A derelict industrial site in the Black Country is to be transformed into a high-quality industrial scheme thanks to a multi-million-pound investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The 2.7 acre site on Cakemore Road, Rowley Regis has been derelict for a number of years but will now be home to more than 54,000sqft of modern industrial and distribution units which are in short supply across the West Midlands.
The development is expected to provide a much-needed boost for small firms struggling to find suitable premises in which to establish and grow their business, something which is seen as crucial if the regional economy is to successfully recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WMCA has now stepped in with a £3.6m loan deal to help Solihull-based Warmflame Developments Ltd clean up the site, which was previously occupied by engineering and information technology company Invensys, and build the premises which when fully let will be home to around 100 jobs.
Throughout the lockdown period the WMCA has continued to press ahead with its multi-million-pound investment programme to unlock and transform brownfield sites. This has helped to provide market confidence and drive the region’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery, delivering much needed new commercial property, jobs and homes.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, today (Tuesday September 8) visited the site to officially get work on the scheme underway.
“This latest investment by the WMCA is just one part of our much bigger plans to reset, recharge and rebuild the West Midlands economy by investing in the future, protecting existing jobs and creating new ones,” he said.
“This has been a very difficult time for our region’s economy and especially for its thousands of small businesses.
“Yet they are the backbone of our economy and have shown incredible fortitude in the face of this pandemic. I’m pleased that the WMCA has been able to step in and help provide the sort of clean, modern premises they will need to consolidate and expand their businesses, boosting our economic recovery while creating new jobs and opportunities for local people.”
The Warmflame scheme is the latest example of the WMCA’s trailblazing, brownfield-first approach to new commercial and housing developments, which sees derelict industrial sites cleaned up while precious greenbelt land is protected. Access to the funding was provided by Frontier Development Capital Ltd.
A focus on brownfield development also formed part of the region’s £3.2bn investment blueprint which was submitted to Government in July and designed to recharge the regional economy and create long-term prosperity.
Ministers have already signalled their intention to back the blueprint, which had sought extra cash to extend the region’s brownfield-first programme, by announcing a further £84m for the WMCA to accelerate the redevelopment of former industrial land.
Paul Hodge, managing director of Warmflame Developments, said: “The WMCA provides developers like Warmflame Developments with the extra financial capacity to undertake projects like this, taking a brownfield site and regenerating it, thereby adding to the West Midlands growth story. The traditional financing route provides limited support to developers like us and the WMCA fills an important gap in the financing market, while at the same time achieving its overarching goal of growing the West Midlands economy.
“The WD.BOXHUB schemes we are designing are high specification micro and small box units to meet the needs of those SMEs who want to buy or lease good quality accommodation. SMEs have struggled to find business premises that meet with their own vision and aspirations and WD.BOXHUB Rowley Regis is seeking to fill that gap, creating business space to help those firms operate successfully and maximise their potential.”
Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, added: “The WMCA is leading the way nationally in brownfield land regeneration and this latest investment is great news for local firms in need of modern premises.
“But this is just another example of how we are transforming unloved former industrial sites into thriving new business hubs and, as we continue to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, that has never been more urgent.”
WMCA investments to unlock developments on brownfield land are made through the authority’s Single Commissioning Framework, which provides a single set of criteria applied to all housing projects in the region, including requirements on affordable housing, design and modular construction.