Castle Vale, Birmingham’s largest residential estate, was originally built by the City Council during the late 1960’s when high rise was all the rage and thousands were being relocated from inner city slums.
At the same time, poor quality tower blocks built by new and untried “system” methods developed structural defects which caused severe damp and condensation. Communal areas on the estate were poorly laid out and the many unlit alleyways bred both crime and the fear of crime until by the late 1980’s Castle Vale was a no-go area – and home to almost 11,000 people.
The task of Castle Vale Housing Association Trust when it took on the running of the estate in 1994 was “the complete and lasting regeneration of Castle Vale and the reversal of 30 years of physical, social and economic decline”.
2003 saw the completion of the centre piece of Castle Vale’s regeneration and Birmingham’s first new public park in a decade – Centre Park.
Centre Park was created by Fira working in conjunction with Birmingham City Council’s Landscape Practice Group, both registered practices of the Landscape Institute.
DW Windsor Lighting was contacted with the brief of lighting two major adopted footpaths which bisect the park, meeting at a central paved area bounded by a grass banked amphitheatre designed to provide an area for staging events. The footpaths are lit by our modern Akord Bullet, a robust and reliable high performance luminaire with an equally contemporary arched bracket and tapered column design. The style and finish of the lighting equipment reflects the seating, feature pillars and fencing panels installed in the park.
Centre Park’s lighting design utilizes two significant innovations: The Diamond Optic® reflector system and the white metal halide light source.
The former is our patented reflector system with which a wide range of composite light distributions can be created – in other words, it controls the beam to put light precisely where it is needed. Fitted as standard in DW Windsor Lighting’s luminaires, the Diamond Optic® ensures that pathways are adequately and uniformly lit and, because Akord Bullet is a full cut off luminaire with flat glazing, reduces upward light pollution to zero.
The Akord Bullets are fitted with metal halide lamps and the white light they produce provides a striking contrast with the soft yellow glow of the low pressure sodium street lights surrounding Centre Park. Perhaps more importantly, white light also enhances colour rendering and is perceived by pedestrians to create a more brightly lit and safer night time environment.
The achievements of English Landscapes and partners at Centre Park in Castle Vale, Birmingham were recently recognised by The British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) when it was announced as the winning Land Renewal Scheme in the National Landscape Awards 2003.
Centre Park has already been nominated for several additional awards: The Green Apple Civic Pride Award, the Local Government News Street Design Award and Emap’s 2004 Lighting Design Awards. A park keeper has been appointed to undertake daily maintenance of Centre Park and build a rapport with regular users from the local community.
Local Labour MP, Robin Corbett, is upbeat about what has been achieved. “What it does show is that it is perfectly possible to redevelop an area that had all the characteristics of inner city deprivation. It shows what can be achieved with imagination and partnership.”