Bright Lights, Big City

You know how big and complex Birmingham is, well it is. Very. Sometimes things like even knowing who owns a building is tricky (that falling into itself one by the Silver Blades opposite the indoor Market  — I’m guessing the owners might be sealed inside) — so how do you make huge decisions about the whole of the City Centre that will affect things for the next 20 years?

Well, you’ve got to have a plan. And in this instance it’s The Big City Plan (which we’ve mentioned before) — an overarching document that is attempting to make big and brave decisions about how the city centre will work in the future. At the moment, there’s a consultation process about it — which lasts until the 6th of February.

I’ve been involved, with a number of other bloggers, in putting together a blog-site version where we hope some of the “wisdom of crowds” will help pull together Brum’s finest minds and crack some of the problems. It’s at bigcitytalk.org.uk and you’re invited to link to it, copy chunks of the blogged version for your own use, but most of all go discuss and comment and feedback to the Council about the Big City Plan — so we can make Birmingham as good as it can be.

My problem is actually that loads of the options sound really good the Global Themes and Local Issues sections all have good points, but how to we make things like “having more independent shops” actually happen? Well, if you have ideas now’s the time to tell people.

Wide boulevards along the Bristol Road, or Digbeth High St? Sounds really good, what do we have to knock down or change?

Another interesting, and potentially bizarre, idea is to make Birmingham a “water city”, with fountains and “uncovering the River Rea”. I’m all for excavating the river — it’s a theory of mine that the city centre is lacking a focus that a river or dock provides, and that’s a reason for some of the odd planning decisions over the years (is Victoria Sq the focus, the Bull Ring, St Phillip’s?). But environmentally, are large scale water features a good idea? Do they just take up valuable space that we could use at different times for different things?

Is it a laudable aim to “shoot for the moon” and decide to be renowned for the one thing we don’t naturally have (water) — or are we just setting ourselves up for lots of sniggering from the same media that panned the (very successful) beach?

Water way to go.