On Monday the 10th of July 2017, Gary Woodward of Birmingham City Council led a walking tour around Digbeth in Birmingham.
The tour started at the location of the proposed new 7 platform station at Curzon Street for HS2, which is to be built on a sloping site near Digbeth (which is currently a park area as a “meanwhile use”). Birmingham City Council has focussed on ensuring that the new station will be connected with the surrounding area and so a new metro stop will be constructed in close proximity to the station and the tram will then run down into Digbeth.
The site of the new HS2 station is to be constructed within close proximity to the city’s Proof House which is very similar/ untouched to how it was originally built. Cannons and guns are still tested there today, and secure access to the Proof House needs to be maintained around the development of the new station for HS2.
There are elements of Digbeth that need to be protected as part of the regeneration of Digbeth including the Eagle and Tun Pub and the original Curzon street station, a grand railway station which was built in the 1800’s. The development of the new HS2 station and regeneration of Digbeth need to respect these and other buildings which are historically important to the area.
Further exploration of the area introduced the Young Leaders to the gritty nature of Digbeth including numerous railway arches many of which have street art painted in and around them as well as specific buildings in the area, including Typhoo Wharf (where Typhoo tea was originally imported to the UK via the canals in the area) and the Custard Factory (where Birds’ custard was made).
Digbeth is known for its creative industries but also has a wide range of new and trendy office space which is ideal for start-up businesses giving them the ability to take flexible space which is best suited to their growing needs.
Digbeth is an area of huge opportunity for future development. Emerging planning policy is being developed to ensure the unique character of Digbeth is protected and enhanced following the arrival of HS2 and while commercial development will be important for the future of the area, it is important that it does not lose sight of its past and present.
Following the walking tour the young leaders convened at Impact Hub in Digbeth to discuss some of the challenges facing the regeneration of Digbeth, the possible positive (and negative) impact of the proposed new HS2 station . The young leaders concluded that there are a myriad of challenges and competing interests in regenerating areas such as Digbeth.
Words by Matt Walker, Gowling WLG