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New bench brings added vibrancy to community in Birmingham


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A new bench, designed by pupils from the University of Birmingham School, was unveiled yesterday (15 June).

The bench marks the completion of the Selly Oak New Road Phase 1B scheme, which consists of significant highway improvements around the ‘Selly Oak Triangle’ on Birmingham’s primary road network.

Year 7 students took up the challenge, with the winning design brought to life and unveiled yesterday by Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar.

It was the first time the students, who are now in Year 8, had seen their winning design in real life. It is located on the footway of Bristol Road near its junction with Oak Tree Lane in Selly Oak, Birmingham.

Ernest Addo-Boateng, Head of Design and Technology at the University of Birmingham School, said: “Our students really enjoyed this project and had so many creative ideas. It’s been fantastic for the pupils to see their design go from a piece of paper to something that the community will enjoy for years to come.”

A key aim of the scheme was to improve connectivity in Selly Oak, with a major focus on upgrading facilities for people walking, cycling and using public transport.

In addition, the team wanted to give something back to the local community that could be enjoyed for years to come. Therefore, local schools were approached in January 2020 to design a bench that represented the area of Selly Oak and its history.

Millie Gough, a pupil at the University of Birmingham School, said: “We wanted to reflect the area’s history in our design. One story is that a witch called ‘Sally’ was hanged from the tree and coined the name ‘Sally Oak’ which later turned into Selly Oak.”

Ralph Murray, also a pupil at the University of Birmingham school, added: “We also wanted the bench to reflect a healthy lifestyle.”

Detailed design started in December 2017, and construction commenced in April 2019. Despite the significant Covid-19 pandemic impact, the scheme was completed in March 2021. 

The design depicts the famous oak tree that formerly stood at the Bristol Road/Oak Tree Lane crossroads, including a witch flying into it. In addition, it also incorporates Queens University Hospital, people playing football and running, and lots of trees and flowers.

Paul Handley, Contracts Manager at McPhillips, said: “The bench is a great addition to the project, and it was an honour for us to be able to bring the children’s fantastic artwork to life.”

More information about the scheme is available on the Birmingham City Council website.


Written by: David Watkins

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