We visit Northfield in Birmingham & discover five changes that residents & business owners want in the area

We paid a visit to the south Birmingham neighbourhood of Northfield to find out what residents like and dislike about the area, and what they want to see change
Northfield high streetNorthfield high street
Northfield high street

Northfield is a Birmingham neighbourhood with a proud working history.  

The Cadbury brothers moved their business to Bournville just two miles from Northfield in 1897, and many factory workers still reside in Northfield today.

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During the 19th century, the area was also home to the Kalamazoo paper factory and in the 20th, the thriving Austin motor company factory was located just down the road in nearby Longbridge.

But today, Northfield high street is predominantly known for a number of food chains and and bargain stores in the large Northfield Shopping centre - and some residents believe the area has become run down in recent years, with crime also being an issue.

Police data shows that 278 crimes were reported here in December 2023, with 29 of those crimes being linked to shoplifting and over 100 being violence related. I paid a visit to the neighbourhood to find out what life is like there in in 2024.

I arrived into the centre of Northfield at around 3pm on a weekday, and although the high street was fairly busy, it’s clear to see that the area is a bit run down and there were some police officers patrolling the high street. The Bristol Road which runs directly through the neighbourhood was also extremely busy, something which some residents believe has also become a problem in the suburb.

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The shopping centre itself is home to a number of classic chains such as the Works and Peacocks, as well as a few vape shops and supermarkets, such as Aldi, but like the high street - which is home to plenty of hair and nail salons as well as fast food shops and a McDonald’s. I was struck by a lack of independent shops - it’s easy to see that Northfield could do with a better variety on its high street.

Northfield high streetNorthfield high street
Northfield high street

The suburb is home to the popular Clock Cafe and the huge Black Horse pub, but there are a lack of options for locals. I wanted to find out what residents want to see improve in the area.

1) More parking options

Leone, who works in Midland Supplements on the high street, said she wants to see improvements to the parking in Northfield. The Bristol Road is extremely busy during the day and parking spaces are often hard to come by.

"Whatever they are doing with the parking situation is completely ruining the town centre,” Leone told me. "I'm from Wolverampton and we all had free parking over Christmas, but we didn’t here. The parking is really bad. Something needs to give with it."

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John is the manager of the Cosy Coffee Co on the high street. The cafe is different from other establishments in the area as it’s one of Northfield’s best independents. He also says parking is a problem in Northfield. Like Leone, he also says parking is a big problem. “There’s nowhere for customers to park a lot of the time. I have a retired group of Cadbury workers who come over here and they say they can’t stay long as they’ve had to park far away.”

He added: “We wanted to provide somewhere where the elderly and vulnerable people can go in the neighbourhood and feel from home to home.” John said. He said footfall was very good in the town pre-Covid, but like many businesses it has dropped off in the years that have followed. "We’ve come through the tough times and I think people keep coming back because of the service and products,” he said.

2) Reduction in crime - but community spirit is high

Touching on crime in the neighbourhood, Leone said: "They have a lot of trouble near the McDonald's, you often see police go past there. Many of the food outlet places can suffer a bit with it as the kids come out of school."

Overall, there are certainly things she’d like to see change about the neighbourhood, but Leone says the community spirit is strong. “All the shops are all together,” she said. “If one shop's having trouble we all try to help each other out and talk to each other. Here, I know everybody.”

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I also had a chat with one of the chefs from a cafe located in the Northfield Trade Centre. The chef, who didn’t want to give his name, said he doesn’t think the high street has improved in the 10 years he has worked in the town and he wants better security to tackle crime. He said: "They need to clean the high street. It would be a plus, and security isn’t good - we have been robbed three times in the last year.”

John, manager of the Cosy Coffee NorthfieldJohn, manager of the Cosy Coffee Northfield
John, manager of the Cosy Coffee Northfield

3) More variety on the high street

John says he would like shops that will bring the right trade and footfall back to the area. “As the high street goes it’s quiet out there. If you look at the high street at the moment, there’s a lot of gambling places, nail bars and takeaways. What is there really for the average family to come to Northfield for?

"There’s no major big shops like TX Max, but you have Longbridge one end and Selly Oak the other and they are classed as retail hubs, and there’s everything you need on your doorstep there, so the local high street is getting abandoned.”

4) Better job opportunities

He added: “Jobs are hard to come by around here. Opportunities are as well."

5) More investment & government support

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The head chef of the Northfield cafe also said he believes the suburb needs more government support. "I’ve been here for 10 years in this building," he told me. "As a business owner, I haven’t seen any changes or improvements to Northfield in those years. When it comes to improving the place, more needs to change. Yes we’ve been through very tough times in the last few years, but nobody is doing anything here. The government doesn’t support the community here anymore.”

Northfield Cafe chefNorthfield Cafe chef
Northfield Cafe chef

What does the future hold?

It’s obvious to see that Northfield high street needs investment, an opinion which has been echoed by many business owners and residents. There are plans for more businesses to open in the area. Lidl has pushed forward plans to build a new store in Northfield Shopping Centre.

Proposals show that the north-eastern section of Northfield Shopping Centre would be demolished to make way for the new store and 114-bay car park, but it seems as though residents want a better variety of independent businesses to help the area become more appealing to people in Birmingham.

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