Background to Sutton Coldfield Gateway: Sutton LOOP Concept
Eco Sutton presented details of its Sutton LOOP concept to TfWM in March 2019 – the concept summary is as follows:
- The concept extends the anti-clockwise contraflow for buses that already successfully operates on Queen Street and Lower Queen Street.
- Bus doors always face towards the Town Centre Island making access and egress safe and convenient. The removal of buses from South Parade radically opens up the comprehensive regeneration of the declining RRC.
- Four Stops on the Bus LOOP are shown. These are: (Sutton) Station, (Sutton) Park, South Parade, and Victoria Street. Brassington Avenue remains on its present highway alignment but the curves are adjusted at either end both to reduce vehicle speed and create larger pockets of pavement for the Park Stop and also to enhance the URC.
- The secondary vehicle (non-Bus) relief-road LOOP utilised the existing Lower Reddicroft and Reddicroft highway as a one-way loop linking via a refashioned roundabout in front of the Town Hall to Anchorage Road with a returning incoming one-way route via High Street and Mill Street. An advantage being better paved connectivity between the Old and New Towns helping to revive both.
- The different characters of the Old and New Towns are reflected in the scale and design of the two new housing developments. Station Environs reflects the traditional scale of the Conservation Area, whilst the RRC / Markets Renewal is higher rise and contemporary in appearance.
- The combined Hotel / MSCP on Brassington features a high-level walk / cycle-way linking to an improved Station. New access and egress ramps through the new Station CP on Brassington could be shared with the Gracechurch MSCP freeing up land and simplifying vehicle flow.
- The Bus LOOP and RRC / Markets Renewal would be developed first and together. The HS2 C&BF Bid would justify some pump priming funding of the RRC Renewal. Station Environs and Brassington stages would follow on as confidence and funding dictated.
SUTTON LOOP: Benefits of Concept
- Because the WHOLE Town Centre is the Interchange: this provides for more flexibility in moving and stacking buses . . . especially longer buses such as Sprint.
- Whilst it is envisaged that smaller P&R buses would be fully electric significantly the LOOP concept disperses diesel engineered buses around the LOOP reducing the concentration of vehicle borne pollution and making the Centre a healthier place to be.
- By increasing the number of stops around the LOOP (four are shown on the plans) opportunities emerge to make outer fortress wall of the RTC more permeable; and the “Hop On / Hop Off” LOOP Approach helps break down the current fortress walls of the post-war Centre.
- The key RRC / Markets Development Opportunity is given an additional regenerative boost by having its own front-door bus stop. This is important because as in London and other major centres it is proposed to have limited car parking for the two new housing sites.
At a subsequent meeting with TfWM it was clear that the Combined Authority were concentrating on their preferred concept for a new interchange on a site on the corner of Park Road and Brassington Avenue. No informed rebuttal of the Sutton LOOP has been received and Eco Sutton continues to propose the benefits of this and other imaginative highway, transport and public realm improvements for the town. Eco Sutton also considers the LOOP to be economical, flexible, and supportive of Town Centre regeneration.
Eco Sutton has responded with a detailed Report of Response to TfWM of which details are included below:
If this option is accepted then Eco Sutton would like to see a high design and eco sustainability standard, and included a number of suggestions in its Report of Response.
However Eco Sutton remains strongly opposed to the creation of two bus stations, on Brassington where 80% of bus movement would occur, and on Lower Parade where 20% of bus movements would occur. The continuing presence of buses on Lower Parade stymies new housing regen on the Red Rose Centre / markets sites. Eco Sutton wishes to see the Gateway Interchange thoughtfully integrated into an imaginative but implementable Masterplan for the Town Centre, with a fresh approach to traffic, movement and public realm.
It is the quality of the Town Centre as a vibrant place for people to live, work, shop, associate, keep fit, relax, and chill out that is the priority according to Eco Sutton. Gateway and other initiatives bring welcome investment but are only a means to an end.
Eco Sutton will continue to collaborate with Birmingham City Council, the Combined Authority, the Royal Town Council and others to agree practical and sustainable solutions for the Town Centre.