Prime minister announces further £84m for West Midlands
Up to 7,500 new homes across the West Midlands are to be built on former industrial land after Boris Johnson today announced an extra £84m to expand the region’s trailblazing brownfield regeneration programme.
Unveiling a £5bn infrastructure investment package to help drive the UK’s post-Covid-19 recovery during a visit to Dudley, the prime minister revealed his economic stimulus included £400m to support brownfield redevelopment across Britain – something the West Midlands has been campaigning for.
The prime minister’s decision to award more than a fifth of that funding to the region means hundreds more acres of derelict land can now be regenerated, building on the footsteps of numerous stalled schemes the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has unlocked over the last two years.
Since the £100m Brownfield Fund was given to the WMCA as part of its housing deal in March 2018, sites such as Friar Park in Sandwell, the largest brownfield housing site in the region, have been made ready for redevelopment by the WMCA.
Last week the region submitted a £3.2bn West Midlands investment plan to government, which included a request for further funding for brownfield land regeneration.
Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The West Midlands has been leading the way since 2018 on regenerating brownfield land to create thousands of new homes, and I am pleased the prime minister has given us the cash needed to keep the work going at pace. It is also encouraging that just one week after submitting our £3.2bn investment plan to government, one of the requests has already started to come to fruition.
“Our Brownfield First policy is critical as it not only regenerates contaminated, derelict old land – which in some cases has blighted communities for decades – but it also allows us to protect our precious greenbelt at the same time.
“This latest funding will allow hundreds more acres of former industrial land to be developed into thousands of new homes, something that will be critical as we look to re-boot our economy following the coronavirus pandemic.”
The mayor said the region was now ready to move quickly in deploying the new funding using its widely acclaimed Single Commissioning Framework to support the creation of vibrant new communities, affordable homes, innovative construction methods and quality place making, building momentum for a regional recovery.
Cllr Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council and WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land, said: “Our economic recovery from Covid-19 gives us an opportunity to build back better, by providing quality, affordable homes and decent jobs for local people in a way that protects our environment.
“Our Brownfield First policy means we are using our funding to drive new developments on derelict, former industrial land wherever possible.
“This funding means the WMCA can continue to ‘invest to unlock’ and clean up brownfield land for developers while laying down minimum standards of affordability, design and energy efficiency.”
The brownfield package announced by the prime minister for the West Midlands will see:-
- Construction commencing on new homes as quickly as possible
- Land in the region’s comprehensive brownfield sites pipeline accelerated
- The WMCA supporting advanced manufacturing in construction (AMC) techniques in projects it helps fund and support in order to speed up construction and deliver energy efficient homes for local people
- The delivery of a minimum 20 per cent of affordable housing in WMCA funded schemes using the authority’s new, local definition of ‘affordable’
- Funding delivered through the procedures and principles set out in the WMCA Single Commissioning Framework, and continuously monitored to ensure delivery of those requirements on the ground.
Prominent projects announced or underway as part of the WMCA’s ‘Brownfield-First’ strategy using funding previously awarded to the region include:
- Friar Park, the largest brownfield housing site in the region, now becoming a 750-home community in Sandwell. The scheme follows the purchase of an old sewage works by the WMCA which had sat derelict for more than 30 years with no developer taking it on
- Steelhouse Lane in Wolverhampton – 151 new homes at a former industrial site
- Bull Street in West Bromwich, an abandoned multi-storey car park to be turned into new homes
- The demolition of the eyesore Cavendish House office block in Dudley which will form the Portersfield development featuring retail, leisure and housing.
The WMCA submitted a business case last year for new brownfield funding that could be deployed within 12 months to build on the nationally leading work in brownfield regeneration and housing delivery undertaken by the WMCA since it was formed.
The business case provided evidence of how the West Midlands had the capability, pipeline of projects and capacity to make that happen while highlighting the delivery record of the WMCA.
Today’s announcement also follows an effective 12-month lobbying campaign by the region for more funding for brownfield regeneration.
While the £84m funding is seen as a welcome step, it remains just the latest tranche of investment that the West Midlands needs from government if it is to unlock the region’s huge brownfield regeneration ambitions.
The WMCA is seeking more funding so it can further realise its true potential and ambition for urban regeneration and the delivery of high-quality affordable homes.
With an impressive pipeline of projects and close, productive relationships between the public sector and business community, the West Midlands programme aims to continue leading the way nationally in brownfield land regeneration.