Birmingham City Council have now submitted their first planning application under number, 2016/06762/PA, in respect of the demolition of the markets. It’s a very basic application which talks about the buildings to be demolished and a few surveys to make sure there aren’t any bats in the buildings. The start date is expected to be March 2017 and last for roughly 6 months.

The wholesale markets will be moving at the end of the year; the debate whether to retain them has already been and gone. What happens with the site next is where we can really have an impact and this is something we want as many people as possible to be involved with. We have already run an event alongside the team looking at redeveloping the site into Smithfield and we are keen to stay engaged with this process.

The current application is fairly bland, nothing too exciting or news worthy except for one small part of the application which looks to allocate a portion of the site to become a surface level car park with 150 allocated parking spaces for people working in Manor House on Moat Lane which is on the edge of the site. Manor House is an office exclusively used by the city council.


So one city council department is asking permission from another city council department to take 50,000 sqft of public space and allocate it to become another car park for other departments of the city council to use. Another car park to add to the 150 we already have within the inner ring road. Another 50,000 sqft of public space to add to the 250,000 sqft dedicated to emission producing, obesity causing, traffic creating vehicles.

There are countless angry blog posts out there about council planning decisions and putting another one out into the ether may get a few tweets and perhaps a couple of blood boiling Facebook rants, but it doesn’t really help. It doesn’t help those who want to change the decision, and it doesn’t help the council to think differently or try to act differently. So instead I would like to start a conversation proposing some alternatives.

First, let’s outline some of the council objectives and strategic aims so that we can make sure any uses fit in with these larger aims.

  • Young People
  • Birmingham Cycle Revolution
  • Greener City
  • Health & Wellbeing

I’m happy to debate this but I don’t think a car park for employees of the city council will really help with any of these. So, here are just four alternative ideas that i can think of straight anyway. I am certain that we could come with another forty if we needed to but the important thing here is that just about anything is better than another car park.

Park, Inner City Garden and Festival Square prototype a nice, quiet place to dwell in the city where you don’t have to spend any money, with swings, slides and play areas for children to have a genuine space within the city centre. And a space to trial events planned for the Festival Square to be delivered as part of Smithfield. See CityPark4Brum.

A small scale, adaptive, self built retail space for small scale makers, designers and tinkerers with workshops, office and event space included. A space for transparent production, short supply chains and complimentary products/services. A place to explore what Smithfield should contain. See Baltic Triangle in Liverpool.

Community Space to convene and talk about the wider issues facing the city, the responses needed and the role an inclusive Smithfield redevelopment could have. See the work of Emergence Projects at Vikaliv. (Banner image above courtesy of Emergence Projects)

Inner City Lido and Sports Centre with outdoor gym equipment, spaces to play ball games and generally experience a different side to the city. See Brooklyn Bridge Park

Pop up Art Hotel to give the artists who create and perform at the much-awarded festivals across the city a place to stay, connect and bond with the community. A space which shows that we value and cherish the role that artists play in creating a vibrant city. See the vision of Art Hotel by the incredible Amahra Spence.

In fact a combination of all of these things, or none of them. Anything else to add? The consultation is still open for views so please reply to the application here under number 2016/06762/PA.

Instead of a self serving decision this is a perfect opportunity for the City Council to show they have taken the lessons of the Kerslake Review on board, that they are listening to their citizens and that they are willing to think and work differently. The important thing to remember is that whatever happens here will last forever; this is the perfect opportunity to show that the council can be inventive, creative and playful. There are hundreds of presidents, thousands of passionate people willing to get involved and millions of ideas. We shouldn’t really go with another car park.