WMCA funding leads to property expansion

More than 3,700 jobs created by fund to kick-start commercial developments.

Multi-million-pound funds to kick-start the regeneration of derelict urban land across the West Midlands have created more than 3,700 new jobs and nearly 1.7 million square feet of commercial floor space.

Latest figures show that 120 acres of former industrial brownfield land, the equivalent of around eighty football pitches, have been transformed into new offices, industrial premises, warehousing and even hotels thanks to a series of loans and grants from the West Midlands Combined Authority.

More than £108 million has been committed through the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund and a further £31 million through the Revolving Investment Fund, with the funds taking on added significance in recent months as the pandemic continues to hit the regional economy.

Both loan funds are being used to unlock difficult sites for commercial and residential development, helping to put in place some of the building blocks needed to drive a sustainable recovery from Covid-19 and help the region recapture its previous economic success.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “Transforming existing brownfield land into new workplaces and communities has been a real success story for the West Midlands and despite the pandemic we have kept on investing in these regeneration projects.

“Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, we have actually secured even more cash from Government for this work, helping to protect our Green Belt while breathing new life into derelict, eyesore sites.

“This ongoing investment will also play a critical role in the region’s economic recovery from coronavirus. By funding schemes like these, we can help guarantee work for local firms while creating new jobs for local people.”

As well as providing loans, WMCA funding is also used to pay for the clean-up of old industrial sites that would otherwise lie neglected and undeveloped because of the high cost faced by potential developers.

Since the pandemic began, the two funds have been used to bring forward a number of schemes including £5.4 million for the construction of the Pioneer Park industrial scheme in Telford creating more than 200 jobs and multi-million-pound deal to build 54,000sq ft of modern industrial and distribution units on 2.7 acres of derelict land in Cakemore Road, Rowley Regis, creating more than 100 job

Latest figures also show that firms moving into the new premises being built will generate an extra £5.5 millin in business rates.

Along with new workplaces, the two funds have also seen 629 new homes being built and the WMCA has hundreds of millions of pounds available in other funds specifically for unlocking brownfield land for new housing.

A focus on brownfield development is a key part of the region’s Kickstarting the West Midlands Economy: Our Investment Case to government – a £3.2 billion investment blueprint which was submitted last year 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.

In December, the West Midlands Combined Authority was awarded more than £51 million, including £24 million from the Government’s £40 million National Brownfield Housing Fund.

Due to the region’s strong performance over recent months in delivering new homes and jobs both at scale and pace, the £51m also included a further £27 million from the Land Fund agreed in the region’s landmark 2018 Housing Deal.

Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council said: “These latest figures show how the WMCA is targeting funding on developments that meet key Covid recovery goals, including more brownfield regeneration and getting people who lose their jobs back into work quickly.

“But at the same time, we are also securing new investment in construction technology and innovation, helping to drive the industries of the future while also giving people the skills needed to work in them.”

Access to both loan funds is provided by Frontier Development Capital Ltd, a fund manager working closely with regional property developers to arrange investments from the WMCA.

FDC’s Head of Property Finance Nick Oakley said: “Our Property Team continues to see that despite the ongoing challenges brought about by Covid-19 the regional property development market remains resilient. The continued investment into regional developments via the WMCA’s CIF and RIF will underpin plans to help the region recover and sustain growth.”