Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has explained the crucial role of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in kickstarting the new £11million Sheldon Retail Park.
The Mayor, a retail champion and former CEO of John Lewis, said the WMCA provided £7.35million to ensure derelict land on the two-acre site could be developed.
He spoke at the official opening of the new Marks & Spencer Foodhall today (Wednesday Sept 25), which completes the retail park on the A45 Coventry Road.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street (centre) with Georgie Moseley, founder of the HelpHarryHelpOthers Cancer Charity (to his right yellow top) and Sara Jones, M&S Sheldon Store Manager (to his left). Also pictured are Tim Haslam, managing director of Chase Commercial (left front row) and Gerald Gannaway, investment director at Frontier Development (to his right)
It’s hoped more than 200 jobs will be created at the park, which also features B&M Bargains and The Gym.
Mr Street said: “Marks and Spencer rejected me for their graduate scheme when I was a young adult out of university, but I do not hold a grudge and it was great to be able to open their new Foodhall as part of the £11m Sheldon Retail Park.
“As chair of the WMCA and Mayor of the West Midlands, I have put my retail knowledge and passion into our approach to commercial developments. We are unlocking land that would simply not get developed without our intervention and funding, to enable big projects like the Sheldon Retail Park to go ahead.
“This latest development, which features more than £7m of WMCA funding, mixes traditional retailers with leisure facilities, and it is great to see a high-calibre, high street stalwart like M&S opening a store here.
“The WMCA is committed to helping the high street and investing in land for developments that help to improve local communities – just like Sheldon Retail Park will do.”
The Mayor also praised M&S for its plans for new stores and jobs and for supporting two local charities, as chosen by its staff – homeless charity St Basil’s and cancer charity Help Harry Help Others.
The charity was set up by Harry Moseley before he lost his own battle with cancer in 2011 aged just 11. His mother Georgie, who has kept the charity going in his name, officially cut the ribbon to open the new Foodhall alongside the Mayor.
Sara Jones, store manager at M&S Sheldon Foodhall said: “The team has been working so hard to get ready for the opening and it’s been brilliant to see the community turn out to support us today, joined by the Mayor of the West Midlands and our Sheldon charity of the year, Help Harry Help Others.
“Our shelves are bursting with everything from lunches to go and everyday essentials, through to dinners perfect for sharing with family and friends. We’re excited to be part of the Sheldon community and we can’t wait to get to know our local customers.”
Tim Haslam from developers Chase Midland Estates said funding from the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund had helped to speed up the project.
He said: “M&S was one of the first names to sign up for the Sheldon Retail Park, and we’re proud to have delivered such a high-quality mixed-use scheme for the benefit of local people. The Gym, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, adds local exercise facilities on people’s doorstep, and there has been much excitement from local people about bringing big high street names like B&M and M&S to Sheldon.
“It feels very satisfying to see the retail park fully open and we hope local people will enjoy shopping and exercising here for many years to come.”
Frontier Development Capital Ltd provided access to the funding, and works closely with the WMCA to unlock land for commercial development.
Gerald Gannaway, investment director for Frontier Development Capital’s Property Team, said: “This site at the A45 Coventry Road had been out of use for some time, but the WMCA was able to use money from its Collective Investment Fund to help bring forward the development of Sheldon Retail Park.
“We’re working with the WMCA to unlock land to create job opportunities, leisure facilities and attract top-quality businesses to boost local communities across the West Midlands, and Sheldon Retail Park is a prime example of what can be achieved through our focussed approach.”
The WMCA has set aside hundreds of millions of pounds to kick-start stalled commercial and residential developments, predominantly on brownfield land.
The WMCA is targeting funding on developments that meet its key goals, including tackling youth and long-term unemployment, securing affordable housing, maximising public transport connectivity and supporting advanced methods of construction.
The authority has also set up a Town Centre Taskforce and allocated £20m to help regenerate struggling high streets across the region.