Brownfield investments announced to boost post-Covid-19 economic recovery

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has approved a further suite of multi-million-pound investments to unlock and transform former industrial sites across the region including Fountain Lane in Sandwell and Abbotts Lane, Coventry.

As well as providing housing supply, new commercial premises and high-quality public amenities in line with the WMCA Design Charter standards, the investment will help the regional economic recovery following Covid-19, securing hundreds of jobs in a range of sectors.

The announcement from the WMCA’s Investment Board is a strong signal to the market that the region is continuing to use its brownfield site investment to keep the wheels of the economy turning during the unprecedented lockdown and give the private sector the confidence to invest and develop key sites. 

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Despite the challenges we are currently facing, the work of the WMCA continues and investments are being made now that will ultimately help our regional economy bounce back strongly from this crisis.

“It is crucial we keep up momentum in unlocking the region’s brownfield sites to deliver much-needed land for development, safeguarding existing jobs and creating new ones in the process.

“Continuing to move forward with our strategic investment programme will also help maintain confidence in the market. The need to regenerate our derelict urban sites does not stop because of Covid-19, it becomes more important than ever.” 

The Abbotts Lane and Fountain Lane deals follow a series of landmark funding commitments over the last six months for the regeneration of derelict industrial land, often referred to as brownfield. 

Numerous multi-million-pound investments have been signed off by the WMCA’s Investment Board as the region continues to lead the way on brownfield regeneration, economic development and housing delivery. 

The strategic funding programme set out by the WMCA includes commitments to offering affordable homes under the innovative new regional definition of affordability, which is applied to all projects it helps fund. 

It also commits to working with socially conscious developers to design areas with local character, deliver inclusive growth in town centres and growth corridors, provide apprenticeships and build sustainably using advanced low-carbon methods of construction. 

The ongoing investments under the brownfield funding pipeline come as the WMCA continues a positive dialogue with Government on securing more investment to further propel the programme. 

Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, said: “A significant funding package has been agreed to breathe new life into sites across the region, including these two derelict industrial sites in Oldbury and Coventry. Both will help the region’s economy recover following the coronavirus crisis.

“These brownfield sites would most likely remain derelict without the WMCA’s intervention. By stepping in like this we can bring them back into use and help relieve pressure on the Green Belt.

“The building industry will be crucial when we come out of lockdown which is why we are continuing to make these significant investments and help put ourselves on a clear path to economic recovery.”

The derelict Fountain Lane site is located to the north of Oldbury town centre. Once home to industrial units and a foundry, it has been out of economic use since the buildings were demolished a decade ago.

As a result of its previous use, the site needs to be cleaned up and made ready for development.

The Abbotts Lane site, located immediately north of Coventry city centre, was formally used as a National Grid depot and operations centre.

Full details of the schemes at Abbotts Lane and Fountain Lane will be announced in the coming weeks.

As with other sites recently supported by the WMCA, including the former Caparo Steelworks in Walsall, the investment will help reinvigorate the area and enable housing and other amenities to be built for the local community.

The WMCA is investing funding to assist with the cost of delivering the developments, in particular to help make the area both safe and financially viable for future stakeholders.

The developments are expected to create a number of jobs including apprenticeships and opportunities for practical on-site work experience for young people.

The WMCA prioritises investment in brownfield sites located in prominent positions, close to railway stations, office buildings and car parking that will become well-balanced, mixed tenure developments.

Urban centre regeneration is a priority for the WMCA, especially as part of the region’s comprehensive and bold town centre regeneration and renewal programme. 

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