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Play, planning and positivity – why the West Mids is feeling good


The Midlands is 'bostin'', says Louise Brooke-Smith. And here's why she thinks that's the case.

As the Peaky Blinders – or some of their Black Country kinsmen – might have said, had they been around today: “It’s a bostin’ time to be living in The Midlands.”

You can practically taste the positivity in the air. Is this because Coventry has been awarded UK City of Culture for 2022, or that Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games a year later? Or is it a reflection of the investment boom across the region and a tangible community swagger?

If the West Midlands Combined Authority, under the leadership of the erudite Andy Street, and management of the impressive Deborah Cadman, can corral the various boroughs and get them to all pull in the same direction at the same time, then this part of the world, at the heart of the UK, will be a force to reckon with.

“At the last count the West Midlands had circa £500 billion of infrastructure projects about to be implemented or in the pipeline" 

The benefits of two big accolades – City of Culture and Commonwealth Games – and the ripple effects they will have on regenerative and legacy schemes are huge.

A quick look at the way Hull has benefited from its ‘cultural crown’ in 2017 shows how vital the arts and culture are to any location. Be it visual, performance, music, poetry, theatre – all reflect the soul of a community, and encourage social cohesion, pride and innovation.

Looking at the Commonwealth Games, before any new build has even started, a wide range of stakeholders are already exploring and agreeing how the event can regenerate parts of the conurbation to ensure there will be a legacy in place for years to come. That is certainly how Queensland planned for the Commonwealth Games this year and it has paid off with a range of social initiatives in place for the immediate and long term.

At the last count, the West Midlands had circa £500 billion of infrastructure projects about to be implemented or in the pipeline. If the skills shortage is properly addressed – a problem affecting the whole country as recently highlighted in the recent Arcadis ‘Investing in Britain’ research – The Midlands is on target to wow the world.

In the two years after the 2012 London Olympics, the UK enjoyed a £14.2 billion injection of sales and investment from trade and industry. With the economic impact estimated to hit £28-£41bn by 2020, The Midlands’ location at the heart of the UK suggests it could reap the rewards of a well-planned Year of Culture and the Commonwealth Games.

‘Positivity’ and ‘planning’ are rarely words seen together given the constraints on services – but in The Midlands it’s a reality.

Louise Brooke-Smith MRTPI is a partner at Arcadis and former global president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Photo | iStock



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