DSEQ February Networking Event & HS2 Update

At the end of 2017, iSE completed consultation works with the Digbeth based social enterprises and 3rd sector organisations to see how different organisations were feeling about the developments of HS2 and what benefits or disruptions they were expecting as building works begin and progress over the next few years. This piece of work highlighted a few key issues and worries for members of our network; issues with traffic, travel and car parking disruption, noise and environmental pollution, reduction to footfall and disruption of business.

Given the feedback that we received from our consultation, we decided that a great focus for the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter’s first quarterly meeting of the year was to invite HS2 and its enabling works contractor for the Greater West Midlands – LMJV (Laing O’Rourke and J Murphy & Sons Joint Venture.) We arranged for two fantastic speakers from these organisations to come and speak to the network.

Rachel Johnson is the HS2 Community Engagement Manager for Curzon St Station and Interchange Station. Rachel has been with HS2 since January 2013 focusing on stakeholder and community engagement. Prior to that she worked in economic development and community regeneration for a local authority.

Ryan West is the Community Engagement Manager at LM JV, the organisation that has been contracted to provide the enabling works for HS2 in Birmingham. As part of these works, LM JV is carrying out all manner of tasks, including archaeological and structural surveys of various works sites, as well as all the preparation for the beginning of the new Curzon Street Station’s construction.

The networking session kicked off bright and early with organisations having a bit of time to get to know one another and help to further build our connections as a network. The positive effects are easy to see. Within half an hour Changes UK had connected with Birmingham Friends of the Earth to supply them with furniture for their refurbished building from their overflowing stock house.

The presentations started with Rachel giving us a quick update as to the HS2 project and its general progression and what it means for Birmingham. Ryan then kicked in with a fantastic and detailed report as to the details and future plans for the development for the next year, though careful not to set certain dates given that the works are still in their planning stages.

We heard the about the interesting archaeological work that LM JV is doing around the green space off Park Street, Fazeley Street and New Canal Street. This work is projected to expand during April with hoardings extending outwards to cover the whole of the park on Fazeley and New Canal Street. A compound is to be installed on the previously overgrown land opposite the park on Fazeley Street, with temporary works on Fazeley Street expected to connect utilities to the compound. These works are planned to be on two consecutive Sunday’s. Construction sites will be opened later in the year at the Fazeley Street and Albert Street car parks, and works are planned to start in the second half of the year on the old Curzon Street Station Building and the slabbed area at the back of it, running parallel with Curzon Street. Fazeley Street and Park Street will eventually be and detail on this will be shared when it becomes available.

There are also planned works involving the Lawley Middleway which has been of concern to members of our network given the traffic congestion at the end of work hours that often extends beyond the Lawley Middleway and Watery Lane Middleway. HS2 and LMJV understand the importance of minimising disruption during the works, which are designed to increase the capacity of Lawley Middleway. This will enhance access to the new Curzon Street Station and allow for improved traffic flow in the area. They will share information about any disruptions such as lane closures, well in advance.

Following an overview of the works by Ryan West, we had a great question and answer session were Digbeth organisations raised their worries and fears but also ways in which we can work together as a network and with HS2 providers to best minimise the impact of these works in our area. As organisations and as a network we need to investigate the potential of taking advantage of the HS2 development, connecting into the supply chain and ways of increasing footfall by increasing signage and adding more wayfinding. We will hopefully be collaborating with as many organisations as possible in order to overcome the challenges that face us and grow as an organisation. We encourage all Digbeth-based organisation to apply for the local community and economy funds that have been released by HS2 and managed by Groundworks, investigate these opportunities here: https://www.groundwork.org.uk/Sites/hs2funds.

Another successful Digbeth Social Enterprise Network meeting down we are already beginning work for our next event on Tuesday April 24th which will be part of the City Drive social enterprise week. We will be creating a mini conference event with the history and story of Digbeth hoping to further raise awareness of social enterprises across Digbeth with our wider sector.

Paul Barnes (DSEQ Social Enterprise Network Lead)

0121 771 1411 | paul.barnes@i-se.co.uk