Trio of projects recognised for helping to transform the West Midlands’ future

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Three projects helping to reimagine the West Midlands and respond to major challenges of our times, have been formally recognised at an inaugural awards ceremony.

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The West Midlands National Park, the brainchild of Kathryn Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, has announced the first three recipients of the West Midlands National Park Project Awards.

The trio of winning schemes demonstrate the work taking place across the West Midlands to reimagine its future.

The West Midlands National Park (WMNP) is a long term spatial vision to deal with the challenges faced by the West Midlands, including the climate emergency, regeneration, environment, transport, identity, infrastructure, employment, skills, well-being and achieving a resilient green recovery.

By encouraging cross boundary working and delivery, the West Midlands National Park is a means to an end, a vehicle to help drive social, economic and environmental change in the region.

The West Midlands National Park (WMNP) Awards programme is designed to support the delivery of the WMNP, by recognising, celebrating and sharing best practice, policy and research. 

Judged by an international jury, the inaugural winners demonstrate excellence in the way their submissions align with the WMNP ethos in order to create integrated approaches to the development, transformation and management of our physical and cultural resources. A wide range of projects are considered, whether to do with the physical environment, wellbeing, culture, governance and policy or research.

This is not about rewarding business as usual, but proposals with flair, potential, and the ability to make a difference.

The first West Midlands National Park project winners are:

WMNP Strategic Spatial Policy and Long Term Impact Award

Black Country Core Strategy – The Black Country Consortium:

The Black Country Core Strategy is a planning and regeneration plan for the whole of the Black Country, signed up to by the four Black Country Councils (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton).

The Black Country Core Strategy (BCCS) sets out the vision, objectives and strategy for future development in the Black Country up to 2026 and beyond. 

WMNP Future Vision Award

Our Future City Plan – Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council has outlined a vision for change in the central part of Birmingham. Shaping our City outlines the context of the area, key challenges and opportunities.

Our Future City Plan outlines a template for major change in Birmingham. Using the climate emergency as impetus, the Plan is setting a new direction, aiming for a zero-carbon approach to development. It will also build inclusive growth principles into the very foundation of all plans to ensure that every citizen in Birmingham benefits from development.

WMNP Community Impact Award

George’s Park, Lozells – Friends of George’s Park

The Friends of Georges Park was formed in January 2021 to promote, protect and preserve Georges Park and enhance local community engagement into green spaces. It is located in the heart of the Lozells area of Birmingham and is part of an environmentally charged super diverse community.

The group lobby’s for investment which can improve the park’s safety, cleanliness, access and also ensure the conservation, protection, heritage and biodiversity as a legacy for local people.

Announcing the winners, Dame Fiona Reynolds, Chair of the West Midlands National Park Foundation and former Director General of the National Trust said: “It is a joy to see and recognise so many brilliant initiatives contributing to the ideals and realisation of the West Midlands National Park.  Congratulations to everyone involved.

The Awards judging panel includes Professor Kristina Hill, Director of the Institute for Urban and Regional Development at UC Berkeley and Michael Schwarze-Rodrian, former head of the Department of European and Regional Networks and the EU Representative of the Regional Association of the Ruhr, Germany.

The panel was supported by WMNP Lab Director, Professor Kathryn Moore and WMNP Lab Commercial Lead and Managing Director of Redpill Group Ltd, Dr Robin Daniels.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands said “As the West Midlands National Park gathers momentum, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is a key element of our plan to build a healthier, happier and more prosperous region. With an accelerating climate emergency, we need to think carefully about how our buildings impact our natural landscape. It’s great that these awards will begin to raise the bar by highlighting best practice in sustainable development.”

Of the Black Country Core Strategy, the judges said “Uniquely in the UK this leading project has for nearly 20 years placed the environment, economy and quality of life together at the top of the transformation agenda and incorporated this approach into its statutory Black Country Core Strategy.

"To drive the approach forward, the Black Country Consortium has developed a publicly accessible, comprehensive, spatial data baseline against which ambitions, targets and progress are measured. It clearly recognises the significance of local pride the regions heritage, and is building on its culture and history to forge a new and greener, sustainable future.

"Its great strength is its long experience of following the West Midlands National Park ethos for almost 20 years.  Using small and medium sized opportunities, the focus on action and moving the vision forward in incremental steps, rather than waiting for big external investments is to be commended, as is the way that it demonstrates strong inter-municipal cooperation, building a community of cities to solve their problems and pursuing opportunities together.”

