Just four sites transferred to central government after the former regional development quango Advantage West Midlands was scrapped have been sold on, it can be revealed today.
It leaves 20 sites across the West Midlands currently in limbo with no confirmed plans after the land got transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency last year.
Two of the four sites the HCA has sold went for no money at all. A quarter-acre part of the Walsall Waterfront went to Urban Splash for a Premier Inn Hotel to be built while the Ifton Colliery Pumping Station in Shropshire was given to Welsh Water.
Bilston Urban Village, a plot of land comprised of the former GKN works and surrounding streets, was bought by Wolverhampton City Council for £560,000. Premier Inn has bought part of the Castle Gate Business Park for £265,000.
Other sites are being marketed or are being worked on by the HCA.
Sites the HCA remains involved in include those where homes are being built, such as the former Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham. The former offices of Business Link, another axed quango, in Halesowen remain empty apart from one floor which has gone to the Health and Safety Executive.
Wolverhampton’s i54 business park is under the control of Staffordshire Council.
There are also concerns taxpayers in the region may have bought some land twice – once through Advantage West Midlands, and a second time from central Government, such as in the case of Bilston Urban Village. AWM used taxpayers money to assemble the land in the first place and then Wolverhampton City Council had to buy it back.
The agency had a portfolio of £107 million worth of taxpayer-owned land earmarked for regeneration in the West Midlands. AWM bought up land, such as the i54, which it then arranged to either decontaminate or clear in order to facilitate development. But the sites left the ownership of the development agency when the Coalition Government scrapped it in June 2011.
Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North and a former West Midlands minister has demanded action on the land. He said: “I want the Government to get a grip, find out what happened, and tell us why this land isn’t being used to benefit local people.”
Government spokesman Dan Palmer said any money raised from sales went back to Government to ensure taxpayers do not lose out. He added that most land is now with the HCA and that local authorities and local enterprise partnerships can have a say on their future development.