The West Midlands Combined Authority mayor, Andy Street has revealed plans for a £3.2 billion local recovery. The Blueprint was drawn up by the area’s political, business and trade union leaders, has local cross-party backing, and has urged central Government to work with them to “reset, rebuild and recharge” the region.
The investment case to Government proposes supporting local industry alongside commitments to invest in transport, housing and people – creating or maintaining more than 135,000 jobs in the process.
While much has been made of its ideas to support green manufacturing – including headline grabbing proposals for a new electric car battery factory, for example – there is plenty of support for numerous infrastructure and construction projects within the report which will be of interest to ACE members.
Commenting on the Blueprint’s release, chair of ACE Midlands and Regional Director for Infrastructure and Environment at Waterman, Ruth Jeffs said: “The Mayor has pulled together a compelling set of proposals aimed at securing the funding needed for the West Midlands to proactively emerge from the crisis.
“It is, of course, great to see a role for infrastructure and construction recognised within this, but also welcome to see a strategic approach being taken with HS2. The region has identified some of the opportunities that the high-speed line will bring, and is proposing to leverage further developments around it.”
“Whatever the Government’s response, ACE members in the West Midlands look forward to engaging with the Mayor, and other local stakeholders, to turn some of these proposals into reality as we kickstart a local economic recovery.”
HS2 is rightly identified as a key new business opportunity for the region which will deliver local jobs in its construction phase but which can also be leveraged for further growth.
For example, the Blueprint asks for £95m to accelerate the development of the first HS2 interchange north of London at UK Central, for £70m to regenerate the wider Curzon Street and Digbeth areas through the Martineau Galleries development, and £61m to develop a creative and cultural hub. These would bring forward the creation of 30,000 jobs and 4,300 new homes.
An investment in infrastructure
An investment of £330m in shovel-ready transport infrastructure schemes to improve metro, rail and bus services and roads in the West Midlands will deliver 3,900 job years in construction in the short-term, and longer term benefits two to three times their costs. This will also improve access to job opportunities and improve productivity.
Coupled with this, the report has highlighted a number of investments in digital infrastructure - £28m to develop accelerator hubs to enhance digital connectivity and boost regional productivity, and £16m to accelerate the delivery of fibre connectivity in deprived areas. This will mean more than 350,000 more homes and businesses benefitting from full fibre and 5G coverage.
The report has identified £200m to unlock and accelerate the regional pipeline of brownfield sites, alongside additional new funding for a National Brownfield Institute in Wolverhampton.
In addition, a £400m investment in affordable housing for the region is proposed to tackle acute housing affordability, including a “Homes for COVID Heroes” key worker programme. Together they expect to deliver 35,000 new homes, 15,000 of which will be affordable.
Future of construction
The blueprint has asked for £50m enabling funding to bring forward and support the delivery of land supply, skills, factories and technology that will accelerate the development and deployment of the latest advanced building techniques.
Building on the area’s unique manufacturing heritage, the Blueprint’s ambition is for the West Midlands to become an international epicentre of Advanced Manufacturing in Construction (AMC). The region has committed to transforming the way homes in the region and beyond are built, shifting the focus to precision manufacturing, mass production and customisation and ensuring high quality jobs and private sector investment flow from that.