Light shines on historical Smethwick landmark – with a little help from its friends.
One of the Black Country’s most historic industrial sites is looking to be brought back to life thanks to a £25 million regeneration project.
The Chance Brothers ‘Glassworks’ in Smethwick, which in its prime employed 3,500 people and supplied specialist lenses to 2,000 lighthouses across the world, is set to be transformed into a new urban village that has the potential to unlock over 20,000m2 of development space for business, leisure and much-needed housing.
Driven by the vision of the Chance Heritage Trust, the ambitious scheme could bring 2.2 hectares of derelict land and buildings back into use over the next five years, with 500 jobs set to be created if the plans are realised.
The overall scheme will include 160 two-bed apartments, a small conference facility, café, retail space, heritage educational centre, enterprise space and an iconic 30-metre tall lighthouse – a stunning reminder of the world class work that was once completed on this site.
In order to move things forward, the CHT is launching a share option on Saturday February 29th at a special event at Smethwick Library that will give people locally, nationally and overseas the opportunity to be a pioneer and take a share in the project for as little as £20.
It is hoped this will raise £110,000 towards creating final feasibility plans and the appointment of a full-time project manager. There will also be the opportunity to ‘tell your story’ of Chance Brothers and take part in an Antiques Roadshow-style event, where you can get any company memorabilia valued for free.
“The gates on Chance Glassworks closed in 1981 and ever since the buildings have remained derelict and are fast decaying – we needed to find a solution, as it is such a waste of one of the West Midlands’ most historical sites,” explained Mark Davies, Chair of the Chance Heritage Trust.
“We have had the plans drawn up and we have backing from a number of key stakeholders, including the local authorities; now is the time to push on and bring the vision to reality. That’s why we’re kickstarting the share option and hoping to move the project to the next stage by unlocking National Lottery funding and engaging with commercial partners that share our vision.”
He continued: “It used to be such a vibrant site and played an important part in the Black Country’s industrial heritage. The dream is to create a modern-day urban village that can drive jobs, drive investment and become a tourist destination that we can all be proud of.”
The first phase will see the transformation of the seven-storey building and a host of new build development, with the canal arm also set to be introduced.
This will create a focal point to the entrance of the site and immediately offer living space, high-quality offices, incubator space for start-ups and growing local businesses and retail/leisure units on the ground floor.
Acting on behalf of Chance Heritage Trust, Birmingham property consultants Vail Williams LLP recently provided property valuation advice, which will inform the acquisition of the building and phase one development works.
Second phase will focus on the rest of the nine-acre site and include the restoration of canal side buildings, a number of new ‘builds’ and the iconic lighthouse that could feature an original lens loaned by the Scottish Museum of Lighthouses.
Tonia Flannagan, a director on the board, continued: “Smethwick has suffered from a lack of investment and continues to struggle with high unemployment and a lack of skills.
“Bringing the Chance Brothers Glassworks site back to life gives us the perfect opportunity to address some of these issues and we are already looking at innovative ways where we can team up a with a construction company to deliver employment and training opportunities for individuals struggling to find work.
“We can protect our heritage by developing our future, but we need local people, former employees and individuals passionate about Chance’s industrial history to come forward and play their part in the journey.”
Chance Heritage Trust has been supported so far by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, George Cadbury, Lyndon SGB and History West Midlands, with the latter helping to pay for the creation of two promotional videos.