Of the Black Country Core Strategy, Sarah Middleton, Chief Executive of the Black Country Consortium said: “This WMNP Award is testament to 20 years of hard work and commitment from our partner local authorities of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton to see the bigger picture, to work across boundaries to envisage and deliver a green and prosperous Black Country for our communities. Kathryn Moore’s work has guided and provided inspiration over the years and we are delighted be recognised as a pioneer project in the greater vision that is the West Midlands National Park.”

Commenting on Birmingham City Council’s “Our Future City Plan 2040”, the judges said “this project lays out an ambitious vision for the future of the centre of the city, one which addresses a number of simultaneous challenges.

"We were struck by the combination of a clear view of the big picture, together with specific goals that make clear the impact that residents and visitors will feel on a daily basis.

"We were impressed also by the way that specific approaches, such as the 15-minute neighbourhood, are integrated into a range of much larger-scale aspects, including the need to radically alter the transport networks to reduce air pollution the city integrate policies across directorates including Route to Zero, City of Nature and the Biophilic City.

"The project ideals align well with the with the ground-breaking ethos of the West Midlands National Park and new approach of many large cities around the world to the changing environmental, economic and social challenges facing us all.”

Simon Delahunty-Forrest, Assistant Director, Development & Planning at Birmingham City Council said, said “We are delighted that Our Future City Plan 2040 is one of just three inaugural WMNP Award winners.

"Confronted by the challenges of the climate emergency, air pollution, and recovery from Covid we have developed a vision for the city centre to create an environment for properly sustainable economic growth.

"We are exploring new ways of doing business to create a healthier, greener and cleaner environment and are very excited to be working with the WMNP Lab to ensure that our vision becomes our legacy for future residents and visitors to our great city.”

Of George’s Park, a small community project in the Lozells area of Birmingham, the judges said; “In less than a year George’s Park has been transformed from a forgotten and unappreciated inner city park into a loved and nurtured green community space.  This enlivened space has evidently had an great impact on the confidence, well-being and sense of place for local residents and those living beyond the immediate vicinity of the park.

"Now well established as the heart of a very ethnically diverse community, residents have taken up walking and cycling, they picnic, watch films and exercise in a well-cared for park that since Jan 2021 feels safe for the first time in decades. It has become a source of pride, and the range of new and proposed community activities and marked environmental improvements have created a tremendous sense of neighbourliness and social cohesion.

"There are many examples of great community park projects, driven by the highly motivated local people, but the Judges found George’s Park to be a particularly impressive example of how the WMNP ethos can be applied to great effect in even a very small area of green.”

Afzal Goni, Treasurer, Friends of George’s Park, said “George’s Park is a place for the community and it’s the community that this award is for.

"To have the opportunity to transform the Park into a green, safe and attractive space for the local people and visitors alike has been a huge privilege and we know that the impact of what we have achieved goes far beyond the physical space that you see.

"We hope that, working with the WMNP Lab, we can serve as an inspiration to other community projects that see themselves as a part of the West Midlands National Park and to continue to develop and nurture our Park and the community that it serves.”

Commenting on the awards, Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Birmingham City University said: “The West Midlands National Park is one of a number of important strategic STEAM initiatives that the University is driving forward over the next five years.

"We continue to deliver real change, both regionally and nationally, through the University’s partnerships with a range of partners and the WMNP is testament to that impact.

"These inaugural WMNP Project Awards are a key milestone in a project that is based on twenty years of internationally renowned work by Kathryn Moore and is now poised to set the standard for a landscape approach to reimaging the places that we call home.” 

Professor Kathryn Moore, Director of the WMNP Lab and Professor of landscape Architecture said “The inaugural WMNP Awards, a special moment in the delivery of the WMNP, has been eagerly anticipated across the region and we’d like to thank our awardees, partners and jury for their support in making it possible.

"The WMNP is part of a growing international movement recognising the need to urgently rethink the infrastructure of investment for development and public services in order change behaviours and decision-making habits and ensure that dealing with the climate emergency becomes integral to our way of life.  

"Recognising the land as a powerful, substantive tool that absolutely is integral to this discourse, we are initiating and continuing conversations with universities, communities and decision makers across the region and abroad about the value of seeing the bigger picture, encouraging a range of cross-sectoral responses and developing understanding of the interrelationships, inferred or otherwise, between air, soil, water, topography, health, culture, land use, civic life, identity, behaviour, governance and institutional structures.

"We look forward to working with our partners in the UK and beyond to develop the WMNP in future.”

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