As you travel along the Bristol Road from Northfield towards the city centre, the skyline is certainly changing rapidly, as impressive new developments get underway. But this building boom in Selly Oak will naturally bring with it many questions and concerns for local residents. Here in this monthly blog post for CP4SO, University of Birmingham communications manager Kara Griffiths will talk about what is happening on University property, explain how the University hopes these developments will be for the good of Selly Oak and the wider city, and respond to concerns which have been brought to the University by Selly Oak residents.
The start of a new academic year always brings with it fresh promise, be it for children starting school for the first time, older pupils changing schools or beginning important exam years, and, of course, for us as a University, for a whole new intake of students move to the city. But this year, the start of the academic year feels ever more auspicious than usual, for, in just 12 months’ time, we will be welcoming the first pupils to the University of Birmingham School. This School is not just a first for the University of Birmingham, but a first for the country as a whole – the first secondary university training school in the country.
Many Selly Oak residents will already be familiar with the location of the School, on our Selly Oak campus, about a mile along the Bristol Road from the main campus. And many more of you may have been to one of our open evenings for the parents of children going into year 7 next year – or be planning to come to one of the sixth form events we are holding this autumn. But we also know there will be many more who will not have children of school age and who will want to know what we are doing to ensure that the School is a good neighbour for local people. When the planning consultation process was carried out last year, we had some really useful feedback from local people, and this was used to inform further development and refinement of the proposals ahead of the planning submission. We know that local people are concerned about parking, and have added in a pick up and drop off loop for cars that is located wholly within the School boundaries. We also added in an additional parking area on the old Johnstone House site to further address concerns about traffic. And of course, we are still listening to what local people are telling us they need from a school as a neighbour, with principal Michael Roden pledging that staff, pupils and parents will all contribute to neighbourly behaviour.
In terms of the building site, the frame has now almost reached its highest point, and external walls are starting to be erected. Inside the frame of the building, the spacious atrium is taking shape, with two wide, sweeping staircases leading into this central area already in place. Our contractors Willmott Dixon are also committed to being good neighbours, and we hope that anyone living close by the site has not been too inconvenienced.
If you then drive along the Bristol Road to the main campus, some dramatic changes are taking place there too, with the new University sports centre quickly developing on the site of the old Gun Barrels pub. The hole for the 50m swimming pool has been dug – we even let our swimming coach take a closer look despite the lack of water – and the staircases are rapidly going up. Although much of the work since the pub was demolished has been behind the hoardings we have erected, over the coming weeks, there will be much more noticeable activity happening as the building starts to come out of the ground.
The centre will be open to the local community, with anyone able to sign up to use the gym, swimming pool and courts. The swimming pool in particular, will retain community swimming provision at all times apart from when a University club is using the pool, meaning that community members will be able to swim there every single day. There will also be some time for pay as you go swimmers built into the timetable. We understand that many people have questions about pricing structures and car parking, and we are working on these – but with the opening planned for the beginning of 2016, we hope you will understand that these are items which have not yet been set in stone. As soon as we have more information, we will, of course, let you know.
These two developments are but the beginning of the story of our campus developments – with a new library, student hub and a dental school further along the Bristol Road at the old Pebble Mill site all underway. For more information on our developments, please do check our dedicated web pages at www.birmingham.ac.uk/building and our Twitter feed @unibham_estates