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A new skyscraper for Brum....whoopee says Ros Dodd. But as the scramble for city living continues let's make sure it's not just for yuppies and singletons.

Nine months after the completion of Beetham Tower, which was then the tallest residential building outside London, it's been announced that Birmingham is to get another 400-footer - this time on the south side of Broad Street.

Planners granted permission for the latest high-rise structure, containing apartments and a hotel, after developers Richardson Cordwell agreed to stump up £700,000 towards environmental and transportation improvements in the area.

On one hand, this is more good news for Brum - the new tower will regenerate a not-so-sassy bit of Broad Street and will add to the already dramatically improved skyline of the city. The hotel will provide much-needed additional beds and the apartments will presumably sell like hot cakes.

High-rise living is enjoying resurgence in popularity, the dismal council-owned structures of the 1960s mostly bulldozed and the miserable environments they created for those who lived in them largely forgotten.

Half a century ago, being housed in a tower block was a sign of low socio-economic status; today, skyscraper living is a sign you've arrived.

There is much to be said for bringing back tower blocks: they take up a lot less land than low-rise developments, they invigorate urban skylines and they help boost the re-population of city centres.

Yet we need to be careful these new edifices don't end up recreating the problems caused by the old types. A high-rise block isn't conducive to community living, nor is it any good for kids. OK, so most of the people who buy into such developments are young, trendy things with no kids and no need for or interest in sharing a neighbourly cuppa with the occupants across the landing.

Nevertheless, if city centre apartment living is to continue to flourish, developers can't rely forever on city slickers and investors: they need to persuade families to move back in from the suburbs. But families aren't going to do that unless there is safe outside space for their kids to run around in and good schools and health centres amongst the hip bars and restaurants.

So let's welcome the ongoing metamorphosis of the heart of Birmingham and marvel at the ever more innovative buildings going up, but let us also give proper thought and consideration to the long-term future of urban living by ensuring we learn from, rather than regenerate, the errors of the past.


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