Introducing Waheed Nazir
As I write this blog just three weeks into my new role I am feeling energised and optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead. Whilst there are undoubtedly many challenges and hurdles to cross as we navigate our way through a period of significant change, I feel privileged to be able to have the opportunity to further contribute to the strategic direction of the city and remain committed to directing transformational change across the city.
Whilst I am very much focused on our future priorities, it’s important not to forget the considerable success that we’ve had of late. The opening of New Street Station and Grand Central, and the work that is underway on the long-talked about Paradise scheme are just a few of the high profile achievements we have seen in the city centre.
A little further afield in Longbridge, we are also seeing the results of one of the UK’s largest regeneration projects, with a huge new M&S store at the heart of the development, creating a regional centre south-west of the city. The Hydraforce development at the Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Aston has also secured significant Foreign Investment from the US owned hydraulics valves company who have moved into a new 120,000 sq ft facility which opened last year and will create 200 jobs by 2018.
We also plan to build on the success of the £150 million Resorts World development which recently opened at the NEC by exploring further development opportunities through the NEC masterplan.
All of these successes and the plans we have for the future means that we are now looking at a period of growth not seen since the early 20th century.
I am more eager than ever to seize the future growth opportunities and whilst we are making massive strides, we need to be more ambitious still. With responsibility for planning, regeneration, housing, business development, skills and transportation I am genuinely excited about the prospect of bringing these interconnected priorities together, as it is only by building sufficient homes, creating a skilled workforce and delivering an effective transport system, supported by a clear vision for the future, that we will maximise opportunities for the city and the wider region to drive forward economic growth.
The Leader has been clear that a priority has to be the provision of homes for this growing city. By 2031, Birmingham’s population is projected to grow by an additional 150,000 people, which means we need to provide an additional 80,000 homes. Effective partnership working is going to be key to meeting this challenge as this is an issue that needs to be addressed across housing market areas rather than confined to local authority administrative boundaries. The Combined Authority in particular provides us with a new opportunity to tackle this issue strategically as a region.
As a result of our focus over the last few years on investing in infrastructure, we are in a really strong position to capitalise on plans for HS2. Government has really got behind our ambitions for HS2 with £4.4bn committed to maximise the opportunities around Curzon station and extend the Metro through East Birmingham. Providing this link to UK Central will be a significant catalyst for growth through the Eastern corridor of Birmingham.
We have also taken forward our vision for delivering a step change in public transport in the city. As well as delivering improvements to the Metro through Birmingham City Centre the first of our SPRINT Bus Rapid Transit routes will be operational within the next few years. And in attempting to find the most efficient and sustainable ways to move people through the city we have invested £60m on enhanced infrastructure, connecting up key destinations in the city.
All of this investment has created a major resurgence in the city’s economic performance, and in turn the city has become an attractive place to invest and do business. We can see evidence of this in the decision by HSBC to relocate its head office to Arena Central. We usually get a major investment like this every ten years, but this is the third recently after Deutsche Bank and the High Speed 2 head office. These three deals demonstrate a commitment to over 4,000 jobs in the city.
Looking ahead to the future, as the second city for Europe’s most successful economy, we need to be brave and think big, but I am confident that we are now well positioned to unlock the potential that will allow us to deliver the next phase of transformation.
Being Birmingham born and bred I am immensely passionate about the city, and I am proud to be able to serve and represent the interests of the residents, communities and local businesses of Birmingham. I am genuinely excited about the possibilities ahead of us and I believe that by working together that we can achieve great things for this city.