A huge step forward for Smithfield’s plan to transform Birmingham city centre

Revised proposals for Birmingham’s huge Smithfield development have been recommended for approval despite concerns about the public market. Dubbed a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to reshape the city centre, Smithfield’s plans could transform Birmingham’s former wholesale markets near the Bullring shopping center into a thriving new destination with new leisure and cultural spaces.

The site could boast residential buildings, office space, retail, a pub/bar, a market, a theatre/cinema, a park and more, according to a planning application to be considered next week . Lendlease, the global property group behind the project, previously said it wanted Smithfield to be a celebration of Birmingham’s heritage, while the city council said it could help boost Brum’s reputation and international standing.

However, after the initial plans were submitted to the council in December 2022, Historic England objected to the proposals, arguing that they would not only damage the town’s historic landscape, but also disturb important medieval remains. The developers behind the massive project later submitted a revised planning application, writing in a letter of intent that the original proposed development had been “revised and refined” to deliver the intended benefits while “responding to comments from Historic England”.

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He added that in June 2023 the plans were changed so that Festival Square, previously described as a major public space, would be renamed Conac Square and moved to the north. However, as a council report published this week highlights, the market’s fate was at the center of an objection from the Southside BID, which raised concerns that it could only “host small-scale events”.

Conservative councilor Gareth Moore argued: “This planning application needs to be reviewed again as a matter of urgency to ensure Festival Square is the high-capacity event space it was originally intended to be.” “The promises of a world-class event space have not materialized in these plans,” Cllr Alex Yip added in his objection.

The report, published ahead of a planning committee meeting next week, admitted there had been objections to the scheme over the size of the public square and its ability to be used for events such as Pride. “Currently, the former wholesale markets site can host a large festival as it is a large, relatively level open space,” it said.

“There are objections that Manor Square will not host a festival of this size. However, there is no planning policy requirement that the square have a minimum size or hold certain events.

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