New plans for a greener Coventry

An aerial shot of the futuristic city

February 27, 2009

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FUTURISTIC £1billion plans to change the face of Coventry have been unveiled.

Last September international architects Jerde put forward the first draft of a masterplan to create a new city centre.

Three thousand residents gave their opinions on the proposals in a six-week consultation.

Now those views have been incorporated into a new plan which includes more green spaces and a round market.

A view to the Lower Precinct
Other changes include:

* Breaking roof top green spaces in to smaller parcels - making them feel more like small parks and gardens.

* Making Coventry Arena more compact. The designers have brought the main event space back down to the precinct level in a bid to make it more intimate.

* Lowering residential apartments’ heights and spreading them more evenly across the city centre in an attempt to protect views of the city's three historic spires.

* Breaking bigger chunks of development down into smaller parcels so they can be built in a more phased way and adapted more easily in the future.

* The overall amount of office space has been reduced in a bid to avoid any potential clash with the development planned at Friargate.

Coventry City Council leader Cllr Ken Taylor helped staff the city centre shop where the plans were on display.

He said: “I have been overwhelmed and delighted by how passionate people feel about the plans for the city centre.

“Almost everyone agrees that we have to act, and act fast, in order to transform our city centre into a place where people want to live, work and play.

“This is the biggest regeneration project in Coventry for more than 50 years and it will only be successful if we work with local people and our private sector partners to make it happen.

"The people who took the time to look at the draft plans last year agreed that the main elements were right, but they also had some really good ideas and suggestions which we have included in the final plan.

Plans for the Coventry Arena
“One of the biggest issues, for instance, was the market . Traders and shoppers liked its new location as an anchor store and on the prime walkway around the city, but everyone thought it should be round. So now in the final plan it is round with inside and outside space.

"The egg also provoked strong debate. It was a bit like marmite – people either loved it or hated it.

It has stayed in the final plan but we are still clear that it is symbolic of a new iconic building for the city which will be subject to an international design competition - the final design is unlikely to be an egg, but it will be a real talking point and shows how important such iconic architecture would be to Coventry.

"Clearly we are only a short way into the process - but agreeing a masterplan is a massive step forward for the city, helping us to guide the development over the coming years.

"It sets the standard and binds all partners into working together to create one coherent city centre that works for its people and its businesses .

Coventry Arena at night
“This will be a very exciting journey and local people will be involved every step of the way to create something unique with its own special character.

" We know how special our city and its people are - now's the chance to show the world what we're capable of.”

Unchanged plans include:

* The Sherbourne River Walk

*The city wall gateway at the Bull Yard

*Lower Precinct

* New buildings at the top of the upper precinct that wrap around on to Broadgate

* Redevelopment of Cathedral Lanes

The plans have cost £390,000 – spilt between three developers and the council.

The council’s £97,500 share has come from government.

Bright lights: A new city at night
Deputy director of city development Martin Yardley has worked on the proposals.

He said: “The masterplan has been funded by the council and our partners and despite these difficult economic times everyone is still committed to making it happen.

“The timing could well be just right for us. Once this final masterplan is approved we have a lot of work to do such as developing detailed plans and working with retailers on ways of ensuring that the city stays open for business during construction work.

"We will also be working on how we link the Jerde masterplan into the regeneration that is already going on in the city centre.

"This means we will ensure that the Belgrade Plaza, Severn Trent, Friargate at the railway station and Coventry University's developments, for example, are fully integrated into the retail plan - that walkways and routes are right and that they do not turn their backs to each other - as happens a lot now.

"In order to maintain the right levels of involvement we aim to set up a special panel. Not only will it help us to ensure that people remain fully involved every step of the way, it will also mean we have a group that we can run things past and seek advice from.

“It will be a real mix of local people who care about their city and professional experts.”

Another aerial view of the city
David Sheldon and Stuart Berriman from Jerde will be in Coventry next month to help present the final plan to the Council's Cabinet.

Mr Sheldon, regional manager at Jerde's European office in Amsterdam, said: “This has been a tremendous project and the response from the stakeholders and the people of Coventry has been astonishing, and in our experience, unique.

“Our company has a combined experience of over 30 years and this is the best public consultation we have experienced in all that time.

"The people of this city really want to see the Council take Coventry forward with a big scheme and we have felt real passion for the masterplan.”

The new images will be on show at the market from Friday February 27.

The final masterplan will go before the Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday March 4 and to Cabinet on Tuesday March 10 for formal endorsement by Coventry City Council.

Insiders hope to make the plan a reality over the next 20 years.
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