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Major Birmingham mixed-use development gets green light

Mention Edgbaston to most people, and the first thing that comes to mind is the famous cricket ground. But to those who know Birmingham, there is much more to it than that.

Edgbaston is in fact a large area covering an arc to the west and south of Birmingham city centre. It includes Birmingham University and one campus of Birmingham City University, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston Reservoir and the two towers - the Waterworks Tower and Perrot's Folly - on Waterworks Road that are believed to have provided literary inspiration for one-time Edgbaston resident J.R.R. Tolkien. 

Apart from all this, Edgbaston has since the 1960s featured a major area of business premises, with a plethora of tall office blocks along either side of the A456 Hagley Road, the main western arterial route in and out of the city. Dated though this is, it acts as a western gateway for Birmingham city centre and provides a distinct contrast with the leafy suburbia and parkland that makes up much of Edgbaston. 

However, the area is now set for significant change. Planning permission has been granted for a £330 million regeneration project in this area, a gateway development called New Garden Square. Devised by the partnership of Calthorpe Estates and regeneration specialist U+I, it will cover 9.5 acres and provide new commercial, leisure and residential space, stretching from the Plough and Harrow towards Five Ways.

Among its features will be 57,500 sq ft set aside for offices or research and development space, 2,400 sq km of room for bars, restaurants or shops, as many as 400 apartments and a new hotel with up to 100 beds. 

All this would add to similar facilities along the Hagley Road corridor, but would greatly modernise the vicinity. Much of the development would be built on vacant land, but the existing Edgbaston House office tower is being demolished, a project that will be finished by the end of this year. There will also be parking space for 900 cars, while the site will retain its frontage of Grade II-listed buildings along Hagley Road.

The project will ensure lots of work for insulation fitters, but it is the development of a hotel that could be of particular interest to waterproofing fitters and plumbers. Apart from all the usual fittings, if a hotel has a swimming pool and spa facilities, there will need to be extensive wetroom waterproofing. 

While the exact details remain to be established, there is no doubt in the minds of the developers that the project has the capacity to give the area a new lease of life. 

Director of development at Calthorpe Estates Ralph Minott said: "Although now very tired and suffering serious obsolescence, this site was one of the early important concentrated office conurbations on this side of the city.

"As such, its regeneration as a transformational scheme for the future, aligned with the other major investments announced such as the Metro extension to Five Ways, will be significant for the city’s Business Development Plan and to Edgbaston’s commercial centre for future generations."

The Midlands Metro expansion to Five Ways will see five new stops being established as the line is extended beyond its current terminus next to new street station. It does not quite represent a completely new connection from the city's main railway station to Five Ways - the latter location already has a railway station on the cross-city line - but it does provide a direct link with Snow Hill, as well as beyond in towns like West Bromwich, Wednesbury and, ultimately, the city of Wolverhampton.