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HS2 and Birmingham regeneration

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The ‘construction headquarters’ of the high-speed rail project HS2 will be based in Birmingham, leading to the creation of 1,500 jobs in England’s second city, the Guardian reported (21 July 2014). But according to the Birmingham Post, it is “up to 1,500 jobs”, with HS2 Ltd taking space at the Two Snowhill offices adjacent to the diminished Snow Hill station.

Two Snowhill, Birmingham

Two Snowhill, Birmingham

[‘HS2 construction HQ to be based in Birmingham,
Council forecasts creation of 1,500 jobs with location of high-speed rail project’s headquarters in England’s second city’, Steven Morris, theguardian.com, 21 July 2014]

[…] Birmingham council also announced on Monday that it was creating an urban regeneration company to oversee the development of the area around the city’s HS2 station, Curzon Street.

The authority claimed the regeneration, which includes offices and 2,000 homes, would deliver 14,000 jobs and provide a £1bn-a-year boost to the local economy.

While there is huge enthusiasm in Birmingham for HS2 among the Labour-controlled council, local transport chiefs, large companies and business leaders, this is countered by deep scepticism among ordinary citizens about whether HS2 will actually produce the promised economic boosts.

Birmingham council’s approval for the building of the Snowhill One and Two offices was a massive error, because it prevented the restoration of Snow Hill railway station as a high capacity transport interchange. Snowhill Two was abandoned in a half-built state for over two years before work restarted, and at its St Chads end sections of the half-built structure were then demolished, for reasons unknown. (The Snowhill offices occupy a large part of the former Snow Hill railway site; the 1980s station has just two island platforms.)

In the 1980s and 1990s vast sums were spent on regeneration schemes in Birmingham, to little obvious effect. Given the largely invisible benefits of many such schemes around the country, it seems likely that people will continue to question figures and claims emanating from local authorities and the rest of the HS2 blob. ‘Regeneration’ has been underway at Eastside [around Curzon Street] for more than a decade — without a regeneration company in place — but seems to have to produced very few “jobs and homes” for the city. Certainly, there has been a transfer of jobs into Eastside (from the relocation of Birmingham City University, Matthew Boulton College, and the former Science Museum), but displaced jobs are not new jobs. No-one seems to have quantified the net city-wide effect.

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Written by beleben

July 21, 2014 at 11:24 am

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