A model development: Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games build

The 2022 Commonwealth Games development in Birmingham will be funded by a budget of £778 million and is intended to deliver benefits to the area for years to come.

The build is noteworthy for several reasons, not least because of the tight turnaround time and the ambitious scale of the project. Innovation has been key in the planning stage, with Birmingham City Council taking on the project themselves rather than engaging a developer. 

By taking lessons from the developments of other similar events, the local authority has based its plans on proven successful strategies. The key goal is to create not just a world class stadium and village, but to stimulate long-term growth in the area that will transform it permanently.

Regeneration of Perry Barr is being kick-started by a development of more than 1,100 new homes on the former Birmingham City University (BCU) campus.  These homes will form the residential element of the Athletes’ Village before being retrofitted for residential use.  A mix of tenures and property types will be provided in the legacy scheme, including an ‘extra care’ development for older people with varying needs. 

Fast implementation of the plan

Birmingham was awarded the Games in December 2017, meaning they had just four years, as opposed to the usual seven years, to plan, build and host the games. With no room for slippage, it was vital that each stage of the development run smoothly.  The development embodies good practice – from site assembly, through planning, communication with stakeholders, and the legacy benefits it will bring. 

The development is situated within Perry Barr, which is identified as an area for growth in Birmingham’s Development Plan, on a site already identified for residential development following the relocation of the BCU.  Key principles, or ‘big moves’ were identified early and have guided the design of the scheme.  It is approximately one mile from the Alexander Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics competition during the Games, and on a main arterial route, making it an ideal location to provide the Athletes’ Village.

To deliver to tight deadlines required significant resource, effort and collaboration, with major hurdles such as planning permission, demolition and remediation, appointment of a contractor, and start on site all smoothly navigated.  Just twelve months on from being named Host City, the residential scheme was granted planning consent.  A second phase of residential development, some 500 homes which will be delivered after the Games, was granted outline consent in August 2019.  At the same time, demolition of former university buildings was underway, and completed in early summer 2019.  Land acquisitions saw the Council working in partnership with Homes England and Department for Education, in both cases agreeing land swaps that facilitated the needs of the agencies.  

Development by the Local Authority

Birmingham City Council is acting as developer, reducing time spent in procuring a development partner, and has appointed a lead contractor through a public sector procurement framework.  The ability to commission a range of specialists through frameworks has minimised time spent on procurement across the project.

Engagement with the local community and other stakeholders early in the process has minimised challenges along the way.  It has also helped position the scheme as part of a bigger opportunity for the longer-term transformation of Perry Barr.

Considering the future

The eleven days of competition during the Games will be exciting, but it is the opportunity this offers as a catalyst for wider growth – and in attracting funding – that is particularly important.  Birmingham City Council has obviously done its homework on past events prior to making any concrete decisions.  Having liaised with decision makers for Manchester Commonwealth Games 2002, London Olympic Games 2012 and even the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018, the Council was well placed to ensure they took away the key success from each event and applied them to the local circumstances.

It is this legacy vision – which includes the redevelopment of the local station and bus interchange, Sprint bus rapid transit, significant reconfiguration of the highway network, cycle and walking enhancements, and further new residential and commercial development – which Government bought into in awarding £165m of grant funding for the regeneration of Perry Barr.

These wider sustainable transport and placemaking interventions, which also include significant land acquisitions to directly enable post-Games development, are vital in creating the market conditions for a successful scheme.  The creation of a distinctive and attractive urban destination will improve the viability of future housing schemes, unlocking a range of other sites in the immediate vicinity.  It is envisaged that the Council’s interventions will directly enable some 2,200 new homes in the area (including the 1,100 referred above) and help unlock a further 2,900 over the next 20 years.

Whilst Birmingham City Council and the Commonwealth Games may carry more influence than smaller projects, it is clear that all key stakeholders working effectively together has resulted in the efficient creation of the development. This is something that other developers could adopt, to achieve similarly impressive results.