Following a successful competitive tender process, Birmingham City Council appointed McPhillips as the principal contractor for the Snow Hill Public Realm Project 1.1 Colmore Row and Livery Street on an NEC Option C contract.

The area around Snow Hill Station and Colmore Row is a major business hub in Birmingham City Centre, in particular for the financial services sector.

In line with a series of strategic initiatives currently driving improvements to the city, the main objective for this development was to create a more attractive, safe and useable public realm. Included within these aspirations were:

  • Enhancing the area surrounding Snow Hill Train Station.
  • Improving the landscape and uplifting the quality of paving materials used in the area.
  • The sympathetic treatment of the historic Colmore area.
  • Better air quality through an enhanced pedestrian environment.
  • Reducing vehicle congestion.


Due to the project running whilst COVID restrictions were in place and then later relaxed, our teams faced a number of key challenges…

The health and wellbeing of the workforce and all other parties was the highest priority.

Unpredictability of labour resources both directly, with subcontractors and equally within the supply chain.

Stakeholder management – meeting the needs of local businesses – supermarkets, banks, cafes and both public and private transport companies.

Dealing with greater footfall in and around the site following the relaxation of COVID restrictions.

Agreeing a workable plan with the local transport network – buses, trams and taxis for the scheduling of time-sensitive resurfacing works.

The handling of expensive, high-quality granite paving materials. A mixture of specific shapes and colours, these materials were imported from China and any replacements would be subject to a procurement lead time of 12 weeks.

The layout of the site precluded the opportunity to set-up a compound for materials storage.

Following inspection by a BCC tree expert, due to their condition we were advised to remove six existing mature trees in the southern footway, which were not due for removal.


To mitigate directly against COVID, robust measures were introduced which included; revised procedures for general site operations, reduced numbers of personnel in vans, new cleaning and ventilation procedures and where possible virtual meetings.

A designated Project Liaison Officer was appointed by McPhillips to work closely with affected parties throughout the project, especially local frontages advising them of planned work and the potential disruption to their businesses. Weekly progress briefs were emailed to key stakeholders.

Walkways were created for access to businesses. Taxi ranks and bus stops were repositioned, new directional signage was created to advise pedestrians of these temporary arrangements.

Following the relaxation of COVID restrictions, to meet the increase in footfall new pedestrian layouts were created which included 3m wide walkways.  New signage was produced to promote social distancing, protecting both the public and site personnel.

To minimise the impact of resurfacing work to the transport network, the majority of road resurfacing work was carried out during night time closures, effective from 9pm. Some of the final surfacing was value engineered using materials which required less curing time, therefore enabling a faster reintroduction of traffic.

In order to reduce the risk of damage to the high-quality granite paving materials, a designated team was handed the responsibility of preparing the specific mix of shapes and colours per the design criteria, and transporting them safely to the site.

A compound was created off-site and all bulk materials were handled as small loads. The materials used on the project included; 2,800m2 granite paving slabs, 950m of granite kerbs and 22 bespoke hostile vehicle mitigation granite benches.

For the removal of trees in the southern footway, the task was to excavate and protect existing services with a root barrier membrane (there were many existing services for connections to adjacent buildings), install ArboRaft crates, an anchor system and fill with ArboRaft soil.

In order for the new trees to grow in the right conditions, we excavated a tree pit big enough for the trees to achieve the required volume of nutrient rich soil and sufficient space for the roots to spread. The landscaping subcontractor then commenced with planting the trees and fitting the irrigation system around the root ball.


Despite the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was delivered on-time and within budget. It is widely regarded as an example of a successful multi-disciplinary approach to the delivery of a large scheme within a high profile city centre environment.

The carbon footprint of the project was reduced significantly by the re-use of materials excavated on site during construction – 95% of suitable material and 200 tonnes of carriageway planings were re-used as general fill.

Additionally, with 80% of McPhillips’ employees living within 20 miles of our West Midlands based office and 13 full-time personnel residing within the Birmingham area, commutes were reduced and the use of public transport was encouraged.

The improved public realm in front of Snow Hill Station and along Colmore Row has created a much more attractive, safe, and useable area. It is hoped that this enhancement will provide a boost to the local economy by attracting more people into the area and encouraging business growth.

McPhillips’ Project Manager Paul Handley commented: “ When you are working on projects in city centres, there are always a number of challenges that we face.

“However, due to this project straddling COVID restrictions and the subsequent relaxation, managing expectations from both stakeholders and the public had to be carried out sympathetically, without compromising our works.

“We are delighted to have played our part in a hugely successful project, which has transformed the public realm in front of Snow Hill Station and along Colmore Row.”

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