Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Digbeth's Future

Last Thursday, I went along to an event at the Eastside Projects called “Imagine the Digbeth Summit ...” and found it a really inspiring evening.

There was a real sense of the people there having a shared vision for what Digbeth and Eastside could and should be like and a real sense that people want to get together to help achieve this and stop the kinds of unsuitable development that we all think blights the area, too. The issue of cheap car parking taking over and the need for green spaces, community facilities and re-claiming public areas ran through much of what was said.

5 of us gave short presentations on what we're doing in the area and a little bit about what our vision is. First there was the Pigeon Project who I'd heard about before, but never fully understood what they did. It really is about pigeons and I'll be popping over there soon to have a look having heard what they say about the project.

I went next to introduce the work on Birmingham Friends of the Earth, including information about our building and the history of that, events such as Buy Nothing Day, In Town Without My Car Day and our opposition to the incinerator and airport runway extension. I wasn't sure what reaction to expect, but put in a mixture of the light-hearted side of campaigning and the more serious issues we campaign on and got some very positive feedback.

After that, Jayne Bradley spoke about Edible Eastside and also her thoughts on future developments around the canals. She is planning to get a garden going where people can learn about growing food in an urban environment. This is similar to what we had been hoping to get going with grow-sites, although we remain frustrated in our attempts to find land for this.

Next was Nicky Getgood of Digbeth is Good, who has been organising guerilla picnics under the title Reclaim the Spaces. Nicky has been passionate about Digbeth and promoting the best bits of the area for some time and this is a great idea. Certain parts of Digbeth have become almost "no-go zones" for a lot of people, so she wants to have picnics in these places to show that it is up to people to take them back.

Finally, we heard from Val of the Digbeth Residents Association who also showed her passion for the area and a real will to get things done. Tree planting was mentioned as was better use of public spaces and engaging businesses as well as residents in the group.

We had a question & answer session afterwards in which we heard more about future plans for bringing people together for a Digbeth Summit. This was linked to the need to develop Neighbourhood Plans that has been part of the government's Localism Bill. If Digbeth can bring people together to be ahead of the game in developing these, it will show that we have a vision that is far better than the council have produced in their many documents for the "regeneration" of Eastside, with which the whole room was unimpressed to put it mildly.

I await with great interest to see what comes out of these ideas for a Digbeth Summit and can't wait to get involved in more fascinating discussions over the future of the area.

Joe Peacock

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Part of the area is designated 'conservation area' and suggestions that some trees be planted are rebuffed by BCC planners for changing the character. You do not have to use handcarts and horses as cars (lots are parked) do not change the character.