Guest Blog: Introducing Perry Barr, home from home for athletes and officials in the 2022 Athletes' Village
Neil Carney, Birmingham City Council’s Programme Director for Birmingham 2022, writes about the area that will be at the very centre of everything related to the Commonwealth Games in just over three years’ time…
Birmingham City Council, as one of the signatories of the Host City Contract, is responsible for a wide range of activities relating to a successful 2022 Commonwealth Games. One of these is the delivery of core infrastructure projects.
Given a key strength of Birmingham’s Games bid was that 95 per cent of venues were already in place, our focus is now on the delivery of the Commonwealth Games Village, upgrades to transport infrastructure, the renovation of the Alexander Stadium and supporting our colleagues in neighbouring Sandwell as they build a world-class Aquatics Centre.
With the exception of the Sandwell project, our efforts are largely focussed on Perry Barr – an area well known to people in Birmingham and many in the wider West Midlands region, but probably not familiar at all to people further afield in the UK or Commonwealth.
Since coming to Birmingham myself a year ago after completing my work at the Gold Coast 2018 Games, the one thing that has come across most strongly to me about Perry Barr is the pride of local residents.
The area has a close-knit community and the people are passionate about their neighbourhood, what is going on and its future prospects for success.
I know the welcome that will be offered by the people of Perry Barr will leave lasting positive memories for athletes, officials and spectators who come to Birmingham in 2022.
Perry Barr is 15-minute journey north-west of Birmingham city centre. It is home to some magnificent open spaces including Perry Park and Perry Hall Park, the former of which is where the Alexander Stadium is situated.
During the 2022 Games, the Alexander Stadium, home to the famous Birchfield Harriers Athletics Club (provider of many Commonwealth Games stars of the past and future), will be the venue for the Opening and Closing ceremonies along with all of the athletics competitions.
Birmingham 2022 is a catalyst for change in Birmingham, and the Perry Barr regeneration story reached a landmark moment on 8 May with the ground-breaking ceremony at the Commonwealth Games Village.
The Perry Barr story is a very interesting tale because many of the facts and figures relating to the area are representative of the city of Birmingham as a whole.
The data also reveals much about why the Games are needed as a catalyst for transformation and progress in Perry Barr, Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Perry Barr sits within a Parliamentary Constituency of the same name. That constituency has 46 per cent of residents under the age of 30. This is identical to the Birmingham-wide figure and is 8 per cent higher than the figure for England overall.
During the bid for the Games, Birmingham made a persuasive argument that the event would showcase the city’s youth and the opportunities that people of all ages – but in particular the young – stand to gain from it.
Perry Barr constituency is home to 107,000 people. Of this total, almost half (50,000) come from African, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds. When CGF President Dame Louise Martin famously said Birmingham is the Commonwealth city, she could have been talking about Perry Barr alone!
The regenerative potential of the Games comes into a particular focus when you consider that 37 per cent of the Perry Barr population live within areas of England that have been ranked as being within the 20 per cent most deprived places nationally.
Put another way, in simpler terms, pockets of Perry Barr are some of the most in need of support in this country.
The capital investment as a result of the Commonwealth Games will kick-start the rebirth of an area that will become one of the places to be in Birmingham. The global attention the Games brings will allow Perry Barr and Birmingham to mark their permanent place on the world stage.
The significant investment into the area will provide a catalyst for change, enhancing the vibrancy of the area as a place to live, work and visit and supporting the development of new homes along one of the key corridors in the city.
The ambition to deliver sustainable growth and regeneration in Perry Barr is set out in the Birmingham Development Plan and Aston, Newtown and Lozells Area Action Plan. The City’s draft Urban Centres Framework also builds on this.
Having secured significant public sector funding there is an opportunity for the council and its partners including the West Midlands Combined Authority and Transport for West Midlands to accelerate the planned delivery of growth in the area.
This includes the direct delivery of 1,400 new homes, when Commonwealth Games Village is converted post-event, and the earlier delivery of some of the planned transport schemes which will provide added and enhanced travel options during the Games too.
These improvements to the transport network include an upgrade to Perry Barr rail station and bus interchange, and the proposed introduction of a Sprint rapid bus route.
This will unlock growth over the next 20 years that will see 5,000 new homes delivered in the area, in the context of a demand for 51,000 new homes for Birmingham, as the city’s population increases by 150,000 to approximately 1.3 million citizens.
Health and wellbeing data also tells us much about why the Commonwealth Games is so important for Perry Barr.
Deaths of people aged under 65-years-old from all causes in Perry Barr are 29 per cent higher than across England. For Birmingham as a whole this figure is 28 per cent.
And despite the constituency being home to 172 sports facilities at the last count, adult obesity (28 per cent) and childhood obesity (27 per cent) are above the national averages of 24 and 19 per cent respectively.
This is something we’ll be focussing on through the soon-to-be-published Perry Barr Masterplan, looking at the Alexander Stadium and surrounding community and sports facilities, a key piece of the wider regeneration jigsaw for the local area.
There are lots more stats, facts and figures that I could write about, but I hope this gives some flavour of the area that will form the beating heart at the centre of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.