Category Archives: Sutton Park

A Future Sutton that is Distinctively Green

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Across the Country Town Centres are struggling. We can see this happening now in the Royal Town. Rather than becoming despondent, we should see these current misfortunes as an opportunity to revive the Royal Town as a place that is distinctively green.

A new Bike Hub integrated with improved Transport Connectivity would prove to be a huge asset for the Town Centre

Sutton has many advantages that other Centres don’t have. A fantastic Park on its doorstep. Excellent and improving public transport. A high-speed rail network a few stops down the Cross Town Line (if all goes to plan). A compact Centre with housing close-by. Proximity to the second city as well as marvellous countryside. History and heritage.

Imaginative ideas for integrated movement interchanges – examples here are at Chester, Moor Street and Clapham Junction

A Town Centre has a place in the community’s heart. The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committees 2019 Report on the High Street and Town Centres of 2030 drew attention to the importance to the community of a vibrant Town Centre. Shopping is part but not all of this focus. We need to reshape our ideas for what makes a successful Town Centre.

People want to meet. To gossip. To have a cup of coffee. To exchange news. To make a contribution. Or simply to browse. It is people who make a Town not simply rows of shops.

Vibrant Market-style Eateries and EV Charging could help make Sutton distinctively Green

And a green Centre for Sutton would be distinctive. It would be special. It would act as a green urban counterpart to the Park. With more cyclists and provision for bikes. Waste and recycling Exchange. U3A, clubs, religious association, pubs and hobbies. Pop-up shops, cinemas, self-help, keep fit. The sorts of uses that have migrated away from the Town can be engineered to come back. All that’s needed is vision and imagination.

And more new trees planted, green walls, sedum roofs (maybe with rooftop allotments?) to the large deep-plan shops. A gradual softening of the 60s retail led vision. And underpinning all of this, sustainable green transport and metro style living. New people living in the Centre bringing vitality, money, interests and vision.

Green walls and sedum roofs look good, and improve air quality and biodiversity.

And the new citizens of Sutton won’t need cars to clog up the streets. A bike, train, or bus will whisk them away to where they want to be. The future of mobility (the new buzzword for transport) is flexibility. Rather than large chunks of metal passively occupying valuable urban space for 95% of the time, innovative pooled Electric Vehicles (EVs) and lift-shares can be both more convenient and significantly less damaging to our health and wellbeing.

This is a future for Sutton that is distinctively green.

 

Royal Town Centre Vision

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This is a summary of the Town Centre masterplan strategy developed by Eco Sutton Group. These proposals arose out of the Group’s response to the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) and the risk of a dislocated SUE. The aim is to revitalise and regenerate the Royal Town Centre (RTC) by integrating an imaginative new transport interchange “Loop” linked to the associated development of two sites for housing, and a separate Market and Community Hub as attractors.

In place of slow decline and store closures the regenerated RTC would feature new social and mixed-tenure housing to help enliven and transform the Town. . . perhaps intermixed with office and workspace units with the HS2 and Housing Infrastructure windfalls placed in a common pot to help pump prime the complex demolitions, infrastructure and development packages. There would be TWO RTC opportunity sites: Station Environs featuring new low-rise commuter mews-courts (approx. 150 dwellings 2-5 stories) adopting the character of the old town, and the Red Rose Centre / Markets Renewal featuring medium-rise apartments (approx. 200 apartments up to 8 stories) with associated landscaped spaces. The aim is for a whole-life housing demographic linking the RTC to Langley / wider Sutton: young people could occupy low-cost apartments, then move to family housing at Langley, finally moving to as retirees to compact Mews-Court houses conveniently situated next to the Station.

A new Hotel with adjacent Multi Storey Car Park (MSCP) on Brassington Ave and linked to the Gracechurch MSCP would compensate for the car parking lost to new housing whilst providing easier access to the high-level Station platforms via a new elevated walkway. The aim is to maximise the RT’s connectivity to the HS2, achieve a better local development-led dividend and realise the RTC’s potential as a vital destination.

In the Parade occupying the Red Rose Centre (RRC) frontage a new street-level Library with a RT Museum, Local History Archive, RTC Offices / Community Meeting Places & Facilities to would serve as a Community Hub. Close-by a distinctive new Market Hub food court drawing people into the revitalised RTC. The Market Hub would occupy a vacated deep plan retail store no longer commercially viable, and provide space for cultural and artistic activities: music, pop up stalls / cinemas, art exhibitions etc. A flexible approach to retail leases within the envelope of former deep-plan retail units would reflect the national changes impacting on large retail stores and emulate the sort of dynamic specialised retail seen in places like Boldmere. A further opportunity site would be the new Dog Pound Walk opening off the Parade and featuring places to eat and associate with friends. This new Public Space would have level access to the new Community Hub.

The Development vehicle would be a Community Development Trust (CDT) or Community Development Corporation (CDC) with discretionary compulsory purchase powers, this community body would own the evolving Masterplan obo the RT. In addition to developing the Interchange gateway the HS2 dividend would be used to pump-prime key early stage infrastructure provides thereby providing a more compelling Business Case by thoughtfully integrating public transport within an overall regeneration based Programme.

