Mammoth city centre scheme heading back to city’s planning committee next week following developer’s decision to pull out of UK

Lendlease’s £1.9bn Birmingham Smithfield scheme is heading back to the council’s planning committee next week with another recommendation for approval.

The 4,000-home city centre scheme was poised to get the nod last month but a decision was deferred after councillors and campaigners said a park and public square were too small.

A number of high-profile architects are working on the plans, located next to the city’s Bull Ring shopping centre, including Stirling Prize-winner Haworth Tompkins as well as dRMM, Intervention Architecture, Minesh Patel Architects and RCKa with James Corner Field Operations designing the public realm and landscape.

Amended plans have now increased the size of the proposed Smithfield Park by 23% and provided more detail on how it could connect to other public spaces in the scheme.

Birmingham Smithfield 2023

Aerial view of the Smithfield plans in central Birmingham

A new report by planning officers also said another park, Manor Square, was of a sufficient size to accommodate “large scale” public events of up to 6,900 people.

Although the report said the public spaces still fell below planning policy requirements, it said the amendments had “addressed the committee’s previous concerns with the indicative proposed scheme”.

Officers recommended the revised plans for approval ahead of the local authority’s next planning committee hearing on 13 June.

But the future of the 17ha scheme has been thrown into fresh doubt by last week’s decision by Birmingham council’s development partner Lendlease to pull out of the UK.

Lendlease announced the firm was putting its overseas construction and development arms up for sale in order to focus on its home market in Australia.

Lendlease was first named as development partner for Smithfield in January 2019, beating a pitch from a team featuring Delancey and Qatari Diar. Other bidders included a team featuring Hammerson and Bouygues.

The job has been hit by a string of setbacks including an intervention from Historic England, which said initial plans submitted in 2022 would harm Birmingham’s historic cityscape and “disturb significant medieval remains”.

This resulted in a one-year delay and a series of design changes including the addition of second staircases, increases of building heights by as much as 10m and 500 extra homes.

Also on the project team is Aecom as QS, DP9 as planning consultant, Turner & Townsend as principal advisor to Lendlease, structural engineer Arup, transport and civil engineer WSP and heritage consultant Montagu Evans.

Lendlease has been contacted for comment.