Now's Not the Time to Sacrifice Quality of Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Jane Findlay

We can rightly be proud of the transformation of our city - the new Bullring, Brindleyplace, the New Library of Birmingham are all examples.

But while such investment in the quality of public infrastructure is welcomed, too often such investment has been neglected by policymakers and undervalued by business.

When hard choices have to be made in tough economic times, it's perhaps too easy to accept the poverty of our streets and urban landscape as an inevitable consequence of the economic downturn.

Yet the potential of public spaces to help generate economic, social and environmental benefits is huge. More than one-fifth of Birmingham consists of open space, connected by a network of streets and public thoroughfares.

It is the glue that binds the city together and this is precisely the time to invest in the infrastructure of our cities and not "dress ourselves in rags" as Sir Stuart Lipton, Founder of CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) put it.

Birmingham has seen dramatic changes in its development history since the 1980s. Apart from the examples already noted we can also list Centenary Square; the construction of the NIA and the ICC and the pedestrianisation of New Street. This good work has continued with City Park in Eastside, which is due to open later this year and will be the first urban park in Birmingham for over 125 years. Further spaces are planned for Moat Square, Digbeth Viaduct and Lancaster Circus in the future.

It is important that such investment continues because Birmingham is as the heart of a region that has suffered more than most during the recession.

It operates in an increasingly competitive, globalised world and needs to create a high quality of environment that will attract new business and new entrepreneurs in competition with a host of other regional centres.

Investment in the quality of the urban landscape has economic benefits that greatly outweigh the cost of the initial investment. …