Plans for 700 new flats in Digbeth, Birmingham rejected - here’s why

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The flats would have been built across two blocks next to Barford Street and either side of Cheapside

Plans to develop 711 flats near the Anchor Pub in Digbeth have been spurned by the City Council for being unaffordable and too small.

An application for 45% one bed and 55% two bed apartments, with 71 at affordable rates and £750k investment in public spaces was submitted by Prosperity Investments and Developments Ltd.

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The flats would have been built across two blocks next to Barford Street and either side of Cheapside and would have included commercial spaces and parking for bikes. Dubbed the ‘Pressworks’, the proposals would have replaced some in use and vacant post-war buildings, including traditional red-brick factories and warehouses.

The site falls within the ‘Smithfield Masterplan’ area – a vision for the future growth of the area – which sets out that those buildings will go. But Birmingham City Council’s planning committee have rejected the scheme saying it is “a really poor development” and ” a rotten deal” for the city.

Remarking at the meeting on Thursday August 17, Councillor Gareth Moore (Cons, Erdington) said: “This application is, quite frankly, awful.”

He added that it was “boring” and didn’t provide for families, and he didn’t understand why the heritage buildings had to be demolished rather than converted.

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He said: “I don’t see why we need to just flatten everything just in the name of progress. No justification’s been given, they could be converted and put back into some sort of residential use, that’s quite common, in the Jewellery Quarter they do lots of that.”

Rejected Pressworks schemeRejected Pressworks scheme
Rejected Pressworks scheme | LDRS

Councillor Colin Green (Lib Dem, Sheldon) said: “I think this is a really poor development. In the report it says that the housing need in the city centre is 46% three and four bedroom apartments and this offers none.

“In the justification, the developer says that there is quite a demand from couples for one bedroom flats, yet 38% of this development are one person, one bedroom flats.

“One bedroom, one person flats is just an insult really, I don’t support this at all.”

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Councillor Lee Marsham (Lab, Nechells) said: “I think the beauty of life is that we all see different things and beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I think perhaps I disagree with some people and how they see buildings. The new apartments in my opinion are smart in their design and make use of brownfield land, however the 10 per cent affordable is disappointing but on balance it’s worth accepting.”

Councillor David Barrie (Sutton Walmley & Minworth Ward): “I just think that we are losing quite a lot of historical buildings.

“Yes at the moment they look a bit down at heel and so on, but the basic structures are fine and we are losing these and getting what A pretty dreadful scheme that doesn’t give us the degree of affordable housing we need.

“I think it’s a rotten deal and we ought to reject it.”

Pressworks schemePressworks scheme
Pressworks scheme | LDRS

Coun Mahmood Hussain (Lab, Birchfield) echoed regrets the scheme did not provide enough four bed accommodation and added that parking was neccessary.

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“It is not a good report as far as I am concerned,” he said.

Coun Yvonne Mosquito (Lab, Bordesely & Highgate), whose ward the site sits within, said she hadn’t been approached by the developers and shared concerns about afforability.

She said: “I’ve said I don’t want anymore flats in this ward because we need affordable acommodation.”

However, after hearing area planning manager Nick Jackson’s justification for supporting the plans, Coun Mosquito voted in favour.

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Couns Jane Jones (Lab, Stockland Green) and Jack Deakin (Lab, Allens Cross) were also disappointed in the lack of affordable housing.

Coun Jones said: “It seems to me that we’re going further and further down the path of these small flats when what we need is family accommodation.”

Three councillors voted in favour of the plans, six against, and four abstained.

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