DRA Chair, John Gordon, submitted a report on behalf of Digbeth Residents Association to HS2 on Thursday. This was in response to the Draft Environmental Statement (DES) consultation. Please find the report in full below.
DRA will continue to keep our members updated regarding HS2 and its impact on Digbeth.
Response to HS2 Phase 1 Draft Environmental Statement (DES) Consultation
Digbeth Residents Association represents the interests of those who live, study and work in this distinct district of Birmingham city centre, and who will be affected by the construction phase and operation of the new Curzon Street Terminal and approach.
Whilst we are broadly in favour of the HS2 project, we would like the following concerns to be recognised and appropriate mitigation included in any future proposals.
The present proposals are insufficient to encourage movement from north to south, and as a result we believe that the approach and station could create a barrier between the areas of Eastside and Digbeth.
We believe that the scale and treatment of the tunnel routes should actively encourage north-south flow by those who walk or cycle, and should be safe, attractive and welcoming to all. This is particularly the case for those young people who study on one side of the station and who see Digbeth as one of their key leisure destinations, as well as those living south of the terminal approach, who may be travelling to work in the north and see the new park as a community asset. In addition, poor connectivity has significant implications for the long term economic wellbeing of Digbeth.
It is important that the number and positioning of access and egress points of the station encourage flow in the direction of Digbeth. Under the proposals as they stand at present, we have concerns that travellers will be funnelled towards the city centre.
We believe strongly that HS2 should ensure that as part of the mitigation process all of the connectivity routes are as ‘green’ as possible, encouraging walking and cycling, and incorporate ‘green walls’ such as those featured in the redevelopment of New Street Station.
Eastside City Park and Park Street Gardens
We believe the loss of a significant part of the newly constructed, £11.75 million Eastside City Park for the duration of the build (6+ years), along with the permanent loss of Park Street Gardens to be unacceptable, and together amount to the significant loss of high value public amenities. It should be possible to redesign the proposed storage, site office and service road to protect the community asset of Eastside City Park.
If this is not the case, and following consultations with local residents, we believe that specific community compensation should be detailed in the Formal Environmental Statement for the loss of this amenity, and which could be used to create other mini parks in the area to the south of the station approach. These mini parks would be small pockets of quality public realm, in keeping with the patchwork character of Digbeth. This would be in keeping with the spirit of paragraph 5.5.21 of the Draft Environmental Statement, relating to the loss of community resources and special mitigation measures.
We have grave concerns that the proposed HS2 development will have an adverse effect on the economic wellbeing of Digbeth, and undermine the benefits of it being an Enterprise Zone. It has the potential to stifle Digbeth’s regeneration for decades.
We are beginning to see signs of a resurgence of development in the area that might be halted if there is a perception that the HS2 station and approach will isolate the district. Digbeth has the potential to be an area that grows small and medium enterprises, particularly in the digital, media and cultural industries.
We are saddened that the Draft Environmental Statement section on socio-economics does not address the impact on Digbeth, as a specific district of the city vulnerable to the negative impact of the Curzon Street Terminal and approach. We ask that this is rectified in the Formal Environmental Statement.
There are valuable land and property assets that will remain underdeveloped, particularly during the construction phase, if good connectivity is not maintained. There are opportunities for development and people willing to invest. However this is unlikely to happen without a clear indication from HS2 that they are committed to safeguarding the infrastructure needed to promote future economic development.
We are concerned that the Draft Environmental Statement does not clearly indicate a commitment to linking the terminal with the National Express coach station in Digbeth, and would encourage HS2 therefore to consider any proposals that may be put forward by National Express. We would be particularly keen to support solutions that incorporate an extension of the Metro tram route.
It is our strongly held opinion that Digbeth High Street is an inappropriate route for the delivery to, or removal of material from the site, as this route is already problematic for a substantial part of most days. The environmental impact if this were to happen is likely to be significant, highly visible and damaging to the image of the project. We ask that consideration be given to removing excavated material by rail, and the removal of Digbeth High Street as a designated route.
The proposed loss of Park Street, we believe, will have a negative impact on bus routes, as we understand that up to 250 buses per hour may be compressed into a small area. Traffic chaos at peak times is likely to ensue, and we would ask you to include a review of the impact on those using the buses – including the coach station – in the next Environmental Statement.
We have particular concerns about the Park Street/Moor Street Queensway transport impacts, and understand that the latter will see a morning rush hour rise of 60%. It is accepted in the Draft Environmental Statement that by the time of construction the adjacent road system will be operating either at or above capacity.
We would also ask that the Formal Environmental Statement includes proposed cycle routes, both during the construction phase and following completion of the works. We wish to encourage cycling in Digbeth, and so would like to see the inclusion of cycle hire facilities such as Brompton Dock and a cycle hub as part of the environmental mitigation for the terminal.