Creating a vibrant gay village

Some six years after the Guardian reported a Gay village plan for Birmingham the City Council has announced it will be spending £1/2 million on improvements to the centre of the gay village to help it develop as a key pedestrian route into the city centre.

Birmingham council plans to create a "gay village" in what was the city's Chinese quarter. Labour councillor Andrew Coulson, in charge of regeneration, said: "We are seriously rivalling Manchester as a place where gay people feel comfortable." In brief
The Guardian, Wednesday 19 February 2003 01.29 GMT ,
The £550,000 plans are the first part of the Big City Plan's investment into improving the city and link to the options raised for Southside, blogged in Big City Plan 5- the options , about extending the city to cover the markets area and gay village area to build on the entertainment zone of the Arcadian and Hippodrome Theatre or potentially extending the retail makeup in a loop from the bullring to southside and onto the Mailbox.

Birmingham’s Gay Village is set for a £550,000 makeover with better street lighting, wider pavements and outside eating areas for cafes and bars. '...'Semi-mature trees will be planted on the new footways.

The plans are a response to disquiet in the village's gay community about the lack of investment compared to Broad Street and the unsafe atmosphere in the village which has felt unloved and ignored and unsafe with concern over the lack of greenery and lighting. The plans also link to the 2007 Professor Parkinson study which said the area was a missed opportunity which could attract visitors and benefit the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city in a way that Manchester's gay village is a draw for visitors.

In 2007, Professor Michael Parkinson’s study for the Big City Plan described the area as neglected and a missed opportunity. Council regeneration director Clive Dutton confirmed that it is proposed to carry out work this summer. Wider footways will improve pedestrian safety and provide areas that could be used for the expansion of cafe-style seating outside bars and restaurants.

The plans however are a scaled down version of the £3 million pound council plan of 2007 improving the whole of the Gay Village, bounded by Bristol Street, Smallbrook Queensway, Pershore Street, Sherlock Street and Wrentham Street. With the costs of improving the area in a high quality scheme it has been decided concentrating the available budget on a smaller section of the village will have a bigger impact.

The impact of the improvements and the continuing development of surrounding plots around the village with planned developments on Bromsgrove Street, the site of the Silver Blades Ice Rink and Kent Street should see a spillover of improvements in the whole village as developments improve the surroundings and the public realm and the City Council is able to secure improvements from planning approval. The Birmingham Post noted the changes that developments would make on the future of the village in July 2007, Gay quarter in the pink, with developers investing millions in the area and helping to rejuvinate the area by encouraging investment and regenerating derelict buildings.

"Already it has a vibrant atmosphere and character of its own, yet when compared to Manchester's Canal Street of The Calls in Leeds, Birmingham is distinctly lagging behind.
"Currently popular bars and restaurants and hindered due to the fact that they are pepper-potted throughout the area and punctuated by derelict industrial units and tired old facades."It seems the district is just in need of some investment to encourage a 24/7 footfall and culture along with further businesses and bars to the district."

Crosby's Southside development and adjacent rejuvination of the back to backs to a major tourist attraction of the city's heritage have already improved the northern end of Hurst Street and introduced a mix of retail and food outlets encouraging businesses to the area.

The plans

The following details are taken from the Report of Acting Strategic Director of Development which is going to Cabinet Committee (Procurement) today, 21st May 2009.

The decision recommended is to approve the full business case for the Southside / GayVillage Environmental Improvements, at a total cost of £0.545m.

There is a high expectation amongst the local business community that the work will be undertaken during the summer period. The current programme proposes the works to commence in July 2009 for a period of approximately 4 months. However, a 5 day event is planned in the area at the end of August 2009. Every effort will be made to minimise any disruption to the planned event.

Due to the timescales involved in carrying out a Spot Tender and to ensure best value was achieved, a method of restricted tendering to procure the project was adopted. The four contractors employed under an existing framework contract, the Term Contract for Minor Highway Improvement Works 2008 – 2010 (Contract No. 61697), wereapproached and asked to price this project on a competitive basis. This was carried outby the contractors by providing a price for a number of non-standard items, and thenhaving the opportunity to provide a percentage reduction to their existing rates. Theworks will be awarded to the contractor offering the most competitive price, ashighlighted in the private report.

There is no proposed change to the amount of available ‘pay and display’ parking within the area between 8am and 6pm Monday to Saturday. There will be a slight decrease in available parking in the evenings (approx 9 spaces) as a result of the widened footway areas.

Scope - The final proposals include the following measures:
  • The provision of wider footways to enhance pedestrian safety and provide areas that could be used for the expansion of café style seating outside bars and restaurants.

  • The provision of semi-mature streets trees located on the widened footway areas.

  • Replacement and upgrade of street lighting with white lighting and decorative columns and lanterns.

  • Review of the existing Traffic Regulation Orders in the area, including the relocation of existing on-street parking spaces
Scope exclusions - In 2007 a Feasibility Study was undertaken for the whole Gay Villagearea bound by Sherbourne, Bromsgrove and Pershore Streets; it estimated that £3million would be required to improve the whole area to a very high quality.

Dependencies on other projects or activities - Statutory Undertakers (BT and National Grid) are required to relocate their equipment in order to plant the proposed trees in Hurst Street.


  • Approval of Full Business Case May 2009

  • Award of Contract June 2009

  • Start on Site June 2009

  • Complete on Site (Main works) August 2009

  • Complete on Site (including trees) November 2009


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