5 changes to Birmingham Smithfield development plans - including Bull Ring Markets

Smithfield will become the new home for the historic Bull Ring markets, but design changes will be made after complaints from the government’s heritage champion, Historic England.

‘Key design changes’ have been made to the £1.9 billion Smithfield development in Birmingham city centre following ‘missed opportunity’ complaints from the government’s heritage champion, Historic England.

Dubbed ‘the most important city centre regeneration project in the country’, Smithfield will transform the former Birmingham wholesale markets into a new public realm – complete with offices, retail units, a pub, two new community squares, and even a theatre or cinema.

The development was said to aim to capitalise on Birmingham’s international reputation following its success in hosting the Commonwealth Games and the city’s annual Pride event.

Smithfield – a 17 hectare site of unoccupied land – will become the new home for the historic Bull Ring markets, creating up to 8,000 new jobs. Lendlease, an international real estate and investment group behind the venture, said it wanted Smithfield to be a celebration of Birmingham’s heritage.

But after plans were unveiled by Birmingham City Council earlier this year, Historic England objected to the new development – set for completion in 2035 – arguing it would not only harm the historic cityscape but also disturb significant Medieval remains.

“The plans for the redevelopment of the former Smithfield Market site fall short of what should be expected of England’s second-largest city and are a missed opportunity,” a spokesman said. “The site occupies an important position in that it’s regarded as Birmingham’s birthplace. It is where the settlement first developed around the moated manor house of the de Birmingham family, the Parish Church of St Martin’s and, subsequently, its marketplace, the Bull Ring.

“However, the proposed scheme fails to recognise Birmingham’s unique history, which should be fundamental to such a major redevelopment. Nor do the designs meet national planning policies relating to the historic environment, falling short of best practice.”

Louise Brennan, Midlands regional director at Historic England, added: “The redevelopment of Smithfield Market is an opportunity to create a place that will help the city to prosper. Unfortunately, the current designs would cause considerable harm to the historic environment that has been built here over centuries.

“We are recommending significant but achievable revisions to the current proposals and are keen to advise the city council and developers to help deliver a scheme that recognises the power of heritage in successful place-making.”

Now Lendlease, in partnership with Birmingham City Council, has revealed updated designs ahead of submitting a new planning application next month. A spokesman said: “The scheme designs have changed to address an objection from Historic England to the planning application and the pending changes to fire safety legislation that will require a second staircase to be installed in residential buildings in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

“While the formal statutory consultation on the changes to the planning application will be led by local authority planners, we are fully committed to providing early transparency regarding the changes.”

The changes have been outlined below:

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