Some thought-provoking words from Richard Trengrouse about Digbeth being part of the Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone:
You may have seen in the press that Digbeth has been included in the boundaries of the proposed City Centre Enterprise Zone. Although the details are a little hazy at present, it appears that business locating into the area will be subject to limited planning regulations and have an up to five-year business rates holiday. In return the Council will be able to directly levy the business rate for a period after the end of the holiday.
The original Enterprise zones were a child of the Thatcher government in the 1980’s and the research into their impact does cause some concern, in particular:
- That the relaxed planning controls led to poor quality building and environmental works, they were typified by single story warehouse development. Cheap and not very cheerful.
- That the jobs they were praised for creating were a bit of a myth, many companies relocated from adjacent areas to get the benefit of the relaxed planning regulations and business rate holiday. Many of these actually reduced their workforce when they moved into the zone so there was a net loss of jobs to the area.
Looking at the map of the proposed zone in Birmingham, in Digbeth it would cover the area from Digbeth High Street as far as Macdonald Street including Cheapside and would link into the markets and Southside areas. The Millennium Point area is in the zone but the area from Digbeth High Street through to Curzon Street isn’t! Why?
What are the potential implications for Digbeth? First the negatives:
- The area from Digbeth High Street to Curzon Street, which has a large number of derelict sites and buildings, may decline further as investment is pulled into the adjacent areas which are in the zone. In fact some companies currently located in the parts of Digbeth not in the zone might relocate to adjacent areas to take up the incentives offered by the zone.
- Decline in the standards of new-build due to the relaxed planning regime. We could see warehousing and poor quality retail springing up on the now undeveloped sites on Bradford Street.
There may be positives:
- Create new employment opportunities.
- Draw in a range of small business which will feed the vitality of the area.
- Fill the gaps in the cityscape created by the collapse of the apartment market.
This may seem a very dry topic but it has serious implications, both positive and negative for the future of Digbeth. At the moment this is very much a top-down initiative led by the Local Enterprise Partnership and the City Council.
We need to ensure that local residents and businesses have an input before these proposals are finally submitted to Government for approval.