Former Smithfield Market site with a view of the Bull Ring in the background.
Former Smithfield Market site with a view of the Bull Ring in the background. © Historic England
Former Smithfield Market site with a view of the Bull Ring in the background. © Historic England

Response to Birmingham Smithfield Market Plans

Historic England has objected to a new development in Birmingham's city centre, arguing it would not only harm the historic cityscape but also disturb significant medieval remains.

A Missed Opportunity

The plans for the redevelopment of the former Smithfield Market site fall short of what should be expected of England's second-largest city and are a missed opportunity.

The site occupies an important position in that it's regarded as Birmingham’s birthplace. It is where the settlement first developed around the moated manor house of the de Birmingham family, the Parish Church of St Martin’s and, subsequently, its marketplace, the Bull Ring.

We want to see the city continue to move forward whilst embracing Birmingham’s heritage, creating a place that people are proud of and can enjoy.

Louise Brennan, Midlands Regional Director Historic England

The government’s heritage champion says the proposed scheme, put forward by Birmingham City Council and its development partner Lendlease, fails to recognise Birmingham’s unique history, which should be fundamental to such a major redevelopment. Nor do the designs meet national planning policies relating to the historic environment, falling short of best practice.

Harming A Heritage Rich Area

Historic England is also concerned the plans would cause harm to the historic character of the Digbeth, Deritend and Bordesley Conservation Area, primarily by a wall made up of tall buildings that would lead down towards Digbeth High Street.

Any opportunities to enhance the conservation area and integrate the proposed development with the historic character of the city would be lost.

Louise Brennan, Midlands Regional Director for Historic England said:

 “The redevelopment of Smithfield Market is an opportunity to create a place that will help the city to prosper.

Unfortunately, the current designs would cause considerable harm to the historic environment that has been built here over centuries.

We are recommending significant but achievable revisions to the current proposals and are keen to advise the City Council and developers to help deliver a scheme that recognises the power of heritage in successful place-making.”

Shaping The Future

Historic England provides advice on planning applications, but also on planning policy. Since 2021, Historic England has been engaging with Birmingham City Council’s on its Our Future City Plan vision and on its draft Local Plan, which will shape the direction of growth and associated planning policies up to 2042. 

A further public consultation on Our Future City Plan is expected in the spring and Historic England hopes that the vision for the city has progressed.

The next public consultation on the draft Local Plan is expected in the autumn. Historic England will be engaging with both to explain the role that heritage can play in regeneration and is encouraging anyone who lives, works or plays in the city to make their views known too.

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