As part of our ongoing planning work Birmingham Friends of the Earth responded to the latest Reserved Matters Planning Application for the creation of the new Eastside park. The concerns and suggestions that we raised in our response are in the excerpt from our letter below:
BFoE Reserved Matters Planning Application Response
We feel the crossings over both Cardigan Street and Seymour Street should be enhanced and expanded into full sections of shared surface street that continue the width of the park. This would allow the new park to seamlessly flow over the street and allow easier crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, whilst also slowing traffic over these sections of street where they cross the park, and make traffic much less dominant. Without these shared surface links the park runs the risk of becoming fragmented into parts by these barriers, and hence effecting its overall cohesive design and long term success as a public park.
These shared surface areas should also form sections of Park Street to create better crossings at Seymour Street, Albert Street, Masshouse Lane, and through the Masshouse development via the existing steps. These shared surface crossing areas should line through with pedestrian desire lines leading from these streets. Currently proposed crossings do not line through with these streets and look completely inadequate in terms of their size and position. A lack of good links risks the highly trafficked Park Street simply becoming a physical barrier between the city centre and the new park, much like Masshouse Circus before it. By the time the park is complete the proposals to convert both Park Street and Moor Street Queensway back to two way traffic should have occurred, therefore the conversion of elements of Park Street to shared surface should have little effect on the traffic flows. Shared surface treatment should also be applied to both Fox Street and Grosvenor Street, and new pedestrian crossings installed over Jennens Lane to provide direct pedestrian and cyclist friendly links into Aston University’s campus.
Connection with Digbeth Branch Canal is rather disappointing in its current form. We would urge the local authority to push for better physical links for pedestrians and cyclists to the existing towpath, as well as better visual and natural links. This could be formed of a series of boardwalks extending into the canal pound area, with the addition of native aquatic planting in between (such as reeds, rushes and water lilies, etc.).
We would expect all trees and planting to be made up of native species, chosen to support as much wildlife as possible, as well as be capable of tolerating the expected effects of climate change (i.e. prolonged periods of drought or wet weather), and be in line with the local authority’s biodiversity strategy. We would also like to see areas of the park not manicured the whole year round, with some areas of grass seeded and kept as wildflower meadows for visual and wildlife value (especially for bees). Opportunities for the use of planting for educational purposes should also be taken, with inclusion of common crops that we as humans use within out everyday lives, sure as food crops. This could be linked to Thinktank as an educational resource, enabling our urban schools to get involved with the science of farming and crop production.
We welcome the incorporation of a SUDS (sustainable urban drainage system) for the disposal of surface water, but feel this water should be stored for use as irrigation water in dry months, rather than being simply attenuated and drained away. This would help the park cope with the expected effects of climate change and reduce the need for mains water use.