Regeneration schemes in Birmingham are facing delays caused by a toxic chemicals store, writes David Blackman.

The toxic chemicals are owned by US company MacDermid, which has a licence to store hazardous chemicals at its metal finishing plant in the heart of Birmingham’s Eastside district. This means that all applications for residential development within a 0.5 km radius of the site must be approved by the Health and Safety Executive.

Eastside is an area of declining traditional industry, which has been earmarked for residential-led regeneration by Birmingham council.

However, permission for two mixed-use schemes, Curzon Gateway and Typhoo Basin, has been blocked by the High Court following intervention by MacDermid.

Birmingham council’s planners had granted permission for the two schemes earlier this year, despite advice by the HSE that both applications should be refused because of their proximity to MacDermid’s plant.

MacDermid asked for a judicial review of this decision because it was concerned that its operational freedom would be restricted. Currently, it has a licence that enables it to use a very wide range of chemicals at the site.

The High Court overturned planning permissions for both schemes on the grounds that the council had not taken sufficient notice of the HSE’s advice.

The Eastside Partnership’s HOK-masterplanned Curzon Gateway student village scheme, which includes 260 flats, 749 student rooms, a gym, shops and restaurants, is one of the two schemes to have been quashed. The partnership is made up of Taylor Woodrow, Unite Housing and the council’s Eastside Regeneration partnership.

The other scheme to have had its planning permission rescinded is JD Land’s Typhoo Basin project for 345 flats, including affordable housing, shops, offices and live–work accommodation. JD Land has resubmitted its application.

It’s stymied any schemes within the zone that have residential

Geoff Wright, regeneration consultant

The council is currently in negotiations with MacDermid.

Geoff Wright, a former head of city-centre planning at Birmingham council, who now works for the AIMS regeneration consultancy, said applicants across much of Eastside were proceeding cautiously.

“It’s completely stymied any schemes within the zone that have residential as well as other uses. Any further residential permission that the city gives will be subject to a judicial challenge.”

He added that the case underlined the difficulty of implementing the government’s drive to increase housing development on former manufacturing sites.

Eastern promise: Architect HOK has masterplanned Birmingham Eastside
Eastern promise: Architect HOK has masterplanned Birmingham Eastside

Richard Woodrow, barrister for the Eastside Partnership, said that Birmingham had not taken the hazardous waste issues sufficiently into account when drawing up its supplementary planning guidance for the area. “It’s important issues like this are taken into account when plans are being made,” he said.

Architect Kinetic AIU is set to masterplan the 1.9 ha Warwick Bar area in Birmingham’s Eastside. The scheme will include a film centre, art gallery and up to 600 homes. Kinetic was chosen by Birmingham council, waterside regeneration firm ISIS, British Waterways and West Midlands architecture centre MADE.