In close proximity to Snow Hill station, Colmore Square provides a key pedestrianised connection between Colmore Row and Steelhouse Lane, making it one of the busiest thoroughfares in Birmingham’s Business District. The site was initially established in 2003 in conjunction with the building of No1 Colmore Square, but the square’s styling was considered ‘hard’ and uninviting for people to sit and gather within.
The new scheme was designed to retain the value of the square as a thoroughfare whilst softening the landscape and making it more inviting as a place for people to stop and gather in. The new design focusses on three key areas of the square: The Amphitheatre, The Chess Garden and The Wesleyan Garden. Tree and Shrub planting softens the new landscape whilst providing an acoustic and weatherproof barrier, and new bicycle parking facilities encourage cyclists to enter the square. Street furniture has been installed including individual benches and seating walls with timber tops, and small polished concrete tables incorporating chess boards and associated stools in the Chess Garden. Alongside the improved lighting scheme and tree and shrub planters, everything aims to entice people to stop and stay a while instead of just passing through Colmore Square.
To prepare the site, existing paving to the chess garden area comprising of York slabs, tegula pavers and granite setts had to be removed, many of which were subsequently reused within the scheme. Cycle racks were fixed by coring through the existing paving, removing them and fixing beneath to a new concrete pad before neat replacement of the setts. The new lighting scheme including ducting was installed alongside a new section of Gatic drain which had to be connected into an existing manhole position.
The prime location of the site within Birmingham’s business district posed a significant challenge to the construction team. Site access was only available adjacent to a busy pelican crossing off The Priory Queensway, which has heavy footfall during normal business hours. This required us to obtain a temporary cart over permit from Birmingham City Council, involving detailed submission of safe pedestrian access routes (minimum of 3m access path to be available at all times) and their subsequent maintenance and adaption throughout the project duration. Throughout the active construction period, the site was secured with heras fencing and red/white chapter eight barriers to assist the visually impaired.
The access, load size and cart over permit restrictions made it necessary to secure an off-site holding yard, which we set up two miles away. Two small telehandlers were employed at each end to facilitate deliveries into the site. To save space on site all excess materials were loaded onto a pallet and removed immediately once full, small footprint machinery that was still capable of lifting concrete units weighing up to 2 tonnes was used and topsoil was transported onto site by 6 tonne dumpers and loaded out by small backactors into the raised planter boxes.
Related health and safety concerns meant that a number of works needed to be completed outside of normal operating hours, when footfall was lower. The site entrance was heavily signed at all times during construction, with banksmen attending all vehicles entering or leaving site. Particular care was taken to avoid any damage to the pelican crossing light unit and control box, which was sunk into the ground at the edge of the access ramp. All existing paving was protected using double thickness plastic matting boards, due to the weight of the street furniture items being positioned on site.
Construction and subsequent decommissioning of the site access ramps were carried out outside of working hours to minimise disruption. At both ends of the project, it was necessary to disconnect the traffic lights adjacent to the construction ramp and set up temporary traffic management in line with chapter eight requirements. Due to the access difficulties, the concrete retaining units had to be moved to their precise final positions by employing a telehandler alongside an “A” frame gantry.