The £1.5 billion regeneration of Birmingham’s former wholesale market site will not repeat the mistakes made with the Paradise development, the city council leader has declared.
New details along with eye-catching mock-up visuals of the Smithfield scheme were revealed earlier this week as Birmingham City Council announced a joint venture with Australian firm Lendlease.
It will utterly transform that part of the city into 2,000 new homes, leisure attractions, a public square as well as a new purpose-built facility to relocate the Bull Ring markets – the wholesale markets were moved to a new site in Witton last year.
The project was hailed as the most important redevelopment in Birmingham and a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity, similarly to Paradise.
That joint-venture scheme became embroiled in controversy last year when it emerged council bosses had been kept in the dark as costs spiralled by millions of pounds.
Even though the reasons were deemed unavoidable the city council was heavily criticised for its lack of oversight with governance for the project shifting over to Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.
But council leader Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End) was keen to point out the differences with Smithfield.
Firstly the city council is not making any financial investment unlike Paradise where a sum of £87.8m was agreed with the LEP to pay for infrastructure and demolition works.
Although Cllr Ward stressed they were providing the ‘significant’ amount of land, which at 42 acres is said to be twice the size of Brindleyplace.
The leader also reassured that the council would have more ‘control’ over Smithfield, which is set to take 15 years to complete with construction not beginning until 2022.
Cllr Ward said: “What we have been keen to do is learn the lessons of past developments, not only Paradise, but going all of the way back to the ICC in the city centre.
“What we need to ensure is that we learn the lessons of past mistakes that may have been made and ensure going forward we deliver these developments in the best way that we possibly can.
“We are very fortunate and very excited we are working with a global company with an international reputation that Lendlease have, and that’s going to bring a lot of expertise in ensuring we get this development completed in the right way.
“It is key to the city centre that we deliver this and that we deliver it in the timescale we have set.
He added: “This is a slightly different joint venture from the Paradise one in that it is a contractual joint venture so there are milestones that have to be hit as we go forward.
“In terms of governance there is a little more control over this development going forward than there has been in the past with Paradise.
“But we are correcting the governance issues around the Paradise development as we go forward now and we are working very closely with the LEP.”
Paradise will deliver ten new buildings for offices, shops and dining, hundreds of car parking spaces, a new hotel and public spaces between Centenary Square and Chamberlain Square.
The LEP provisionally approved an extra investment of £51m in December to cover the increased costs.
The overall scheme was originally estimated at £700m, the majority of which is being funded by the private sector.