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S.K. Building Approved at Planning Committee

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By Tony Mead – 6th December 2021

We are delighted that our project for the redevelopment for the S.K. Buildings site in Digbeth has been approved at planning committee by Birmingham City Council (BCC). We have been collaborating with BCC design officers over the last 5 years to develop a solution that delivers a high-quality Build to Rent scheme on this complex but important site close to the city centre and Smithfield regeneration proposals.

The site is particularly challenging due to its location within the River Rea flood zone. This resulted in the requirement of lifting the ground floor 1m above the surrounding pavement to have accommodation outside of the flood zone. This creates quite an intricate solution to maintain level access for all residents, together with ensuring a secure dry access across the site in the event of a full 100 year + 30% climate change flood event.

The site is further complicated by the presence of some significant and architecturally interesting buildings around the Bradford Street location. Whilst the existing site comprises mainly wholesale goods storage units which generates little street activation, the original S.K. Building and Chem.Co bring much architectural quality to the location that we looked to enhance.

The original intention was to retain as much of the existing buildings as possible. However, the flood plain location meant that the existing floor levels were compromised and so a full retention would lead to completely sterilising the ground floor of the building. A compromise solution was to retain the existing facades and insert new floor levels behind them. This allowed us to fully utilise the existing fabric but upgrade the site to meet current EA requirements and maintain an active ground floor use to the perimeter.

A further consideration was the introduction of BCC’s ambitious and exciting proposals to open the River Rea to the city centre. The current buildings block all views and access to this important natural resource and this site has been designed to link in with other sites across the city that are coming forward on this important new pedestrian linkage.

Opening the River Rea to public access is a great opportunity to integrate a new large area of public realm with access to terraces going down to water level, reinforcing new north south movement along the river that will connect the site into the centre of Digbeth.

The new river access is reinforced by a large area of public realm including pedestrian and cycle circulation, external terracing and alfresco dining opportunities to reinforce the ground floor commercial uses. This space will flow into a large south facing private courtyard for residents that forms the heart of the scheme.

This has been a complex and technical exercise working with design officers to ensure that the scheme can be delivered, whilst incorporating many exciting features such as the existing building fabric and generating a whole new city destination and access for the river. It will be incredible to finally see this development come forward and we are really looking forward to help deliver this important site as part of the wider regeneration of this part of the city.

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