Community at work in Kings Heath
Five miles south of Birmingham City Centre, the suburban high street of Kings Heath is bustling. People are shopping, drinking coffees, resting on park benches and enjoying the flowers. But things were not always like this, says Bob Prew, Chairman of the Kings Heath Floral Trail, who has lived in the area for 30 years. 'There’s a lot more here now,' he says. 'In the past if we wanted to eat out we’d have to go to Moseley. Now we’ve got Balti houses, tapas bars and organic cafes.'
The transformation is in part thanks to the work of the Kings Heath Centre Partnership, a Business Improvement District comprising representatives of businesses, local voluntary bodies, residents and the Council.
A floral trail
One of the partnership’s key initiatives is the Kings Heath Floral Trail, which draws together all of the floral and green spaces around Kings Heath, with an informative leaflet summarising the route.
Not only does the trail link together existing green spaces, it’s also created new features. Five years ago there were no baskets or planters in Kings Heath; today the bustling high street is dotted with more than 110 baskets, 60 railing boxes and 60 wooden planters looked after by volunteers.
The trail acts as an umbrella to connect people across the area, with volunteers contributing to one of the many projects along its route that are simultaneously bubbling away under the surface.
'The floral trail brings them all together,' says Bob Prew. 'The great thing about it is that it connects everyone who wants to make Kings Heath a better place to live. Most of the ideas come from the volunteers, and business support means that we can make things happen.'
And business is benefitting from the changes. 'In the past five years we’ve seen other centres decline but Kings Heath has started to thrive,' says Town Centre Manager, Kate Smart. 'We have a 6.5% vacancy rate for retail properties compared to a 13.5% national average.'
'We’re helping to make Kings Heath an attractive place where people want to live, work and shop,' she adds . 'There’s definitely a community spirit - people are proud to live here. The shops get involved too, litter picking and volunteering. It builds a pride of place and encourages residents to support local businesses.'