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MIPIM success story reinforces Greater Birmingham brand

MIPIM success story reinforces Greater Birmingham brand

🕔18.Mar 2015

For years Birmingham sent a delegation to the MIPIM property fair more in hope than expectation, although one thing was certain – there would always be criticism of the cost of attending a south of France ‘junket’.

This year Birmingham, or to be precise Greater Birmingham, really did have something to shout about to 22,000 delegates in Cannes.

Opportunities for regeneration included: Development land around HS2 stations in Birmingham city centre and at the NEC/Airport; UK Central, formerly the M42 economic gateway; the £500 million Smithfield family leisure destination on the Birmingham wholesale markets site; the completion of Grade A offices at Three Snowhill; Paradise, redevelopment of the civic area around Birmingham Council House, possibly the largest single city-based regeneration scheme anywhere in the country; Grand Central, the new shopping complex above New Street Station; Icknield Port Loop, a high quality housing development on the Birmingham canals network close to the city centre.

Here’s the thing. Some of these schemes have been kicking around for a long time. The redevelopment of Paradise Circus, for example, was first touted to property investors in London by city council leader Sir Albert Bore in 2001 and has been staple fair since then at many a MIPIM appearance by Birmingham. Icknield Port Loop and redevelopment of the Wholesale Markets have never made it very far off the drawing board in more than a decade.

The big difference this time is that the Birmingham economy really is enjoying a post-recession recovery and the projects listed above are likely to attract financial backers.

As city council chief executive Mark Rogers has pointed out, Birmingham is leading the country in terms of exports and is attracting more foreign direct investment and creating more start-ups than any other centre outside London. More people than ever before are leaving the capital and choosing to locate in Birmingham. A recent PwC report placed Birmingham ahead of London and 6th in Europe in terms of its real estate investment prospects.

There is a critical mass of economic development building up, much of it boosted by the pending arrival of HS2 in 2026, although rumours persist that Ed Balls remains none too keen on a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham and may delay, cut back, or even scrap the project should he become Chancellor in a Labour Government.

All of this city centre-based redevelopment will of course be anathema to the politicians and academics supporting Cllr John Clancy in his attempt to oust Sir Albert Bore as the Labour leader of Birmingham city council. They argue strongly that the type of investment showcased at MPIM will create jobs only for the professional and financial services sector – accountants, lawyers, city fat cats etc – for which “ordinary Brummies” are not qualified, or minimum wage jobs in the Grand Central and Mailbox shops.

They accuse Sir Albert of being obsessed with regenerating Birmingham city centre at the expense of poor inner city areas and the suburbs, and warn gloomily that most of the jobs being created at Paradise and Snow Hill will be filled by well-heeled commuters from London and the South-east when HS2 brings Curzon Street within 50 minutes of Euston.

Sir Albert would argue, with some conviction, that MIPIM demonstrated exciting job creation prospects for the whole Greater Birmingham area, from the Black Country in the west to Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire in the east.

One of the most notable aspects of this year’s trip to Cannes was the display put on by Team Greater Birmingham, demonstrating the kind of constructive partnership that appears to be beyond our council leaders when it comes to forming a combined authority.

Quite why the Black Country, Solihull, Coventry and Birmingham can come together harmoniously to promote inward investment but descend to arguing about the name of a combined authority remains a mystery, but as Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper insisted this week, the ‘Greater Birmingham’ tag is a step too far outside of the rarefied climate of Cannes.

Sir Albert, who prefers not to give the oxygen of publicity to Cllr Clancy, insists that Birmingham grabbed the attention of global investors at MIPIM and talks about “a great story of delivery and ambition”:

There has been a real sense of momentum this week. The sheer amount of schemes that we’ve showcased is a clear illustration of the work that we’re doing to stretch ourselves as one of Europe’s most exciting investment prospects.

Running events with Solihull, the Black County and Coventry, along with our strong private sector delegation, demonstrates how working in partnership can benefit our region.

With the powerful line-up of speakers who have joined forces with Greater Birmingham, we’ve told a great story of delivery and ambition. I have every expectation that the projects we’ve presented during MIPIM will resonate further with global investors. Last year, MIPIM was a real success for the region – this year has been ever better.

The Greater Birmingham stand certainly attracted some high-powered speakers, including Sir Michael Bear, Chairman of UKTI Regeneration & Investment Organisation, who described the impact that high speed rail will have on Greater Birmingham: “HS2 will be absolutely transformational. It will be a chance to tie together a huge cluster of economic activity between Greater Birmingham and the capital, to ensure that the jobs and growth that it creates are balanced across the regions.”

Sir Michael’s comments do of course underline the importance attached to HS2. If for one reason or another high speed rail does not arrive in Birmingham in 2026, the knock-on effect on city centre regeneration and development around UK Central would be severe and future trips to MIPIM might descend to hope over expectation once more.

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