Cities and Towns Need to Join Forces for the Greater Good; AGENDA Think-Tank the Centre for Cities Has Suggested That Rebranding the West Midlands "Greater Birmingham" Could Promote the Area and Attract Investment from across the World. Here, Gary Cardin, of Planning Porperty Consultants Drivers Jonas, Explains Why the Region Should Embrace the "Greater Birmingham" Brand
The Centre for Cities findings are absolutely correct and the creation of Greater Birmingham can only serve to strengthen and benefit our region. As we head into more challenging times, a united regional identity is exactly what we need to ensure we maximise opportunities for UK and foreign trade.
Our fragmented offering of Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country fails to fortify the region by collectively bringing together our strengths. The creation of Greater Birmingham would not destroy the identities of areas of which we are so proud, but rather help those outside of the area, and indeed those outside of the country, to have a clear understanding of where these locations are.
It would also place the City Region more accurately at the heart of the West Midlands Region which includes Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire, and avoid confusion through too many similar titles.
The Seven Metropolitan Boroughs (Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Solihull, Dudley, Walsall, and Sandwell) were previously grouped together under the title of the West Midlands County Council (WMCC), which existed between 1974 and 1986.
Along with the grouped council came an area action plan, but the title of "West Midlands" didn't mean anything and certainly gave no indication as to the prevailing complement of towns and cities within. When the WMCC was abolished in 1986, the seven metropolitan boroughs remained as councils.
The individual identities of these boroughs will, more often than not, mean nothing to people from outside the region. Ask someone from another part of the UK what Sandwell is like (or if it exists) and you'll be lucky to and someone who can pin-point it on a map, let alone know anything about the area!
One only has to look at the success of Greater Manchester to understand how a vibrant city centre can create ripples throughout its 'Greater' area. The Greater Manchester umbrella has undoubtedly beneated the lesser known boroughs it encompasses, as well as bolstering the city of Manchester's national and international reputation. Released last week, the UK Competitiveness Index 2008, which looks at factors like R&D expenditure, business start-up rates and GCSE results, is evidence of Manchester's dynamism: the city moved up 24 places into 10th spot whilst Birmingham slipped three places in the league of cities to 29th place.
Introducing the term "Greater Birmingham" to the region will be difficult. Not only because public opinion is divided, but also because people don't like change and the very word 'region' means "an area or division with or without deanite boundaries or characteristics". …