|River Rea Landscape Vision, Birmingham
|Public Realm, Parks and Green Spaces, Mixed-use
|Arup | Environment Agency
|Tom Walker, Kara Heald, Bill Francis, Emily Rusby
|Images copyright Gillespies
In summer 2021 the Environment Agency commissioned Arup and Gillespies to create a landscape vision for the River Rea catchment in Birmingham. They wanted to set out high-level aspirations for the future of the river, the surrounding landscape, and communities.
The landscape vision for the River Rea catchment focuses on revealing and connection. It looks to a future where the river is better connected to the floodplain, better connected to people, and a better part of biodiversity connectivity. The scheme seeks seek to alleviate flood risk, the impacts of climate change, local environmental deprivation, and biodiversity loss.
The Environment Agency sought a holistic masterplan to identify opportunities to restore the ecology of the river at catchment level, consider re-integration with surrounding communities, and improve flood management.
The area covers the source of the river in Waseley Hills Country Park to its confluence with the River Tame at Washwood Heath, as well as tributaries including Bartley Brook, Chad Brook, Wood Brook and Merritts Brook.
The vision needed to be well-grounded in local policy and strategy, to respond to UK-wide policies, and ensure the ideas and opportunities aligned with stakeholder aspirations. It tells the story of the river and surrounding landscape, and describes the multiple benefits which can be achieved, from improvements to water quality and river habitat, better access and recreation opportunities, support for urban regeneration, and flood risk management.
The vision aims to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the European Union Water Framework Directive, as well as the UK Biodiversity Framework. In addition, it needed to take local development plans into account, including Birmingham's Our Future City Plan, the city's walking and cycling strategy, the Green Living Spaces plan and the Route to Zero plan.
Working closely with Arup, we engaged partners and stakeholders in a collaborative process. Workshops were attended by representatives from Birmingham City Council, Severn Trent Water, National Trust, Historic England, the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust, HS2, Sports England and the Canal and River Trust.
In addition, local friends groups were invited to contribute through video meetings and email correspondence. Participants included representatives from Friends of Balaam’s Wood Local Nature Reserve, Friends of Bournville Park, Friends of Holders Lane and Pebble Mill Fields, Friends of Ley Hill Park, Friends of Manor Farm Park, Friends of Senneleys Park, Fruit and Nut Village, Holders Wood Conservation, Rea Valley Conservation Group, Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum, Ten Acres Conservation, and Quinton Meadows Consultative Committee.
You can read the full vision report on the Environment Agency website. It will be used to generate investment and encourage future deliver of projects in partnership with stakeholders and the Environment Agency.
The project has been shortlisted for the 2022 Landscape Institute awards in the Public Health and Wellbeing category.
"We enjoyed working with Gillespies on the Landscape Vision for the River Rea. Throughout the project we found the Gillespies team to be dedicated, thorough, organised, receptive to feedback and proactively seeking solutions to challenges. The Stakeholder Engagement process ran smoothly, and was very inclusive. The end result reflects the aspirations of the local communities as well as opportunities for environmental enhancement and flood risk management that were the starting point for the project."
Christienne Murray, Senior Landscape Architect