The government’s Levelling Up White Paper carries many ambitions for the West Midlands. It is crucial, however, that any funding and support on offer nurtures the complex levelling-up process already under way in this region in close collaboration with the many parties that have laid the groundwork.
With the Commonwealth Games fast approaching, Birmingham is finally coming out of London’s shadow, showing itself off as a global metropolis with a bold and brave personality. It is fast gaining recognition as an attractive, affordable alternative to other overheated global cities, and with businesses, government departments and TV production moving here – not to mention the opportunities presented by HS2 – there is a huge amount of confidence to invest.
At Glenn Howells Architects, we have worked closely with Birmingham City Council, the mayor of the West Midlands and other leading architects, designers and thinkers on major projects that have helped unlock Birmingham’s city centre over the last decade – including the Paradise masterplan that has transformed the city’s civic centre to attract global businesses and the Martineau Galleries masterplan, which will become the new front door to the HS2 Curzon Station.
Having played a guardianship-like role in this transformation, we are currently working on many urban regeneration projects in surrounding town centres and cities, including Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton – one of the first cities to be spotlighted in the government’s levelling-up agenda.
One lesson we have learned, in all our regional work to date, is the fundamental need for joined-up thinking between local leaders, architects, developers and communities to translate investment, on any scale, into a resilient framework for continual economic growth – from city centre rejuvenation through to developing skills and creating jobs.
It is also vital that levelling-up ties into the greening-up agenda that has shaped Birmingham’s regeneration to date, so that we can continue working to make this whole region a healthy and desirable place to live, work and enjoy. In short, brand-new levelling-up policy will need to be closely aligned with longstanding local agendas if it is to make meaningful and sustainable change on the ground.
Dav Bansal is partner at Glenn Howells Architects