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blog: How Birmingham City Centre is Embracing Car-Free Development

Author: Mark Lever
Decarbonising Transport New Dimensions

Birmingham has taken a number of steps to reduce cars in the city centre. We take a look at the 5 factors which we believe are key to embracing car-free developments.

1: Enthusiastic Developers

Having developer buy-in is crucial and ITP has been fortunate to work with a wide range of forward-thinking developers over recent years. Car-free development requires some nerve to face sceptical planning committee members but with the right supporting evidence, this is increasingly seen as a minor or a non-issue. Recent precedent across Birmingham City Centre swings strongly in the favour of the brave developer.

Mark L Case Study 1

2: Progressive Local Authority

Birmingham City Council has ambitious plans for how it sees transport in the city centre transforming over the next decade. Its Birmingham Connected white paper with a focus on air quality and pollution, was launched almost 10 years ago and brought with it radical new ways of thinking about the role of the public highway and the reallocation of limited road space towards sustainable modes.

Digbeth Cycle Lane

Subsequently, an updated Birmingham Transport Plan has been developed that takes inspiration from the Belgian city of Ghent to create traffic segments across the city centre that restrict private through movements by car, instead prioritising walking, cycling and public transport. This is supported by emerging parking standards that place a maximum provision of zero spaces for new residential development in the city centre. This suggests an interesting concept whereby the net loss of parking through development could be seen as delivering policy. With a plan for sustainable transport alternatives, this policy is likely to drive density within the city centre, whilst getting people out of their cars even if they aren’t related to the development itself – a win-win for sustainable planning policy.

3: Demographics

Birmingham is a young city, with the city centre in particular attracting young professionals and students, who generally work or study within walking distance of their homes. Statistics show that in 2011 approximately 50% of Jewellery Quarter residents worked in the city centre and of that 82% walked to work. On this basis, developers have found that demand for including parking within their schemes is reducing, with many choosing instead to offer space for communal living, additional storage or bike parking.

4: Connectivity

Birmingham City Centre is particularly accessible by public transport, with three major railway stations, numerous bus lines, and an expanding metro. Add to that the compact and walkable nature of the city centre and living without a car becomes a realistic proposition.

Mark L Case Study 2

5: Parking Context 

No matter the intentions of the development itself, if parking is plentiful, cheap and accessible surrounding the development then it is unlikely that you will achieve the same shift away from private car use. Whilst the development itself may be car-free there is nothing to stop residents, workers and visitors simply parking around the site. In Birmingham City Centre almost all of the on-street parking is controlled. The main benefit to developers is that it can therefore be demonstrated that surplus parking demand will not cause significant issues for the surrounding area, since it can readily be enforced and can even generate an income for the local authority.


ITP has a wide experience of working on bespoke projects across Birmingham City Centre and developers can benefit from our excellent local knowledge, understanding of key policy drivers and precedents from similar schemes. If you are interested in how we can help you deliver your scheme in Birmingham or elsewhere, please get in touch.


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