Artist’s impression of Building 4 at Pebble Mill
Calthorpe Estates’ director of development, Ralph Minott, updates on progress at Pebble Mill, and how the healthcare and life sciences destination continues to grow on a global scale in the heart of Birmingham.
The BBC, drawn to Edgbaston in the late-1960s created a regional centre of broadcasting excellence, which could attract talent from far and wide. The site won fame as Pebble Mill studios, and spawned an array of notable programmes; including the world’s longest-running radio soap, The Archers, and the ever-popular Top Gear. The BBC thus heralded Pebble Mill into Birmingham folklore and history.
Since Calthorpe took back control of the Bristol Road location, its vision has been on an even-greater scale: to develop a landmark destination of international size and scale, inside Edgbaston Medical Quarter, which has evolved on its estate during the Pebble Mill development years. Fifteen years ago Calthorpe Estates embraced our now long-gone Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands’ vision for the A38 Technology Corridor from Aston to Malvern, for a priority planning designation for regeneration land for science and technology uses and employment.
Through the decade that followed, including the disbanding of the UK’s Regional Development Agencies, Ralph Minott recounts however “a realisation with the support of the city council, and other strategic partners, that a ‘one glove does not fit all’ policy could and clearly did not apply to all land along a 40 mile corridor: travelling from the city centre of Birmingham, through countryside, market town and village sites, simply adding a title or brand of ‘science and technology’ to land, did not make it a science and technology location: nor ‘spirit’ science, tech companies or jobs. The right uses would always identify and be pulled to a location’s employment and business strengths.
“It has been pivotal to the assembly and preparation of the 27-acre site having a city council that has been on the full 15-year Pebble Mill journey, and that fully understand the locational strengths of the Edgbaston Medical Quarter particularly, and the needs and determinants of occupiers.
“The £50m Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry, designed to treat some 200,000 patients each year, and be the dental training centre for 600 dental students and trainees, and a 62-bed Bupa care home, both responding in design terms to Calthorpe Estate Masterplan and forward looking design guide for Pebble Mill, are already in place; and work on a spectacular private hospital operated by Circle Health on Plot 5 is well advanced. Permission has also been granted on Plot 6 to bring in two major leisure brands, which will add an important amenity offer for visitors, patients, their families and staff to Pebble Mill Birmingham.
“Calthorpe has also invested some £6m providing the infrastructure that links the six plots, and access to and from the site with the adjacent arterial highways; and environmental improvements, including a tranquillity garden, cultivating Pebble Mill’s 100 plus year old established landscaping, but also supporting an Environment Agency (EA)-led flood mitigation scheme to alleviate the long-time flooding from the tributaries that feed into the River Rea, and pass through Pebble Mill and the surrounding catchments.”
Now the landowner is on the cusp of being able to confirm the two final elements of the Masterplan, with a genuine prospective tenant line-up that will finally complete its plans, hopes and dreams into reality, as Minott explains. “As we’ve steadily progressed Pebble Mill Birmingham, the most pleasing aspect has been that companies wishing to come here have raised the bar for their own strategic ambitions. Circle Health for example have significantly scaled-up its private hospital proposal, on course to open in early 2019.
“In November 2017 Circle secured approval for an increase from the approved 15,000sq.m. proposal of the hospital on plot 5 to 19,000sq.m. which will offer future flexibility to keep with the pace of change and demand. The new capacity will allow Circle to add on rehabilitation at Pebble Mill as well,” says Minott. The ‘state-of-the-art hospital’ will bring to Birmingham the high-quality care and excellent hospitality that Circle is known for in its existing hospitals in Bath, Reading and Nottingham.
Circle Birmingham hospital will provide three operating theatres (expandable up to six), an endoscopy procedure room, and in-patient bedrooms, packed with the latest technology; along with the capacity to extend theatres and inpatient facilities as demand increases, Circle will now be able to add comprehensive rehabilitation facilities for patients with musculoskeletal and neurological conditions.
“The continued growth of EMQ, and the wider healthcare and life sciences cluster in Birmingham mean interest in our site continues to increase, but where Pebble Mill’s location above all, and unrivalled proximity of its development opportunities to such a special healthcare cluster; the growth of skills, and ease for clinicians, noting the likes of QE Hospital Birmingham and University of Birmingham therein, crystallises its attraction.
“At Plot 4, for our ambitious £26m Building 4 proposals to meet known occupational needs that we are in advanced discussions on, ignoring other medical specialist opportunities we’d like to try and find homes for, we now need a scheme of around 9,000sq.m, more than our 5,000sq.m. original vision.
“The last pieces of the Pebble Mill ‘jigsaw’ will feature medical and technology businesses that align themselves to the Pebble Mill catchment cluster, with one of the highest performing and proven international medical catchment reputations in Europe, for quality of care, information technology, clinical education and training and research, especially being a regional centre for cancer, and world-renowned for trauma care, and rehabilitation.
“We have an ambition to see proton therapy treatment develop in the region, and believe Pebble Mill and EMQ can play a key role in this, as much as we believe we can offer expansion opportunities for the local NHS Foundation Trusts through our flexibility and simple land holding position.
“Adjacent to Selly Oak we are hugely mindful of the dynamics that student land use outside the confines of the university campus plays, and for our approved schemes at Plot 6 Pebble Mill for student accommodation and important leisure amenities to the Pebble Mill, the need to manage these with the same attention that we place elsewhere on the estate, but we are proud of the Flood Mitigation Project that these uses have helped fund.
“Within the River Rea Partnership, the jointly funded flood mitigation project with the environment agency is not just a great example of partnership working, but much more about the genuine only means of funding the environment agency’s proposals to reduce the local Selly Park North catchment flooding in a realistic time frame. At a cost of some £4m, 50% of the funds had to be found from third party contributions. An opportunity to take a long term view, it saw Calthorpe Estates committing £2m in 2016 on the back of the future prospective value from the proposed student accommodation and leisure amenities, this enabled the EA to secure the project approval and the project is now well underway.
“Pebble Mill resonates the huge pride we have at Calthorpe Estates, in reaching our 300th anniversary in 2017, proudly working with Birmingham City Council, who have both challenged and guided us to ensure at Pebble Mill we provide catchment solutions.”
Calthorpe Estates, 76 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 8LU
0121 248 7676
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