Background

The University of Birmingham was founded in 1900 and is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research universities. Its student population includes some 16,500 under graduates and 8,000 post graduate students, making it the largest university in the West Midlands region and the eleventh largest in the UK. Located in Edgbaston and Selly Oak, it is surrounded by residential housing, commercial facilities and adjacent to University Hospital Birmingham (Queen Elizabeth).


The brief

We were commissioned to undertake the research and consultation programme in advance of the submission of a planning application for the £175m development of the University’s Edgbaston campus. A specific objective was to “both inform the plans and build public support”.


Method

We recommended a two stage process with a pre-formal application consultation programme followed by a formal public consultation programme to coincide with the submission of the planning application. The programme included:

  • Extensive media publicity utilising the University’s press office
  • Consulting with to 325 individual members of the public, users and interested parties at external drop-in sessions organised by the consultancy
  • Undertaking 36 one-to-one interviews (telephone and in person)
  • Addressing/meeting with 12 local councillors and neighbourhood representatives at ward and neighbourhood meetings
  • Addressing/meeting with 105 members of the public at ward and neighbourhood meetings
  • Meeting with 60 community users of sports facilities.

The second stage of the programme included:

  • The holding of three drop/open day sessions (two outside the University) attended by 110 members of the public
  • Two drop-in days for staff and students at the University itself
  • Presentations to ward and neighbourhood meetings
  • A programme of one-to-one visits by local councillors and political representatives
  • A Survey Monkey questionnaire completed by 185 members of the public
  • 15 one-to-one discussions with sports governing bodies.

Outcome

The programme achieved its objective of informing the public, representatives and stakeholders of the proposals and generating feedback to be used to shape the proposed development.

Birmingham City Council has given its approval and support for the scheme. The pre-consultation programme, developed by Clarke Associates, was fundamental in demonstrating the University’s commitment to the locality and stakeholders and enabling the application to be shaped according to University’s and local community’s needs.

“I thought the University presented their proposals very well indeed. I liked the way you set out the key issues emerging from the public consultation and then dealt with how these are being addressed in your revised scheme. This is very much in the spirit of the government’s proposals set out in the Localism Act.”

Liz Jesper, Team Leader, Development Planning and Regeneration, Birmingham City Council