A new bench, designed by pupils from University of Birmingham School, was unveiled yesterday (15 June).
The bench marks the completion of the Selly Oak New Road Phase 1B scheme, which consists of major highway improvements around the ‘Selly Oak Triangle’ on Birmingham’s primary road network.
A key aim of the scheme was to improve connectivity in Selly Oak, with a major focus on upgrading facilities for people walking, cycling and using public transport.
In addition, the team wanted to give something back to the local community that could be enjoyed for years to come. Local schools were approached in January 2020 to design a bench that represented the area of Selly Oak and its history.
Year 7 pupils at University of Birmingham School took up the challenge, with the winning design brought to life and unveiled yesterday by Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar.
Cllr Zaffar said: “The former Selly Oak Triangle had a range of issues from congestion to a lack of facilities for cyclists and pedestrians. These improvements have enabled better traffic management and encourage modal shift to walking, cycling and public transport – delivering a better network for everyone.
“I want to thank everyone involved in the Selly Oak New Road scheme for delivering such a fantastic project, including our contractor McPhillips who have also installed this community bench. Congratulations to the pupils from University of Birmingham School for coming up with such a brilliant design.”
It was the first time the pupils, who are now in Year 8, had seen their winning design in real life. It is located on the footway of Bristol Road near its junction with Oak Tree Lane in Selly Oak, Birmingham.
Ernest Addo-Boateng, Subject Leader for Design and Technology at University of Birmingham School said: “Our pupils really enjoyed this project and had so many creative ideas. It’s been fantastic for the pupils to see their design go from a piece of paper to something that the community will enjoy for years to come.”
The design depicts the famous oak tree that formerly stood at the Bristol Road/Oak Tree Lane crossroads, including a witch flying in to it.
Millie, a pupil at University of Birmingham School said: “We wanted to reflect the history of the area in our design. One story is that a witch called ‘Sally’ was hanged from the tree and coined the name ‘Sally Oak’ which later turned into Selly Oak.”
The design also includes Queens University Hospital, people playing football and running, and lots of trees and flowers.
Evie and Hafsha were keen to ensure nature was a key part of the design and said: “We added the flowers and leaves to represent parks and nature, which is something we love about Selly Oak.”
Ralph, also a pupil at University of Birmingham school added: “We also wanted the bench to reflect a healthy lifestyle.”
The scheme was overseen by Birmingham City Council with construction carried out by McPhillips (Wellington) and full detailed design support from Jacobs.
Paul Handley, Contracts Manager at McPhillips said: “We have been delighted to have been involved with such an important project for the Selly Oak area and to deliver another key highway improvement project for Birmingham City Council. As with all projects of this nature it came with its challenges, of course most significantly COVID19, but McPhillips are really pleased with the final scheme. It’s great to see that the aims of the project, which were to reduce traffic congestion and make significant improvements for pedestrians and cyclist, have well and truly been fulfilled.
“The bench is a great addition to the project, and it was an honour for us to be able to bring the children’s fantastic artwork to life. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved but especially the local residents for being so patient with us throughout the works.”
Detailed design started in December 2017 and construction commenced in April 2019. Despite the significant Covid-19 pandemic impact, the scheme was completed in March 2021 to budget and expected quality.
The project has also gratefully received support from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) with £3.633m being allocated from its Local Growth Fund programme.
GBSLEP Board Director Michael Steventon said: “In the last six years our Local Growth Fund has made a positive impact across the Greater Birmingham and Solihull region. Our unique triple helix structure of local government, business and education partners enables us to make targeted investments to create better places for everyone to work in and live in.
“Projects like the completion of this phase of the Selly Oak New Road will strategically drive inclusive economic growth through supporting nearby developments like the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus where the GBSLEP has allocated £10.8 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund for the Precision Heath Technologies Accelerator (PHTA). It will also support our communities through unlocking development land, creating jobs and easing congestion that will benefit the local businesses.”
More information about the scheme is available on the Birmingham City Council website.