Developers start on site at Port Loop, Birmingham

L-R: Badj Rahman, Places for People, James Lazarus, CRT, Cllr Ian Ward Leader of Birmingham City Council and Adam Willetts, Urban Splash.

Work has begun on Birmingham’s most exciting new development – the transformation of Port Loop.

The urban island, encircled by the Birmingham Canal Old Line and the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line, is one of the UK’s most significant brownfield regeneration schemes.

The area will be transformed into a new family-focused waterside neighbourhood by a pioneering Joint Venture (JV) partnership of award-winning regeneration company Urban Splash and one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK, Places for People.

The Urban Splash and Places for People JV will work in tandem with landowners Canal & River Trust and Birmingham City Council to bring about 1,150 new homes, as well as commercial property and community facilities across the 43 acre site.

The start on site of the first 77 homes means that work is now underway to realise an ambitious masterplan that will feature not only new homes but also shared courtyard gardens, new public parks and community spaces together with canalside retail, leisure and commercial facilities.

The focus will be on successful long-term place management of the site, enabling the JV to deliver a large-scale, multi-phased development that works now and in the future.

Adam Willetts, Project Director for the Urban Splash and Places for People JV, said: “This transformative project is a catalyst for even wider regeneration of the Icknield Port Loop area for family city living, all just 15 minutes’ walk from Birmingham city centre. With creative and innovative design built in, our aim is to bring huge benefits to the existing community as well as those attracted to the new development with vibrant new uses for the canals and canal-side spaces and providing a range of modern homes.

“The extensive and multifaceted remediation of the site has been underway since the start of the year, including the complex rebuilding of the canal walls, clearing and recycling around 60,000 cubic metres of soil and materials and re-engineering the site levels to get it ready for bringing this new neighbourhood to life.”

The regeneration will help to capture the full potential of the canal, giving people the opportunity to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time by water as part of their daily routine, commute or leisure time.

The first housing to be delivered will include 77 urban family homes, each benefiting from a private garden terrace or access to a private courtyard. 40 of the properties will be created offsite by House, the Urban Splash modular brand, meaning customers can design the internal layout and composition of their own homes. These will launch for sale in the autumn. The remaining 37 homes have been designed by award winning Birmingham architectural firm, Glenn Howells Architects and will launch for sale next year.

James Lazarus, Head of Joint Ventures at the Canal & River Trust, is sure the city will benefit greatly from the regeneration. He says: “We know that spending time by the water can help people feel happier and more relaxed so this regeneration can bring real health and wellbeing benefits to this part of Birmingham. As well as providing attractive canal-side housing it will also revitalise the whole area giving people the opportunity to build some time by the water into their daily lives.

“The regeneration will encourage more people to use the city’s canals and tow-paths to commute to and from work, travel to the city centre and participate in sports and recreation on the water so the wider benefits of the scheme are really exciting.”

Planning permission is in place for the whole of the first phase with a mix of 207 family homes and apartments, together with a new park. Work is also underway on plans for the wider community facilities to deliver the mix of amenities for the neighbourhood to ensure that there will be opportunities for people to spend time both beside and on the water with canal-side cafes, waterborne sports hubs, community spaces and commercial opportunities, while personal and shared spaces will be provided for residents.

Leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward, says: “This is, without doubt, one of the most exciting residential developments in the city for a very long time. The variety of housing types, layouts and sizes will lead to the creation of a genuinely mixed, multi-generational community attracted to a unique waterside location with sustainable access to the very core of the city.”

Urban Splash and Places for People have a successful, well-established working partnership, sharing a passion for place making and combining strength in the design and delivery of great places across the country. At every stage, from design and delivery to management, the JV will take a long-term approach to building sustainable value into Port Loop. Throughout the process the JV will engage local communities and build the physical and social infrastructure needed to make the development successful.

The two award winning companies have delivered over 100 regeneration projects between them. Port Loop is the very latest and will deliver a new family focussed neighbourhood that fully embraces all the benefits of its waterside setting.

The original Icknield Port Loop was born out of the industrial revolution, with the first winding canal being constructed in the area between 1766 and 1769, before a straight canal by-pass, the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line, created an urban island in 1827.

The canals were accompanied by factories, wharves and many of the city’s famed ’thousand trades’ throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. During the post-war period however the area became increasingly neglected with the closure of many businesses, and Icknield Port Loop has been left virtually derelict in the years since.

The Port Loop masterplan was created by Macreanor Lavington, an award-winning practice specialising in housing and regeneration, while the first phase has been designed by shedkm, Grant Associates and Birmingham based Glenn Howells Architects.