Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning: Comparative Case Studies of European City-Regions

By Willem Salet; Andy Thornley et al. | Go to book overview

4

The Birmingham case

Alan Murie, Mike Beazley and Dave Carter


Introduction

After London, Birmingham is the biggest city in the United Kingdom. The city of Birmingham has a population of some 1 million and the size of the city contributes to its diversity. It includes affluent, high-status, suburban areas; older residential enclaves in the middle-ring and the inner-city which have high property values and environmental quality; areas of older working class housing dating from before 1919 with rows of high-density terraced housing; slum clearance council housing estates located in the inner-city; peripheral estates of 1960s council housing; and a mixed quality suburban residential zone in between. Birmingham is an industrial city based on manufacturing and has undergone major changes in the structure of its economy in the last 30 years. Issues of industrial dereliction, contaminated land and the reuse of old industrial premises are prominent ones. The city and region has an industrial and manufacturing history. While the city has successfully replaced jobs lost in declining sectors it remains at risk because of the continuing over-dependence on manufacturing and especially employment linked to the fragile automotive sector. Birmingham is a modern city of migration. Its principal and most rapid growth was associated with the Industrial Revolution and migration from rural to urban areas associated with expanding employment opportunities. Migration to the city has remained high and the diversity of population in terms of ethnicity, religion, culture and family history is significant. Birmingham has a large ethnic minority population, which is more mixed than in any other part of the UK, except London. The combination of residential and employment change has contributed to a hollowing out of the city with high concentrations of deprivation in the older inner core of the city and in areas of public sector housing.

The dominant competitiveness agenda of the city of Birmingham relates to its role as a regional centre and as an international city with a full range of business and cultural activities involving significant restructuring of the employment and economic base of the city away from manufacturing and towards the service sector and cultural industries. Some of the key issues for the city relate to whether the rest of the region perceives it as having this same future and whether the rest of the region is willing to contribute to its achieving this vision. The agenda also includes addressing the pattern of migration and social exclusion and attracting

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