Birmingham leisure park to be sold to make way for regeneration scheme

A much loved Birmingham leisure park is set to be sold by Birmingham city council to make way for a regeneration scheme, according to cabinet papers discussed this week.

Protesters gather outside the Council house to protest against the closure of Birmingham Wheels
Protesters gather outside the Council house to protest against the closure of Birmingham Wheels

Birmingham Wheels, known for once hosting speed skating and motorsports, was first closed in October 2021. The leisure park operated on council-owned land in Bordesley Green.

During January 2020, the council regained control of the Wheels site following “non-payment of rent and forfeiture of the lease of the site” by the previous leaseholder. A temporary contracted-out lease was then granted to former occupiers of the site which expired at the end of October. The council has since taken possession of the vacant site.

It is unclear which business or organisation will benefit from the disposal of council land. But cabinet documents revealed a number of unsolicited offers were given to the city council, including a major employer looking for a relocation site, though this opportunity is no longer live.

The council also hopes to use part of a levelling up fund bid of £19.05 million as a cash boost into the Bordesley park area. Part of that money has already been used to treat Japanese knotweed.

Birmingham city council claims the regeneration of the land will create an estimated 1,530 jobs for east Birmingham, one of the most deprived areas in Birmingham. A quarter of people in east Birmingham are actively unemployed, according to “unemployment claimant counts” in cabinet documents.

Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham city council, said: “This is a key opportunity for industrial and logistics development, very close to the city centre. The Birmingham development plan recognises that this city has one of them is one of the most important employment areas within the whole of the UK.

“Strengthening this position and ensuring a successful and prosperous economy, will require a provision for a wide range of opportunities for economic development, and job-creating activity.

“It’s part of 10 key growth opportunities within the Birmingham development plan, and the east Birmingham inclusive growth strategy sets out the strategy for a comprehensive multi-agency approach. It’s focused on east Birmingham and seeks to ensure the benefits of growth are shared more.”

The site was part of the Bordesley Park Area Action Plan, first adopted by the council in January 2020. The plans are designed to improve regeneration and job activity in under-utilised land in east Birmingham, including connectivity and transport by 2031.

The council’s appointed property consultant, Savills, had undertaken a marketing exercise by tender up to 12th November 2021. It has been identified as a “major opportunity for transformational change and job growth in the area,” according to cabinet documents.

Councillor Ward added: “This is a significant opportunity for the city and the development of the Bordesley park area will provide a catalyst for the regeneration of a wider area. This includes Bordesley green local centre and the adjacent Cherrywood Road and Adderley Park areas.

“It’s something we do need to do if we’re to ensure that all of our communities have a stake in the future of the city,” he added.

Conservative councillor Ewan Mackey queried why the site was closed down, and said he hoped to see a similar venue operate soon within Birmingham.

He said: “I’m sorry to see the loss of the wheel size was a local community community that enable residents to safely take part in motorsports activity. It’s very important. So I do hope to see some sort of setup is back up soon.

“They [occupiers] were quite happily playing rent. And then it was a large increase in demand came through, some of the retrospective […] and then they couldn’t make it.”

But councillor Ward said the council’s actions in acquiring the site were “correct and reasonable.” He said: “First of all, this was subject to legal action was tested out in a court of law. It has been proven to be the case that the actions by the council were correct and reasonable.

“The council did enter into a temporary contract with one of the former occupiers. This is in spite of the fact that rent had not been paid in order to allow the continued operation of motorsports on this site for the period, up to October of 2021.

“So I think the council has done as much as it could do on this site to accommodate the sporting uses. Notwithstanding the fact that, as I’ve said, this is a very important employment site, and very important for the people of East Birmingham going forward.”

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