An independent panel of prominent UK property and infrastructure experts was officially launched today (Thursday Sept 8) to help the newly formed West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) unlock hundreds of hectares of undeveloped land.
The West Midlands Land Commission (WMLC) has been set up to provide independent advice and recommendations to the authority as it seeks to secure an improved and balanced supply of land to meet its goals for economic growth, new jobs and housing.
Identifying enough land is considered crucial for the WMCA to meet future housing demand and deliver its Strategic Economic Plan which aims to attract an extra 20,000 businesses to the region by 2030 along with 500,000 new jobs.
The establishment of the WMLC comes as the combined authority seeks to develop an extra 1,600 hectares of former industrial sites, or brownfield land, for commercial use over the coming decade.
Cllr Sean Coughlan, WMCA lead for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, said: “We can’t make any more land and that means we need to make the very best use of the land we have.
“The WMLC will provide an opportunity to consider the many aspects which affect the supply and usage of land across the West Midlands.
“That’s important because we need land to meet the anticipated growth in residential and commercial development which in turn will help drive the economy, meet future housing needs and ultimately improve people’s quality of life.”
Paul Marcuse, a senior and highly respected figure in the real estate sector, has agreed to chair the WMLC which today released a ‘Call for Evidence’.
He said the commission was seeking evidence on a number of lines of enquiry which were designed to consider the challenges in developing land, identifying blockages in the system and to recommend measures which could be implemented to secure a sufficient supply of land for development.
“WMLC is being established at a time of unprecedented opportunity for the region,” he said.
“A combination of the recent establishment of the WMCA and its devolution deal with Government and the very significant infrastructure investment being made in the region provides a singular opportunity to review the wealth of complex issues affecting the supply of land.
“I am delighted to have been invited to chair the WMLC and look forward to working with Cllr Coughlan and colleagues from local government, the real estate industry and employers across the region as we jointly address the many issues which affect the supply of land in the West Midlands.”
Today’s launch of the WMLC is seen as a key element of the combined authority’s devolution deal with Government.
That deal, which saw the first £36.5 million annual payment given to the combined authority only last month, will drive an £8 billion investment package aimed at improving productivity and skills, delivering new transport infrastructure and homes and increasing the general prosperity of the region’s four million people.
But with land supply for employment and residential use already constraining economic growth there are concerns that a lack of land for development could hamper the combined authority’s ability to deliver its Strategic Economic Plan.
The closing date for receipt of written evidence is September 30, 2016.