Work to breathe new life into a derelict industrial site close to the heart of Birmingham is being accelerated following a multi-million pound investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
More than £4 million is being made available by the WMCA to clean up and unlock another three acres of brownfield land at Ickneild Port Loop in Edgbaston.
The funding paves the way for developers Urban Splash and Places for People to build a further 138 homes using cutting edge construction technology. At least 20% of these homes will be affordable under the WMCA’s unique definition of affordability.
From left: Nathan Cornish, group director Urban Splash, Angela Heaney, Midlands land director for Urban Splash, Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street and Urban Splash project director Adam Willets
House-building is seen as critical to the West Midlands’ economic recovery from coronavirus as it helps to create and support jobs while also providing certainty for the region’s construction sector. The WMCA, led by Mayor Andy Street, is also committed to a brownfield-first approach to housing, which sees derelict industrial sites cleaned up while precious greenbelt land is protected.
A focus on house-building and brownfield sites formed part of the region’s £3.2bn investment blueprint submitted to Government, with the region seeking extra cash to extend its brownfield-first scheme. Ministers have already signalled their intention to back the region’s plans, with £84m of new investment made available last week.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “One of my key priorities since becoming Mayor has been to been build more homes to meet demand, whilst also protecting precious greenbelt land. Before the coronavirus outbreak we were building record numbers of homes, and doing so on old, derelict, industrial sites, thanks to our brownfield-first approach.
“Now house-building has an even more important role to play in the West Midlands. Not only do we still need to reach our target of 215,000 new homes by 2031 – protecting greenbelt land in the process – but we now need house-building and the wider construction sector to help re-boot our regional economy following the coronavirus pandemic. The Government appears to be behind our plans, and last week wrote us a cheque for £84m to continue our pioneering brownfield remediation work.
“Icknield Port Loop is a prime example of what we are trying to achieve here in the West Midlands, and I am delighted to see this new waterside community come to life.”
Components for many of the new homes at Port Loop, which will eventually be part of a new 1,150 home waterside neighbourhood, are being built off-site in factory conditions using Advanced Manufacturing in Construction (AMC) before being delivered and assembled quickly and efficiently at Port Loop to produce quality homes.
AMC allows entire building sections, complete with insulation, fitted plumbing, electrics and finishes to be manufactured off-site and installed more quickly and with less waste. Last month, ten homes were craned in and assembled at Port Loop in just four days with social distancing in place.
Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, said: “Having been awarded three Structural Timber Awards, a Sunday Times British Homes Award and the prestigious Housing Design Award, the quality of these new homes shows us just how good AMC can be.
“We’re proud that alongside design and construction excellence, we can offer 20% of the homes as affordable housing, under the WMCA’s own locally determined definition.
“What the project results in is a shining example of the sort of housing developments on derelict industrial land that will help us secure a green and inclusive economic recovery for the West Midlands.
“We are doing this through making homes more sustainable and affordable whilst also providing jobs, training courses and apprenticeships for local people to get the skills needed to work in the AMC sector.”
Mark Farmer, chair of the WMCA's AMC advisory panel, added: “The announcement of this funding deal demonstrates the clear commitment that WMCA has towards not just delivering more high quality housing in the West Midlands but in driving forward its ambitious AMC agenda.
“Urban Splash are at the forefront of housing design and production innovation and through their Memorandum of Understanding with the WMCA both parties are now leading the way in modernising how we build new homes in this country.”
The pioneering Port Loop development is being delivered by a joint venture partnership of Urban Splash and Places for People, alongside the landowners Canal & River Trust and Birmingham City Council.
Speaking on behalf of the joint venture partners, project director Adam Willets, said “Innovative and forward-thinking construction methods are helping us create a sustainable new community at Port Loop.
“We have been working alongside architects ShedKM and Glenn Howells to create a diverse housing offering, with typologies which have been designed with internal layouts that provide flexible space for residents.
“Using sustainable modular construction technology enables us to spend more time on developing quality inside and outside spaces for a growing city.”
When completed, Birmingham’s newest waterside neighbourhood will include more than 1,000 homes over 43 acres and new spaces for walking and cycling along the Old Line canal.
More than 100 of the homes have been delivered or are onsite and 40 are already occupied by residents who started moving in last year. A one-acre public park has also been completed and is the first of many green spaces that will eventually feature at Port Loop which is located off Ickneild Port Road.
In March, WMCA and Urban Splash signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will aim to deliver almost five percent of the 215,000 new homes the WMCA’s wants to see built in the region by 2031.