Leaving a legacy behind? Birmingham puts faith in a successful Commonwealth Games

With Birmingham set to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, Ryan Tute looks at what the event could mean for the region and looks back at Glasgow 2014 to see what legacy has been left. 

With promises of multi-million pound investments, housing developments, new transport links and a boost to the economy, the West Midlands could be set to reap the benefits of a successful Commonwealth Games bid but can it generate more than just 11 days of sporting success?

The decision to hand the prestigious sporting event to the city of Birmingham in December was described by West Midlands mayor Andy Street as a “fantastic Christmas present” but it certainly isn’t one that comes free of charge. Questions over affordability continue to plague the city with estimates for the overall cost amounting to £750m. 

The concerns surrounding a cash-strapped city council being able to fund the games are being offset by the benefits it could entail. Financial experts claim that holding an event of this magnitude will see an estimated £750m pumped into the regional economy, while improving vital infrastructure in not just Birmingham but the wider region.

Hundreds of new homes in Perry Barr, increased transport investment for new metro tram lines and rapid bus systems were all part of the case to promote the bid. The construction of an athletes’ village will provide a much-needed 1,000 new homes for the region, while the creation of thousands of jobs and training opportunities, and improved facilities for communities should leave a much-needed legacy, according to those instrumental in the bidding process.

But in order for the games to be considered a complete success then the West Midlands as a whole needs to be left in a better position, according to Kathryn Ventham, who is part of the Birmingham team at the planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore.

“If they get it right then we will be talking about the benefits to a joined-up region and not just Birmingham,” Ventham said. “Tackling areas like Perry Barr is much-needed and attracting the games here means kickstarting a longstanding aspiration to regenerate that part of Birmingham. The date of 2022 provides an unmissable deadline that can help bypass planning processes which are notoriously difficult to navigate and usually overrun. Without the prospect of the Commonwealth Games then we would have not got the same parties around the table and the co-operation needed to deliver a project of this size,” she said.

Birmingham will become the first English city since Manchester in 2002 to host the Commonwealth Games. But we only have to look back to 2014 to learn whether a fellow UK city has prospered from a successful games bid.

Back in July 2014 as a fresh-faced student, I was bringing the curtain down on my university experience in Glasgow. I remember walking down Byres Road in the west end of the city on one of the few sunny days to grace Scotland’s biggest city. The streets were buzzing with excitement as the first Commonwealth Games in the UK for over a decade takes place. 

"Without the prospect of the CW GAmes then we would have not got the same parties around the table and the co-operation needed to deliver a projetc of this size."
Kathryn Ventham, partner at Barton Willmore.

The transformation of Glasgow’s east end is however where anyone can see the physical impact of the event. Central to this was the Clyde Gateway, Scotland’s biggest and most ambitious regeneration programme, estimated to have attracted £1.5bn of investment, bringing in more than 4,500 jobs, with 80% of its 60,000sq m completed business occupied. 

Stephen Tucker, was part of the City Legacy team that was involved in securing the planning consent for the Glasgow athletes’ village and delivered the regeneration of Dalmarnock. The Barton Willmore planning expert compliments those behind the bid for aligning projects already underway at the time with the sporting event.

“Without the successful bidding process then we would never have got the public and private sectors working together for the good of the city to deliver a project to a timescale that was prior agreed,” said Tucker. “The athletes’ village has probably had the most significant impact on the east end with the construction of 300 new housing units every year which is a number you would struggle to find in any other housing development in Glasgow. I believe the games really opened up people’s eyes and changed possible misconceptions some had towards Glasgow and the east end from what they saw on their television screens,” he said.

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email