What do when you have a really interesting area, full of great buildings, great organisations, businesses and a great community - who are keen to try out new things? This is the situation in Ward End.
It’s fair to say that Ward End Park House, known affectionately as The Whitehouse, isn’t looking at it’s best at the moment.
The beautiful house, which was built around 1799, sits at the entrance to the impressive Ward End Park. The Park itself has 54 impressive acres of important green space and has a prestigious Green Flag Parks Award – as the Friends of the Park Group, like to point out. This is awarded to parks that meet the highest standards in the country.
So here, right in the heart of East Birmingham, we have a great mansion house, which sits in a great big park. But that’s not all.
Just behind the house, is the Boating Lake. It’s big, though misleadingly shallow - designed for leisure and beaty rather than being a natural feature. At the waters-edge is the impressive Boat House, dating from 1936 – with its empty Boat Shed at the base and the Sons of Rest Meeting Room above. Just next door to this, stands the Dolphin Women’s Centre (formally the Sea Cadets Headquarters). Admittedly this isn’t the most attractive building in the world but is soon to be transformed – and will include a waterside Community Café.
There’s a lot here in this park – and all this sits in the wider area of Ward End.
Within half-a-mile of the park itself and all these amazing buildings, there’s a thriving local shopping centre, library and number of community organisations – including the Unity Hubb – a former church that has been transformed into a multi-faith community centre.
With all this in mind, Ward End is a key area of East Birmingham to think about the USE-IT approach and how we think differently about neighbourhood planning. With everything from Community Research to Community Economic Development Planning – as part of the USE-IT approach, we want to be led by the community and work together to transform this fantastic area for the benefit of everyone.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be saying a lot more about Ward End – and we can’t wait!