Members of the River Cole partnership

The Birmingham Energy Institute and project partners hosted Cllr Majid Mahmood (Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Environment), Adam Tranter (West Midlands Cycling and Walking Commissioner), community organisations and residents at the BEIC to mark the launch of the River Cole and Tyseley Energy Park - Creation of a Community Common project.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund this collaborative project will deliver a programme of blue and green infrastructure improvements across an area stretching along the river Cole from Heybarnes Recreation Ground, via Tyseley Energy Park, to Ackers Adventure.

Planned interventions will enhance habitats and biodiversity, improve the sustainability, connectivity and accessibility of the area, and create a commons space for the local community. It will also rehabilitate a currently underutilised urban, green space as an integral part of a green, active travel corridor in East Birmingham.

The project is delivered by the University of Birmingham in partnership with Birmingham City Council, the Environment Agency, the Active Wellbeing Society, Sport England and residents.

We’re proud to be delivering this project with our partners and to be part of a programme having a direct positive impact on the natural habitats, green spaces, community assets and local residents in East Birmingham.

Dr Emily Prestwood, Development Manager, Birmingham Energy Institute

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “I am delighted that Birmingham City Council is collaborating with partners from across the city to deliver this exciting project, thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund. This project will see 55 hectares of underused green space transformed, linking the space to the local community, creating new public space and improving walking and cycling access. Crucially, this project will help to support natural habitats, helping wildlife to thrive. This project will help to create a cleaner, greener and better community for the local area, also helping us to meet our crucial climate objectives.”

The project will also help bring to life Birmingham City Council’s joint vision with Tyseley Energy Park and the University of Birmingham to create a Green Innovation Quarter in the Tyseley Environmental Enterprise District. As part of a programme of activity on net-zero pathways in East Birmingham, it will help to ensure that communities and residents benefit in real-terms from research and innovation investment in East Birmingham.

A further aim is to improve the river and habitat connectivity for wildlife, manage bankside trees and woodland to improve visibility and remove invasive species to restore and enhance natural capital.

Project partners have already made progress in removing a 150-yearold concrete weir from the River Cole near Ackers Adventure. The removal of this significant barrier, built 150 years ago, will create a more resilient environment with improved ecological status and will open-up a 14 km stretch of river.

Adam Noon, Catchment Coordinator at the Environment Agency, said: “Removal of this 300 tonne concrete weir will help to restore the natural processes of the river and improve habitat connectivity for wildlife, in particular the movement of fish and other aquatic organisms. Removing the weir will also eliminate heavily contaminated sediments that have been held in place by the weir structure and therefore improve the quality of the water downstream.”

In addition to habitat improvements a series of community spaces will be created across the project area, including community gardens and meadows, food growing areas and outdoor classrooms. These will be connected by innovative lighting solutions powered by renewable energy, improved cycle paths, and signage and wayfinding installations such as planters and artwork, co-designed with the local community.

Trudi Else, Strategic Lead, Place, at Sport England, said: “We’re excited to be working with the University of Birmingham on this innovative wayfinding project which will be co-created with the community, testing wayfinding lighting schemes to deliver an Active Environment to foster local activity.”

A programme of community engagement, led by the Active Wellbeing Society working with Places in Common, will run alongside habitat improvements and common space creation to make sure the spaces are of use and benefit to residents and communities, and there is a sense of community ownership of the changes happening in the area.

The Active Wellbeing Society said: “We’re looking forward to working with partners and communities to bring the River Cole Valley project area back in to use as a community commons, increasing access to currently underutilised urban green space and ensuring the impacts of the wider programme are maximised for surrounding communities.”

The project will also establish an innovative community-led body to oversee the long-term sustainable management and maintenance of the newly-created, community owned space.

Dr Emily Prestwood, Development Manager, Birmingham Energy Institute, the University of Birmingham, said: “We’re proud to be delivering this project with our partners and to be part of a programme having a direct positive impact on the natural habitats, green spaces, community assets and local residents in East Birmingham.”