The RTC would own the project obo the RT Community, Birmingham City Council (BCC) principal statutory and property-owning partner together with  the Business Improvement District (BID), M&G as Gracechurch Centre owner represented on CDT / CDC as deliverer / plus other owners, commercial, community, and environmental stakeholders, with WM Mayor as wider Regen Champion. The vision would be for a conjoined regeneration partnership having a positive impact on West WM Regen & Growth with Sutton attracting more people to live and work in the WM, also increasing footfall to the RTC and Sutton’s attractions: Sutton Park / Cinema / Birmingham Road pubs and eateries . . with more  visitors coming into the Town to spend money and enjoy its attractions . .

Town Centre Renewal

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Eco Sutton has been working with others to help kick-start new ideas to renew and revitalise the Royal Town Centre (RTC).

In the Parade a new street-level Library would serve as a Community Hub. Close-by a new Market Hub would act as food court drawing people into the revitalised RTC. Both would occupy vacated deep plan retail stores no longer commercially viable, and provide space for cultural and artistic activities: music, pop up stalls / cinemas, art exhibitions etc

Residents from new housing would increase footfall and 24/7 vitality. The age demographic would shift downwards. Cycling and pedestrian provision would be substantially improved linked to the revitalised transport / HS2 link and strengthened networks. In line with other major cities other than for special needs RTC housing wouldn’t include resident’s car parking.

The Passenger Interchange would encircle the now more accessible “fortress” of the TC with the shelters and stands at the top of the Parade closest to the Station using land acquired by the double loop roads and widened Mill Street but with additional stops and standings (as needed) around the Loop. The bus stands would adjoin a now enlarged and more attractive Town Square. This innovative approach to the design of the interchange would minimise and more easily disperse vehicle-borne pollution resulting in a cleaner and healthier Town.

The overall Project Objectives are to avoid a fragmented Langley – and then apply the impact of the Suburban Urban Extensions (SUEs) as a positive lever for change to knit the revitalised community into a regenerated and sustainable RTC. The consequence of linking the fortunes of Langley to RTC is compelling as if the RTC declines then the dislocation of Langley becomes more likely which in planning terms would be a huge failure for the WM.

The result is that Langley becomes a truly SUSTAINABLE urban extension and integral part of the Royal Town through its impact in securing the revitalisation of the RTC.

Community Planning Initiatives / Sutton LOOP Concept

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  Description of Sutton LOOP Concept

  • 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.

Acorn Day happened this week

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The Eco Sutton project has taken off: working with Matthew Barker, the Park Ranger, we have collected acorns from sessile oaks and planted them with 2 schools – Maney Hill & Whitehouse Common Primaries.

Emily Norgrove has written an explanatory note about why we are planting this sort of oak tree:

“In preparation for our ‘Acorn Day’ with various primary schools in Sutton Coldfield this week, EcoSutton were treated to a very interesting talk with Matthew Barker, the ranger at Sutton Park, who told us all about the background to the restoration project in Sutton Park and about the different oaks that reside there.

 

Sutton Park has historically been a man made, working park; for example we encountered a saw pit where they used to cut the wood to be sent off for sale, and all of the pools in the park are also man made for various purposes. There has always been cattle grazing and coppicing was a common practice in the park.

 

In Holly Hurst, where the extensive work was carried out a few years ago, chopping out the holly and removing dead trees, this area is now rejuvenating nicely, with the appearance of more stoats and rare butterflies. However the oaks that are planted in that area are all English Oaks, which were planted around 200 years ago. They are in poor condition, partly because of the holly which was allowed to grow rampant, and partly because they are not the type of oak that would have been found in the area originally. Unfortunately the English oak is not suited to the sandy, free draining conditions that we have in this area. Sessile Oaks on the other hand, which are found mainly in the Gumslade area of the park up by Four Oaks Gate, are what would have been found originally, and are perfectly suited to the soil conditions in the park. The oaks have tended to hybridise over the years so it is hard to find a true Sessile Oak in the park,  but you can get close.

 

Hence Acorn Day! During this week, children from 3 Sutton Primary schools will be collecting and planting Sessile acorn oaks from the park, and looking after them for a few years before the best specimens can be selected and planted in the Holly Hurst area of the park. So their work this week will have an impact on the landscape and help towards the restoration of the park for hundreds of years to come!

 

Matthew also showed us some other types of Oaks; Turkey, American Red Oaks, and Pin Oaks. They all have slightly different leaves and characteristics. Because of the long, hot summer the Pin Oak which is near Wyndley Gate (the original gate to the park), should give us a fantastic show of red leaves this year; in a couple of weeks go straight ahead as you cross the ford, and the oak is labelled up on the right, whose leaves are more pointed than we would normally recognise as an oak.

An extremely interesting visit and great background to the environmental situation in Sutton Park”

On Friday we will be planting more acorns with Boldmere Infants School.

And here is a photo of one of the trees Matthew showed us.

A sessile oak from Sutton Park