News

Regenerating North Solihull Pens Designs For Life

(23rd August 2006)

Just over a year after North Solihull Partnership LP was legally formed, over £20million of new homes are being constructed, and within the next 12 months, a further £80million worth of regeneration activity is set to be confirmed for the groundbreaking Regenerating North Solihull initiative.

At this crucial stage in the 15 year, £1.8bn investment programme, 50 members of the project team joined together for a Design Symposium to formulate a Design Code that will guide North Solihull's regeneration agenda, setting in place key principles on architecture, sustainability and the environment. The event, held at the Fordbridge Centre, was opened by Cllr John Reeve, Mayor of Solihull.

The North Solihull Partnership, which is delivering the project, comprises housebuilder Bellway Homes, investment-led regeneration company Inpartnership, Solihull Council and Registered Social Landlord Whitefriars Housing Group.

Janet Bradbury, Chief Executive of the North Solihull Partnership commented: "Regenerating North Solihull is one of the biggest redevelopment programmes in the UK. In order to deliver a project of this scale and complexity, we have brought together a highly experienced project team with over 150 regeneration, design and development professionals, plus an additional 30 members of the community who are working with us directly to shape the programme.

"With such a large project team on board, it is essential that the quality of every aspect of the regeneration programme is consistently high and the design takes into account the 'bigger picture' of long-term sustainability. Contributing to Regenerating North Solihull currently, we have a team of masterplanners, transport design consultants, and three architectural practices working on the design of the first primary school, village centres and the early housing developments.

"With so many aspects of the project needing to be worked up at the same time, we have brought all of the design and development consultants together to share ideas and formulate a Design Code. This will be a very positive working tool for Regenerating North Solihull, and I am delighted that so many members of the local community came along to the Design Symposium to express their views and shape the Code."

A key topic for discussion at the Regenerating North Solihull Design Symposium was 'how do we avoid making the mistakes of the past?'. This question stimulated much debate on sustainable design, as a principal aim of the project is to ensure that the 40,000 strong community never requires such a high level of intervention and redevelopment in the future.

Jim Chapman, the masterplanning architect for Regenerating North Solihull led the day's discussions. Summarising some of the highly positive conclusions of the day, he explained: "In the 1960's when North Solihull was originally built, there was no incumbent community, and so the planners and architects followed the architectural trends of the time, rather than the needs of the residents.

"40 years on, we can see which elements of North Solihull's physical landscape create difficulties and work against the generation of a cohesive community spirit. Whilst masterplanners and architects can look at the area and draw on our design knowledge to raise the quality of the environment and propose changes, it is crucial to the success of this project that we have people who are living here that are involved in the process. 

"Making the new North Solihull truly sustainable relies on us working hand-in-hand with the local people who know the area best and are as committed to its future as we are. The best examples of community regeneration throughout Europe have relied on local people working closely with designers, and this is exactly what we are doing here. North Solihull will become a place that the community can be truly proud of because the regeneration programme includes their aspirations for its future."

One way in which the North Solihull Partnership has already responded to the wishes of the local community is by bringing forward the development of the first of a series of new primary schools. Planning permission has been granted for the creation of a new, state of the art Kingshurst Primary School. The masterplanning philosophy for Regenerating North Solihull is founded on the principle that all 4,000 primary school children in the area will be able to go to a brand new school, which in-turn will become the focal point of the whole community, hosting extended school activities and Lifelong Learning. 

New village centres that nurture local businesses and provide high quality, practical amenities and health services will be sited next to the new schools, and within easy reach of every home in the 1,000 acre regeneration zone.

Bill Stevenson, Chairman of Bellway City Solutions added: "The colossal public and private sector investment that is being used to revitalise North Solihull will make the area comparable with the Borough's affluent 'South'. This partnership regeneration initiative will raise local people's aspirations, whilst meeting their lifestyle needs at every level.

"Due to the scale of this project, there is a lead-in period before the first dramatic physical changes are completed, however we are already underway with the construction of over 130 high quality new homes, which have been specifically designed for the first two individual locations.

"The design of the new homes at North Solihull will draw on Scandinavian HomeZone principles, which place greater importance on people and family play areas, and work to reduce the speed and presence of cars in residential areas. New 'pocket parks', which will create safe, welcoming play and relaxation space will be intertwined within the new and existing homes, along with state of the art schools and local amenities.

"Whereas there are not a significant number of privately owned homes in North Solihull at present, the strong sales for the first tranche of new homes being constructed in Chelmsley Wood demonstrates how many people have bought into our vision and are choosing to relocate to the area at the very early stages of the investment programme. This is a hugely encouraging start to the project, and the shared sense of optimism gives us a very solid platform to build on."

The £1.8bn Regenerating North Solihull programme encompasses improving 12,500 homes and building 8,000 new properties. New bus routes and infrastructure improvements are also planned for the 15-year project, along with the creation of safe, open public spaces. Underpinning the regeneration programme is the desire to create better access to jobs, training and economic prosperity for every sector of the community.

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