Bringing Birmingham’s waterways back to life as new Port Loop materials are delivered by barge
The team delivering the new neighbourhood of Port Loop in Birmingham is using the waterways as a method of delivering materials to the scheme. Joint venture partners Urban Splash and Places for People, who are working with landowners the Canal & River Trust and Birmingham City Council to transform the disused site, have taken delivery of plants and materials which will be used in the new Port Loop park – set to open early this summer.
Talbot Landscapes – who secured the contract to deliver the hard and soft landscaping together with site formation – along with the JV partners, has taken delivery of a range of trees and shrubs which they will plant throughout the site as part of the landscape scheme. This delivery took place using the adjacent waterways and the midlands canal network. Speaking on behalf of the JV, project director Adam Willetts explained: “We are wedded to the idea of using the site’s surrounding canals in the ways they were originally intended.
“With a canal flanking the park site, it made sense to us to explore delivering materials to the space by barge, something we have been working hard with the Commercial Boat Owners Association (CBOA) to investigate. We’ve also flagged this intention with contractors like Talbots at tender stage, asking each person involved in Port Loop to look at ways they can efficiently use the water.
“I’m delighted we’ve been able to make this happen; there are obvious benefits, not least the environmental advantages which mean that we’ve reduced deliveries by roads.
“We hope it’s the first example of many uses of the water – the perfect nod to the canal’s industrial heritage.”
The park, the first in central Birmingham for over 10 years, will offer an expansive green space of almost one acre in size for the city’s residents and visitors. It is adjacent to the first Houses at Port Loop – which are on site and on sale now.
The arrival of the materials brings the canal back into its original use. Originally known as Icknield Port Loop Canal it was engineered by James Brindley and opened to traffic on 6th November 1769. Birmingham businessmen believed that raw materials and manufactured goods could be better moved by canal – with records showing that the first ever boat-load of coal to arrive via the Icknield Port Loop waterway reduced costs by 50% - with coal coming in at 7 shillings per tonne. In the years after its launch, the canal was extended and reached Wolverhampton, with access to the ports of Bristol, Liverpool and Hull.
Sean Goodwin of Talbot Landscapes said: “We were delighted to secure the Port Loop Contract. It is unique in a lot of ways none more so than delivering this size of open green space as part of the urban development. The added interest of it being adjacent to the Birmingham Canal Navigation Main Line, Ickneild Port Loop, enabled us to excel with regards to delivering our shrubs and plants to site using the midland canal network.”
Adnan Saif, regional director at the Canal & River Trust, added: “Birmingham’s canals are enjoying a renaissance and we know how important these green places are for the wellbeing of the people who live and work in the city. Although the waterway’s primary focus has moved away from freight transport, to the wellbeing of local people, it’s wonderful to see goods still being moved by water, taking lorries and vans off our congested roads.”
The park is set to complete in May this year; within it there will be playful grass mounds plus a lawn on which residents and local community groups can host events, festivals and other permitted uses.
Port Loop is just one of a number of developments being delivered by Urban Splash and Places for People whose successful, well-established working partnership, is also creating large scale communities at Smith’s Dock in North Shields, Park Hill in Sheffield and Lakeshore in Bristol.