I have submitted my response as part of Birmingham City Council's consultation on the Sutton Coldfield Town Centre Masterplan Draft Supplementary Planning Document:
As the Member of Parliament for Sutton Coldfield I have supported the development of the plan since its inception and have remained in close contact with the Sutton Coldfield Town Centre Regeneration Partnership which I helped to set up.
It is vital that we create an ambitious and bold vision for the future of the Royal Town. I believe that these plans will help transform our Town Centre, the proposals are achievable and will ensure that Sutton Coldfield Town Centre can meet the needs of residents, local businesses and visitors alike.
I hope that the plans will encourage inward investment and boost the confidence of local retailers and hospitality businesses, during what is an incredibly difficult time for both retail and hospitality.
I support the plans to capitalise on our Town's attractive green and historic assets and high degree of connectivity. Establishing a common place brand for Royal Sutton Coldfield will help promote our town to visitors and support local businesses.
Diversifying the centre of our town and improving accessibility will provide an attractive offer and help to create a vibrant and sustainable town centre for decades to come.
I support the plans for the High Street, Mill Street and new Trinity Square area development as a way of improving road safety within the area and I hope that the plans will encourage better links with Sutton College and the Parade. The interconnectivity aspects of the masterplan are vital to the overall plans.
The new 'Trinity Square' proposals offer an attractive space for residents and workers to meet and enjoy the heritage of our town centre alongside Vesey Gardens.
I welcome the proposals around King Edward's Square and believe that delivering a stronger identity at the Town Hall will be important if we are to support the future of this important asset. The Town Hall has cultural significance; I believe it has great potential to become an even more significant venue within our Town. The planned improvements within the building will hopefully be supported by the wider ambitions of the masterplan.
Improving ease of movement between the Town Hall and the Railway Station, Parade and Historic Core will bring the area together.
The proposals for Victoria Road, Queen Street, the Parade, Lower Parade and South Parade will also be of benefit to the Town, providing an attractive environment for future development and improving air quality locally. Air quality is something that is often raised by my constituents, alongside the importance of better infrastructure for cycling and walking. The creation of pedestrian-priority spaces and tiered seating as well as the addition of trees and landscaping are very welcome both in terms of the environmental benefits and to improve the feel of the area.
I support plans to extend the Red Rose Centre Site to create a distinctive, vibrant daytime and evening destination alongside contemporary new homes and workspaces. I also support the proposals for a new purpose-built library facility which reinstates Sutton Coldfield Library in its established location within the town centre. Our library is an important community asset and there is clearly scope for the site to provide other community functions to support the needs of local people and groups. I hope we can also provide a new home for our Royal Town's heritage in the centre of this new development which showcases our long and rich history and heritage to the advantage of all visitors including schools and other educational groupings.
Within the Gracechurch Centre, I would like to see further development including the creation of public-facing units along the Parade and Brassington Avenue. The creation of Gracechurch Square as a secondary community space is a positive proposal too. The Town centre needs to ensure that it welcomes visitors and I would also support the consideration of alternative uses within the space.
The breaking up of larger retail units to encourage flexible and creative spaces will be essential in the current retail climate and I would like to see greater support for local independent retailers.
The possibility of short leases or pop up shops to help smaller retailers and independent businesses to have a presence within the Town Centre would be welcome to help grow the retail offer and support small businesses. The plans to offer a mix of independent, boutique and artisanal retailers is welcome.
I also support the proposals to encourage leisure operators such as indoor climbing, escape rooms or soft play to rent space within the centre. People are increasingly carrying out the bulk of their shopping online and are seeking visitor experiences and interactive activities when they visit their town centre, I believe that by boosting the leisure offer we will in turn support retail and hospitality businesses.
The longer term vision for Newhall Walk is important and the potential to change the use of the land in the future must be considered, however, with parking continuing to be an issue locally we must ensure that over the next decade, parking is readily available in the town centre and easily accessible to those that need to drive.
A range of new homes within the Town Centre designed to high quality specifications and generous space standards to suit urban family living, as well as young professionals and downsizers is also welcome but must be well designed both externally and internally and must be spacious with shared green spaces and parking provision.
I support the prioritising of buses within Brassington Avenue as part of the new bus interchange. The planting of trees and the addition of seating and other amenities will hopefully transform the area and make it a more welcoming street.
I agree that Station Street should create a strong sense of arrival as an Entry Point to the town centre and Sutton Park. The proposals to ensure that Birmingham Road acts as a key gateway into the town centre is important too and I hope that the improved signage and other developments will also incorporate ideas around branding our Town, with a focus on our heritage, green spaces and status as a Royal Town.
At its heart the plans must continue to focus on sustainability, protecting our environment and our heritage with a focus on the ways in which we can support businesses and residents within our Town Centre.