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Design Council backs groundbreaking West Midlands Design Charter

Design Council backs groundbreaking West Midlands Design Charter

27 January 2020

Design Council has joined with a number of other UK design experts to endorse a brand new initiative to encourage and embed good design across the West Midlands.

The West Midlands Design Charter – developed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in partnership with the region’s local councils – aims to ensure high quality design in housing, civic architecture, urban spaces, parks and transport infrastructure. It also aims to help grow key design sectors including digital media, graphic design and creative industries including advertising and screen (film, TV and games).

In supporting the growth of design, the Charter also intends to increase investment; prompt economic growth; and promote low carbon, energy efficient and climate resilient design. Research from the Design Council’s Design Economy 2018 found that the West Midlands has a strong design industry with a focus on industrial, product and craft design. Figures showed that the sector had seen a bigger growth than any other region outside London, increasing by 83% between 2010 and 2017 and contributing around £503m a year to the local economy.

The West Midlands is committed as a region to driving design innovation and creativity based on six key themes comprising 12 principles developed with the WMCA’s members which include 18 local authorities and three Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The themes are:

  • Character
  • Connectivity and mobility
  • Future readiness
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Engagement and stewardship
  • Delivery

The Charter will be used as an extra tool for local planning authorities to ensure high quality urban design and development. Stratford District Council has already adopted its 12 principles as planning policy. In addition, it is also being adopted as a guidance document for developments funded through the WMCA’s Single Commissioning Framework – a funding pot of several hundred million pounds. Much of this funding is being channelled at housing and commercial schemes on the region’s former industrial (brownfield) sites, helping to relieve pressure on the Green Belt.

We are delighted to see the West Midlands taking such a bold lead on ensuring that design is central to all their planning, public services and economic prosperity. We now look forward to working with them to deliver this work to make life better by design.

Design Council's Chief Executive, Sarah Weir OBE

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands who launched the Charter, said: “Great design and creativity can have a huge and positive impact on the quality of life and wellbeing of our communities. But this Charter is not just about raising the quality of the homes, places, buildings and natural environment around us. It’s also about championing and promoting our design sector, helping to drive our regional economy and new jobs.”

Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio lead for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, added: “We want this Charter to cement and grow our reputation as a region that promotes and supports great design and innovation. We believe we are the creative heartland of the country with the fastest-growing regional economy outside London and the design sector is an increasingly important part of that. This Charter will also help guide us in securing good design in those schemes we choose to fund because they can deliver the opportunity of a decent, affordable home and a worthwhile job for all our communities. That’s important because inclusive growth is at the core of all our investment and development activity.”

The Design Charter was launched on 23 January 2020 at Birmingham’s Mailbox complex.

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