchange at One Stop shopping centre and a cycle lane which will eventually go all the way to the stadium on the A34.

He said: “Very much what the future is about is nudging people onto more sustainable forms of transport and using public transport more because we know our growing city with an extra 150,000 people coming to live here over the next decade -we are all going to need to learn about moving around in a different way than we currently do.

“So more use of cycling, more use of walking, more use of public transport and that’s very much part of this masterplan document we are consulting on.”

Artist's impression of how the repurposed bus depot could look

Accompanying the Perry Barr Residential Scheme is the Prince Albert High School, which will take its first cohort of Year 7 pupils in September.

Asked whether there will be more forms of infrastructure such as GP surgeries which will be needed as new residents arrive, Councillor Ward said: “What we are looking to do here is create a place where people choose to live so it will need to have all of those kind of facilities you expect to find anywhere else where people come together to live.

“We are repurposing the [National Express] bus depot and we have got some ideas about what we might create in there – whether it be a market or whether it be some other form of manufacturing or some other form of leisure use.

“But we very much want to speak to the people of Perry Barr about that

.”

Among the suggestions set out in the masterplan is the idea of a “Museum of Athletics” in Perry Park, while in the news in recent weeks was the restructuring of the number 11 Outer Circle bus route due to works in Perry Barr.

When asked what assurances he could give about further disruption as work continues in Perry Barr, the leader said: “You cannot make the kind of change we are making here in Perry Barr with three quarters of a billion pounds of investment coming in without some disruption.

“We always knew there was going to be disruption on the A34 with the taking down of the flyover, the reconfiguring of the junctions around this development and the building of the Sprint route and the cycle lanes.

“I think in all fairness, the disruption has been brilliantly managed by the city council in partnership with Transport for West Midlands.

“Yes there have been some delays, but I think people will see that when this development is finished and this road layout in completed, we have successfully created a better place than existed previously.

“And I think people will come to see in the future that the flyover coming down was the right decision.

“We all need to think carefully about how we move around in the future, and as I’ve been saying – this development here, these 1,400 new homes has very few parking spaces because it will be the best connected location by public transport in the city.

“So if you need to go into the city centre, there’s the train link, the Sprint bus route and opportunity to cycle down the cycle lane.

“So really every encouragement to change the way we are moving around the city in the future if you come to live in this development.”

The opposition Conservative group was critical of the draft masterplan document – particularly around a lack of mention of affordable housing.

Councillor Robert Alden, Conservative group leader, said: “Not only content with building an athlete’s village without any athletes, on a budget so overspent they couldn’t deliver any affordable housing, the new masterplan meant to address this issue has not one mention of affordable housing.

“Affordable to buy is what residents are crying out for, but it comes as no surprise that the Labour administration have reneged on their promises made during the Commonwealth Games Bid on this issue. Labour simply can’t be trusted to deliver on the promises they make let alone with the taxpayer’s money.

“It is only the Birmingham Conservatives that are the party of ambition in Birmingham. Our ambition doesn’t just end at delivering schemes that residents have been calling out for but ensuring that any decision made protects our environment. It is disappointing to see Labour not carrying out an environmental impact assessment on this project despite the climate emergency the city is facing.”

On the environmental impact assessment, a Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “It isn’t a statutory plan – this is setting out opportunities for consultation. We will consider the best approach to environmental impact moving forward, as specific projects or programmes come to fruition.”

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