Green light for exciting new £12 million health and community centre for Sparkbrook

Plans to build a new £12 million complex that integrates health and council services in the heart of Sparkbrook have been given the final go-ahead. The scheme, which will also see the construction of a new church hall, is part of a new generation of community facilities.

Construction of the new Sparkbrook Primary Care and Community Centre will begin in late November and is due for completion late 2011. The project is a partnership between the Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust (HoBtPCT), Birmingham City Council, The Diocese of Birmingham, Birmingham and Solihull (BaS) LIFT Co and Prime plc who have successfully reached the final stages of approval for the centre.

The 4,837m2 facility, based at the cross roads of Grantham Road, Dolobran Road, Farm Road and Sampson Road, will form two sites overlooking the historic Farm Park; one housing the Primary Care and Community Centre and the other the church hall.

The three-storey healthcare and community centre on Grantham Road and Dolobran Road will accommodate services currently offered by Farm Road Health Centre including dental services, baby clinics and stop smoking clinics, with new services such as physiotherapy, healthy young people services and a size down weight loss group. This is as well as three GP practices, nursing, physiotherapy, dental services and a pharmacy in the wing facing Grantham Road.

The facility’s other wing, which is opposite Farm Park, will accommodate one of Birmingham City Council’s new generation of Customer Service Centres, replacing temporary accommodation currently used in Mole Street. Four rooms, three of which can be opened up to create a larger space, will also be available for community use and events. These rooms will replace services currently offered by the Sparkbrook Family Centre.

In addition, the centre will offer six offices for start-up social enterprises or businesses that could potentially benefit the local community. A secure garden to the rear of the centre will also be available to community room users, while the concourse area at the building’s entrance will act as both a waiting area for patients and a community library. The site was formerly occupied by the Victorian built Christ Church, which was badly damaged in the tornado that severely affected this area of Birmingham in July 2005.

On the other site just a few metres away fronting Farm Road and Sampson Road (currently occupied by Sparkbrook Family Centre and Farm Road Health Centre) a 400m2 church hall will offer space to worship, rooms for general community use and a café. Car parking for all users will be provided over both sites and linked via an improved road junction and park entrance.

Designed in consultation with the public, patients and staff by healthcare building specialists One Creative Environments, the main centre takes an ‘L’ shape to fit its corner position. Facing the crossroads, the entrance has a contemporary tilted roof, supported by steel pillars and features an opening beneath which is a semi-mature tree. The use of terracotta red brick to form windowed panels on the building’s façade helps to harmonise the centre with the Victorian built residential homes on the street. The much-loved peace garden connected to the existing family centre will also be re-built as part of the development.

In keeping with traditional church design, the church hall is given height with a one sided, pitched roof clad in zinc, while coloured glass, evocative of stained glass, runs across the bottom of its high, first-storey windows. The use of white render and red brick, which features on the ground floor, helps the church hall fit in with existing local buildings.

As well as contributing significantly to the regeneration of the Sparkbrook area, this new community hub will also be environmentally friendly by achieving a BREEAM excellent rating.

Ranjit Sondhi, Chairman at HoBtPCT, said: "We are thrilled to have reached this important milestone so that building work can now begin on this unique health and community centre. By offering a wide range of health, council and community services in one area, which is close to patients’ homes, we can better ensure the health needs of local residents are met, as well as supporting their general wellbeing.”

Cllr Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader at Birmingham City Council, said: “At a time when the public sector faces an enormous financial challenge, this is exactly the kind of project we need to be developing in partnership with other agencies. Cutting out duplication is essential in the years ahead, and everyone will benefit if this can be done in a way that leads to the delivery of better services. By co-locating, we will be able to work in a more strategic and co-ordinated way, delivering services provided by the council and the NHS that complement each other. Essentially we will be doing much more for citizens while using less taxpayer money.”

Revd Canon Steve Simcox, the Church of England Minister in the Diocese of Birmingham, said: "This project has always been exciting, even when it was just a dream and drawings on paper. This new development brings the health and care of this community to the forefront. I hope that the presence of the new church building alongside the new health and community facilities means we can continue to work together for the people in our area."

Dr Ann Pursey, Chief Executive of BaS LIFT Co, said: "Through LIFT we have been able to help the Primary Care Trust and Birmingham City Council create a new breed of health and community centre. The development in Sparkbrook demonstrates that a wide range of services can be integrated into one scheme that supports both people’s health and social needs.”

Ewan Forsyth, Development Director at Prime plc, commented: “By working closely with our project partners and thinking imaginatively, we have created a scheme that meets the varied needs of the local community. We will now start construction with an anticipated completion in late 2011. The centre will undoubtedly be a template for how public bodies can all work together for the benefit of the community.”

Guy Nicholls, Architect at One Creative Environments, added: “This has been a challenging and exciting project to work on. The new centre’s efficient, contemporary design will accommodate a very diverse range of services and facilities, and create a community hub for the people of Sparkbrook.”