Director, Head of Strategic Communications
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We provided Planning, Strategic Communications, EIA, Heritage & Townscape and Development Viability services for the plans which provide a framework and long term vision for 42 acres of Digbeth centred round the iconic Custard Factory, which is owned by Oval. The framework, which will see the careful and gradual regeneration of Digbeth over the next 10 – 15 years, complements Oval’s ongoing investment in Digbeth, which has included physical improvements to the area, the introduction of new independent companies and plans for a major new creative content hub at The Bond.
The framework will provide up to 2.2 million square feet of commercial space and 1,850 homes alongside shops, restaurants, cafés and additional leisure facilities. This will support the creation of over 16,000 jobs and provide a substantial boost to the local Birmingham and wider West Midlands economy.
The plans will also improve pedestrian and cycle movement in the area, expose the River Rea, celebrate the Grand Union Canal and reactivate viaduct arches.
The approval also means that plans can now be put in place to bring forward the much anticipated Viaduct Park, which will see the conversion of Duddeston Viaduct into accessible open space with views over the city centre.
Since Oval acquired the Custard Factory and other Digbeth buildings in 2017, they have been working with a wide range of stakeholders to develop the framework and to understand what makes the area so special.
Oval have worked in close collaboration with a team of designers, led by master planners, architects and landscape architects Studio Egret West and local practices Glenn Howells Architects and Bryant Priest Newman.
The first phase of the framework will see the delivery of Wild Works, Custard Factory Living and the Custard Factory Extension, collectively providing new commercial space and new homes. The exceptional design of the first phase is the high standard Oval will aim for in the future phases.
James Craig, Founder of Oval, said:
“As a team Oval has worked in the Midlands for many years but in 2017 we made a commitment to become custodians of the iconic buildings of Digbeth. We understood early on that we had to make a commitment to nurture the grain of the area. The approval of our hybrid application is milestone for Oval and for Birmingham; we now have a framework that will protect the area and provide an opportunity for Digbeth to be enjoyed for generations to come. Birmingham is a fantastic City and with the arrival of HS2 on Digbeth’s doorstep we had to work hard to find the right balance; blending the history of the area with a need to provide futureproof buildings that will stand the test of time. We now look forward to working with the City and continuing to carefully build upon Digbeth’s ever growing reputation as a home for talent, independent thinkers and an a unique area that Birmingham can be proud of.”
Steve Sanders, Head of Development at Oval, said:
“This is a great day for us and we are very happy that the hard work of the team has been recognised by the Planning Committee and the City Council. We are extremely proud of our framework which fully embraces the existing urban fabric and distinctive industrial character of Digbeth. As Birmingham prepares for the arrival of HS2, we want to ensure that Digbeth is also prepared, and I believe that our framework provides this opportunity.”
Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council said:
"We're delighted to be working with outstanding partners to build a brighter future for the people of Birmingham and this project will mean hundreds of new homes, thousands of jobs and a range of exciting opportunities, enhancing Digbeth's reputation as an exciting place to live, work and socialise. In addition, the proposed sky park and plans to reconnect people with the River Rea will become exciting elements of the city's ongoing transformation."
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:
“What is happening in Digbeth is truly transformational, and I am delighted that these latest plans by Oval Real Estate have been given the green light.
“Alongside Oval’s plans for homes, commercial space, and leisure facilities, we’ve also got a creative content hub, the extension of our Midland Metro tram, Steven Knight’s film studios, and a major BBC relocation all coming to Digbeth. These are such exciting times and I cannot wait to see the area grow over the coming months and years.”
2 June 2021
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