A sign shows the River Cole Community Commons Trim Trail

This project was led by the University of Birmingham and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Sport England, The Active Wellbeing Society, Birmingham City Council and the Environment Agency.

Project partners joined the local community, at a celebration event today [30 June 2023] to officially open the new amenities.

The Community Commons Project saw the University teaming up with community organisations, residents, and Birmingham City Council to design and deliver improvements stretching along the river from Heybarnes Recreation Ground, via Tyseley Energy Park, to Ackers Adventure.

Over the past 18 months work has been carried out to enhance habitats for wildlife and clear waste and invasive species to create an accessible and connected green corridor with amenities including a children’s adventure play area and outdoor seating.

The project, which covers 55 hectares of underused space, represents an important first step in creating a Green Innovation Quarter in the Tyseley Environmental Enterprise District (TEED). As part of a programme of activity on net-zero pathways in East Birmingham, the TEED will help to ensure that communities and residents benefit in real-terms from research and innovation investment in East Birmingham.

It’s great to see this project completed and to see what an asset it is to the East Birmingham area. We look forward to working further with communities in East Birmingham as the Tyseley Environmental Enterprise District develops and expands.

Dr Emily Prestwood, Development Manager, Birmingham Energy Institute

At the celebration event, residents, partners and supporters of the project will have the opportunity to celebrate the journey so far and talk about next steps. There will be the opportunity to go on a guided cycle ride or walk to see the changes that have been made and hear more about the project’s ‘stewardship’ approach that will ensure long term engagement and management of the area.

Keiran McKenzie, Assistant Director of Healthy Communities, The Active Wellbeing Society said: "We felt it was important to get the residents who live around the River Cole area involved in this project because it is their local area. We asked people about their perceptions of the River Cole area, whether they use it at all, and if not, what the barriers are. We also asked what people they would like to have developed in these spaces. Whenever we do community engagement, we aim to do it in a way that includes absolutely everybody, from all cultures, and all age groups. What was clear from our initial engagement with local schools, GPs, residents, and community groups is that people were concerned with the safety of the environment and keen to address the littering, fly tipping and anti-social behaviour. With the support of community partnerships, local organisations and residents, we have proactively removed barriers in a collaborative way, and in doing so, rebuilt people’s confidence to access this area again. It is our hope to see the community continue to cherish and use the River Cole as their space."

Speaking about the project Lisa Dodd-Mayne, Executive Director, Place, Sport England said: "Sport England are excited to have been partners in this project. It has been great to see the community shaping their local space and being involved with the design of the wayfinding scheme to deliver an Active Environment along the River Cole. The wayfinding, signage and lighting has helped to create a safer space for active travel along the river and to support the series of community spaces.”

Adam Noon, Catchment Co-ordinator for Tame, Anker & Mease, The Environment Agency added: "Ackers Weir has been the most significant barrier on the River Cole since 1852 and plans to remove the weir have been in development for over 15 years. The weir removal and associated bed regrading means fish migration is now possible for the first time in 170 years. Natural processes have been restored and significant water quality improvements have been recorded. This complex project was only possible by creating an effective partnership and working in close collaboration with multiple stakeholders all under the professional guidance of the University of Birmingham. The success of this project is a massive step towards delivering the strategic plan for restoring the River Cole."