A multi-million-pound investment package to drive forward the next phase of a forward-thinking housing scheme in central Birmingham has been confirmed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The funding commitment will now trigger detailed negotiations with award winning developer House by Urban Splash to transform another six acres of derelict land at Port Loop in Icknield Port Road, Edgbaston, delivering a further 133 factory-built modular homes.
Once complete, Port Loop will see 43 acres of derelict industrial land transformed into a new 1,150-home waterside district featuring two, three and four-bedroom houses, apartments, public and communal green spaces, cultural hub Tubeworks, and new spaces for walking and cycling along the nearby Old Main Line Canal.
CGI showing canal-facing Town House at Port Loop, this new towpath/access will make Port Loop an island on foot, bike and water
The new neighbourhood has already received praise for its use of Advanced Manufacturing in Construction (AMC) techniques with low carbon, energy efficient homes built in a Midlands factory before being transported and assembled on site.
The Port Loop investment is the latest from the WMCA’s nationally acclaimed devolved housing and regeneration programme – providing new homes, jobs and commercial floorspace while supporting the West Midlands’ economic recovery from the Covid pandemic and its #WM2041 ambition to be a net zero carbon region within the next 20 years.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “Port Loop is a great example of how the West Midlands is leading the way nationally in bringing derelict former industrial land back into use for homes and jobs. By building affordable, low carbon homes, on sites like this not only are we helping to protect the Green Belt while creating new jobs and communities, we’re also helping to tackle the region’s climate emergency as part of our #WM2041 plans.
“As the home of the green industrial revolution we are driving forward modern ways of building to make homes more sustainable and affordable and support the new low carbon industries that will help create the well-paid jobs of the future.”
The pioneering Port Loop development has so far been delivered by a joint venture partnership of Urban Splash and Places for People, alongside the landowners, Birmingham City Council and the Canal & River Trust charity.
House by Urban Splash, the modern housebuilder owned by Urban Splash, Sekisui House, Japan’s largest housebuilder, and Homes England, the government’s housing agency will be delivering the latest phase.
As with all WMCA investments at least 20% of the new homes will be required to be classed as affordable under the combined authority’s own definition of affordability which is linked to real-world local wages rather than property prices.
The WMCA Board approval of the commitment into the next phase of the development follows a £4m investment by the combined authority last year into Phase 2 of Port Loop which unlocked three acres of brownfield land and paved the way for Urban Splash to build 138 homes.
Guy Ackernley, residential director, Urban Splash, said: "In two short years, Port Loop has completely transformed. What was once a disused, rundown former industrial patch of land, has fast become a vibrant, award-winning place in which hundreds of people now live, work and play.
“The presence of pioneering cultural organisations like Civic Square and Yard (MAIA Group) Art House, as well as green space – including the first Port Loop Park, South Loop Green – and our architecturally striking homes, have helped to rapidly establish this as one of the city’s go-to neighbourhoods.”
Components for many of the new homes at Port Loop are built using Advanced Manufacturing in Construction (AMC) techniques which allow entire building sections, complete with insulation, fitted plumbing, electrics and finishes, to be manufactured off-site and installed more quickly and with less waste.
The technique not only produces high quality, precision-built homes but also dramatically cuts construction time. During Phase 2 of Port Loop last summer, ten homes were craned in and assembled in just four days despite social distancing measures being in place.
The WMCA sees the greater use of AMC as critical in building more homes faster on former industrial (brownfield) land which is a key priority in the region’s Covid recovery strategy
Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and leader of Walsall Council, said: “The use of cutting-edge building techniques by Urban Splash is delivering very high-quality, energy efficient homes at Port Loop and their design and innovation has landed a number of prestigious awards.
“It’s the sort of fast, energy efficient development we want, and need, to see repeated on derelict industrial land across the region to help us meet our house building targets and support our #WM2041 ambition to be a net zero region within the next 20 years.
“By investing in forward looking schemes like Port Loop we can also ensure that at least 20% of these new homes are classed as affordable for local people. At the same time, we are funding training programmes to give those working in the construction industry the skills needed to build this new style of homes.”
Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Ian Ward, added: "We're delivering affordable green homes for Birmingham's growing population and Port Loop is a fantastic example of partnership working and innovation. This scheme has already won lots of well-deserved praise and this next exciting phase continues the development of a unique new neighbourhood."
Last year the WMCA and Urban Splash signed a strategic partnership deal which aims to deliver almost five percent of the 215,000 new homes the WMCA wants to see built in the region by 2031.
The deal brings together public and private sector skills and investment to unlock complex brownfield sites and ease pressure on the Green Belt. It also involves Urban Splash investing in the acquisition, planning, promotion and delivery of housing development sites to deliver high quality, award winning and sustainable communities at ‘scale and pace’.