Birmingham will prove a refreshing alternative to the Big Smoke
Everyone’s heard of the HS2 transport infrastructure, which is lined up to connect the city to London in 49 minutes. But HS2 also shifts the conceptual geography of the whole of the UK in favour of Birmingham, with journey times to cities including Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow significantly reduced. This is attractive to residents but also to global business, via Birmingham’s international airport.
Compared to London with its well-documented undersupply of suitable housing, Birmingham is now looking like a very good option to young families and professionals. The balance is poised in the city between affordability, accessibility and the all-important factor of quality of life.
Birmingham now has more capital committed to its infrastructure projects than any other European city, with major transformational developments like Smithfield Markets already underway. The 2022 Commonwealth Games is also driving regeneration, investment and growth. On the basis of numbers alone, the city is looking good.
But there’s also an energy to the city – it’s the youngest city in Europe, with more than 40 per cent of its population under the age of 25, and Birmingham has topped the regional leagues for business start ups for several years in a row. It’s a young, digital city with the wind in its sails.
It’s not simply about the sums adding up and the geography making sense. It’s about the quality and vision of the regeneration taking place. In my opinion, this is what’s leading some commentators to say that Birmingham as a city will rival London in under 10 years.
What the regeneration of Birmingham is focusing on is people – the retention rate for students in the city is a good indicator of this. The city planning authority knows Birmingham needs good design and well-considered environments to attract the talent it needs, and, in my opinion, they’re doing a good job.
Opportunity still exists in Birmingham for well-designed residential development at the scale of the community, close to the city centre and integrated into the city’s fine built heritage of canal infrastructure.