Case study: Birmingham

Birmingham is located centrally in England, in the Midlands. It is the UK's second-largest city and has strong connections with other countries in the world as a result of its ethnic diversity. The city presents many positive opportunities such as:

  • Social - ethnic and cultural diversity allows people to experience different religions and foods. The Balti Triangle is an area of Birmingham famous for its restaurants and curry houses. St Paul's Square is a popular venue for live music. The Birmingham Royal Ballet and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra help to create a culturally-rich city. The city also has five universities, which cater for over 65,000 higher education students.
  • Economic - the Bullring shopping centre includes 140 shops generating employment and income for the local economy. Brindley Place is a city centre development which includes bars, retail, offices and entertainment facilities and which generates a large income.
  • Environmental - canals in Birmingham have been cleaned up. The towpaths have been upgraded to encourage people to walk and cycle along the canals in the city. The Eastside City Park is a new park developed to increase the amount of green space. To reduce pollution, traffic has been managed by creating a park and ride scheme, encouraging the use of buses and the Birmingham Metro tramline.
The Bullring Shopping Centre
The Bullring Shopping Centre

Social and economic challenges

Urban decline - Birmingham used to have a large manufacturing industry. Due to competition from abroad, most of Birmingham's manufacturing industry has now gone. This has led to urban decline as manufacturing buildings were left empty and became derelict.

Longbridge manufacturing
Longbridge car manufacturing is based in Birmingham

Deprivation - with the closure of the manufacturing industry and high unemployment, parts of Birmingham experienced a spiral of social and economic decline leading to deprivation.

Inequalities in housing - Birmingham's high population has resulted in pressures on housing. There is not enough good quality and affordable housing for people in the city.

Education - the quality of education was particularly poor in inner city areas such as Aston. Aston is an area of deprivation with an ethnically diverse community where many children struggled to access and succeed in education.

Health - in Aston, people with poorer English language skills found it difficult to access healthcare facilities.

Unemployment - the closure of factories in the manufacturing industry led to high unemployment.

Environmental challenges

Dereliction - derelict buildings from the manufacturing industry are common in inner city areas.

Building ongreenfield sites - this results in the loss of more green space and may make urban sprawl worse. However building on brownfield sites - this will improve a derelict site as the space is reused for a new development.

Waste disposal - a large urban population produces a lot of household and commercial waste which creates challenges for how to manage and dispose of this waste.

Atmospheric pollution - with more people in a city, there are more vehicles on the road, leading to atmospheric pollution.