Candidate: Balsall Heath
Location: Birmingham, England
Category: The Great Neighbourhood Award
Year: 2023

Other finalists in this category: Leith Shore, Edinburgh (Winner)

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Judges' comments:

“The Balsall Heath community demonstrates a real passion to enhance their neighbourhood. Despite connectivity challenges and historic under-investment, ambitious community groups and initiatives from Retrofit Balsall Heath to St Paul’s Community Development Trust are helping transform the area with the support of Birmingham City Council. Unusually for an inner-city location, the community has a Neighbourhood Plan and aspirations for a Parish Council to further drive progress. It is clear they are committed to a positive, green future for Balsall Heath.” - Carol MacBain AoU, Great Neighbourhood Lead Assessor


Balsall Heath is a inner city community about 2km to the south-east of Birmingham city centre. It has a population of approximately 15,000, with diverse ethnicities.

In the 1980s, Balsall Heath was an infamous high-crime, red-light district, neglected by the council and police. The community led by Balsall Heath Forum and St Pauls CDT completely changed this: local residents helped stop crime and reclaimed the neighbourhood. Although the Forum is no more, the sense of civic pride continues, inspiring current visions for change.

Balsall Heath has undergone change in the past with a variety of urban renewal programmes and periodic influxes of immigrants. It now has a growing and diverse population, but is a largely settled community and, over the past twenty years, has developed a community spirit and pride in its neighbourhood.

However, many issues remain and the key drivers for further development arise partly from continued ‘wear and tear’ by intensive use of the physical fabric, and partly from increased needs and expectations of the residents. 

Despite being one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Birmingham, it exhibits a strong sense of community and has a reputation for resilience and autonomy.

Thumbnail illustration of Balsall Heath by David Rudlin AoU, Artist-in-Residence

The Academy of Urbanism (Number 2) Limited is a not-for-profit organisation limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales 0595604, 11c Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 IXE, United Kingdom.
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