Transforming the Black Country

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MADE Wolverhampton Aerial View. Credit: Black Country LEP

By Stewart Towe, CBE
Chair Black Country LEP

The Black Country LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and its partners have made significant progress in recent years to improve the Black Country economy and the opportunities for the people who live in the area and the people who employ them.

The Black Country LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and its partners have made significant progress in recent years to improve the Black Country economy and the opportunities for the people who live in the area and the people who employ them.

Our Black Country Land Development programme is an important part of our transformational journey and seeks to deliver a wide ranging Brownfield Land site preparation and remediation programme to bring forward a portfolio of strategic sites for Commercial and Residential development in support of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) ambition and objectives.

The Black Country Land Development programme will be invested in tandem with intended housing funds via the WMCA Devolution Deal as well as Growth Deal to transform significant Black Country sites and will work in parallel with other key programmes including delivery of a co-ordinated set of Transport solutions in place to service the sites and ensuring skills for growth and employment for all.

In March 2017 the WMCA awarded £53m to our programme to help landowners and developers redevelop former industrial land in the Black Country.

The money will be put towards the first wave of works in a 364 hectare brownfield remediation programme worth £1.4bn and designed to create more than 12,000 jobs and 13,500 new homes. Once the initial development works are successfully completed the scheme will see further funding from the WMCA of £97m, a total investment of £150m.
This will establish a Black Country Garden City, a High Value Manufacturing (HVM) City and see the development of four strategic centres. The schemes aim to deliver a total of 364 hectares of brownfield land cleaned up by 2026.

The Black Country are committed to working as part of the WMCA to enable growth across the wider area and to use the scale of the CA to enable us to make further, faster progress in the Black Country through projects like the Black Country Land Development programme and the West Midlands Land Commission.

The Land Commission, led by WMCA, will take a fresh look at matters affecting the West Midlands’ land supply. It will consider what measures could be initiated and undertaken to ensure an improved supply of developable land which supports the growth ambitions of business, the housing needs of residents, and the future diversification of the local economy.

The Land Commission will ensure that lack of developable land is not an issue for delivering the WMCA Strategic Economic Plan which aims to create 500,000 additional jobs and secure GVA of 5% higher than the national average by 2030, all of which contributes to the successful delivery of the Black Country Strategic Economic Plan by 2033.

You can read more about our plans for the Black Country Garden City, HVM City and our Strategic Centres at www.blackcountrylep.co.uk and find out more about the wider region plans at www.wmca.org.uk

Black Country Garden City

Our ambition is to accelerate house building and improve our housing mix by treating our supply of brownfield land as an opportunity for imaginative place-shaping and the creation of sustainable communities. We are applying Garden City principles in the Black Country to use the green, cultural, physical and economic assets of the Black Country towns and villages to develop attractive places where people want to live. Our new housing developments will be well-located with direct links to existing communities, and existing and new infrastructure including well performing schools and Active Travel routes.

Black Country Garden City, Accord Housing. Credit: Nick Robinson

Over 20,000 new homes have been built since 2006. We will lever £6bn investment to enable an additional 45,000 homes to be built by 2026. We are working with our local partners, local communities, the house building industry and the Homes and Communities Agency to create new aspirational locations for quality housing. Together these developments will deliver a 21st century Black Country interpretation of a Garden City in an urban setting.

The Garden City will see housing schemes on 202 hectares of remediated land. These include a proposed 836 new home development on 24 hectares of land at Willenhall making the most of the connectivity between Walsall and Wolverhampton; 700 new homes on 39 hectares in Friar Park, Sandwell with land remediation investment managing contamination issues associated with use of the site as a sewage treatment facility and former industrial use; and 900 new homes on 30 hectares in Lye where site remediation will accelerate housing supply, create a package of residential development, relocate industrial sites and improve the environment and infrastructure of the area.

Accord Housing, Black Country Garden City. Credit: Nick Robisnon

High Value Manufacturing (HVM) City

This is a programme of interventions to accelerate the growth of high value manufacturing businesses in the Black Country covering 143 hectares. It capitalises on our clusters of innovative businesses in aerospace, automotive and construction sectors and the new supply chain opportunities arising from developments such as the arrival of the HS2 and the accelerated house building we plan to deliver.

We are developing a portfolio of sites of industrial excellence to enable us to repeat our success at i54 where we brought together location, environmental quality and business excellence attracting high quality blue chip companies such as Jaguar Land Rover and Moog Aerospace. The land identified for the i54 Western Extension is currently being used for agricultural purposes. Investment in land remediation here will help develop the sites for businesses with a view to creating a cluster of major new supply chain companies and in doing so create 2,900 jobs.

The HVM programme also includes sites in the Black Country Enterprise Zone, significant development sites near J10 of the M6 in Walsall which includes a former copper works and refuse tip. Bringing these sites back into use would create up to 2,000 jobs.
Our ambition is to develop the local supply chain, re-shoring activity to the Black Country, generating an additional £1bn GVA, creating in total 25,000 jobs and raising skills and productivity.

Black Country Brownfield Portfolio to 2026.

Strategic Centres

Our four strategic centres, Brierley Hill, West Bromwich, City of Wolverhampton and Walsall Town Centre make a significant contribution to the Black Country economy and will see over 17 hectares remediated for various developments. They provide around a quarter of the area’s jobs, are increasingly important as a location for housing and are a key factor in the Black Country’s attractiveness as a place in which to live, work, visit and invest.

Wolverhampton has seen significant investment with the City Interchange, the University’s City Centre Campus, and the refurbishment of the Mander Centre. The most significant cluster of strategic centre projects in our pipeline is also in Wolverhampton which accounts for over half of the economic growth that we envisage being generated by our strategic centres.

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