Birmingham as the Second Largest City in England

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A hypothesis is a theory or idea, which is then examined and tested. Sometimes you will agree with it, and sometimes you will disagree with it. Quality of life is what makes a persons life better or easier. Different people have different needs and so what makes their quality of life better is also different.

I am a teenager and my needs are very different to my grandmothers for example. I would prefer to live in the Inner City Zone or Inner Suburb Zone. This is because I would have easy access to shops, restaurants, clubs, cinemas, heath clubs and other amenities that young people prefer. Living in the CBD would not be appropriate for me however as there tends to be fewer parks and open spaces. I do not want to have to travel for hours to get to and from school every day, so a good local school would help improve my quality of life immensely.

My grandmother is 69. She has a quieter life than me and only goes into the city centre when is most necessary. For the majority of things like food, daily paper and toiletries she can shop at her local independent shops. The makes her quality of life better. Low crime rate also improves her quality of life as she is more venerable than me. However because of her physical condition a large garden is not very practical as she could not be able to look after it. She does love being outside however and so to improve her quality of life she would need parks and public open areas near to her. She would also prefer quieter neighbours and few incidents of graffiti and vandalism. Her breathing is not ‘what it was’ due to smoking for many years and so low pollutions levels would help her general health levels too.

Because she lives on her own, it would not be very easy for her to get someone to come and repair walls or roofs, so good housing conditions would also be a necessity. My grandmother is also quite religious and likes to attend church every weeks or so, so for her it would be very important that there was a church very close by, or on a major bus route, as she would not be able to afford a taxi every week. As she lives alone, it would also be good for her if her family and friends lived near buy too. She could catch a bus to get there, but not of a great distance as it would be inconvenient for her because of medical conditions.

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There are some factors that would improve both hers and my quality of life however. For example, good public transport. This would benefit both of us as neither has a car or licence. For this reason also, being near to a hospital, doctor or dentist would improve the quality of both our lives.

CBD stands for Central Business District. This area is in the centre of towns and is usually one of the oldest parts. There tends to be Victorian buildings which may have been modernised as well as modern buildings. The main land use tends to be commercial, with lots of shops, banks and restaurants. In some CBDs as a result of new developments there are sometimes new houses or apartments. The general sky-line tends to be higher towards the CBD as there are generally more high-rise buildings as land is more expensive.

Moving away from the CBD, the next major zone is the Inner City. This zone is just outside the CBD, and old industry. In the last century factories have been built but the majority of these factories have been closed down as industry moved away from the CBD. The small terraced houses that were originally built for the factory workers are, in most cities and Birmingham still there. At this time however, land was expensive and so gardens and houses were small. Some of these houses have been knocked down and made into apartments or high-rise flats. This has helped encourage business workers to move to the CBS. The majority of these workers have large amounts of money, no children and that enjoy a good night life! This has encouraged bars, restaurants and clubs to open in the centre of most major cities. However it has also encouraged drug use and high crime rates.

Moving outward from the CBD, the next zone is the Inner City. In the last century this land would also be used for factory building, however with modernisation, of these cities, industry has moved away and the old buildings converted. The majority of land is used as residential and most houses are terraced. Like the CBD, land was, and is, quite expensive in these areas and so most of the houses and gardens were small.

The next major zone is the Inner Suburbs. This land is almost all residential. The majority of houses built here are from the 1920s and 1930s. The houses tend to be bigger as there is more land, and so it is cheaper to build on it. The general crime rate tends to be lower in these areas. These qualities attract families and so there also tends to be a lot more primary and secondary schools.

After this zone, the next is the Outer Suburbs. The main land use is residential and there tends to be more large modern houses. Councils have also bought this land and many council estates are built here too. Because of the distance from these areas to the CBD, land is cheaper here. Recently small modern industries and large shops have developed here.

Birmingham is the second largest city in England. It has a population of 965,928 in city and 2,555,596 in the West Midlands. Despite its’ current size, Birmingham grew late in relation to other British cities and was a market town right up until the Industrial Revolution. At this time, luminaries such as Matthew Bolton ; James Watt (inventors of the steam engine), William Murdock (inventor of gas lighting) and Joseph Priestley (who discovered oxygen) put Birmingham on the map. A massive system of canals was built to cope with the influx of traffic, so that Birmingham now has a more extensive canal network than Venice.

World War II saw heavy damage inflicted upon the city, and an equally brutal reconstruction program that earned Birmingham’s inner ring road the nickname ‘the concrete collar’. However, Birmingham’s relationship with the car goes deeper than this; it saw the building of the first four-wheeled petrol driven car by F W Lancaster in 1895, and now acts as the UK’s motor-manufacturing hub (earning it the nickname Brum). Birmingham has since been reborn as a business and conference centre, and is busy rebuilding itself into the sub-capital it always should have been.

Burgess model

In 1925, E.W. Burgess presented an urban land use model, which divided cities in a set of concentric circles expanding from the CBD to the suburbs. This representation was built from Burgess’s observations of a number of American cities, particularly Chicago.

According to this model, a large city is divided in concentric zones with a tendency of each inner zone to expand in the other zone. Urban growth is there for a process of expansion of land uses.

For this study I am going to be following a transect along the Alcester Road, A435. This road is an A type road and runs from the centre of town to the outskirts in a southern direction. Because of the size pf Birmingham, if the hypotenuse is correct it will most likely apply to the majority of large towns and cities in England.

My chosen areas of study are:

  • Balsall Heath
  • Kings Heath
  • Alcester Lanes End
  • Druids Heath

Balsall Heath

Balsall Heath is situated in the Inner city zone of Birmingham. From the centre of the CBD it is 2.75 kilometres. It has been calculated that 4,000 people out of Balsall Heath’s population of 12,000 regularly participate in a caring activity designed to improve the quality of life of the neighbourhood.

Kings Heath

Kings Heath is in the Inner suburb zone of Birmingham. From the centre of the CBD, Kings Heath is 5.5kilometres. According to the 2001 Population Census there were 24,273 people resident in Kings Heath.

Alcester Lanes End

Alcester Lanes End is situated in the Outer suburb zone of Birmingham. From the CBD, Alcester Lances End is 6.25 kilometres.

Druids Heath

Druids Heath is an area situated on an Outer City Council Estate. From the CBD, Druids Heath is 8 kilometres away. This is the area furthest away form the CBD that I will be studying.

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