Part of the iconic former MG Rover car plant at Longbridge, which once employed thousands of people in the West Midlands, is to be brought back to life, with hundreds of homes and jobs to be created.
Some 350 homes and 900,000sq ft of commercial floorspace will be built at the derelict West Works site, under ambitious plans being spearheaded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The plant's closure 15 years ago, with the loss of the remaining 6,000 jobs, dealt a severe blow to the region. Many from the Black Country worked at the famous site over the years.
Now a £6 million investment package from the WMCA will allow developer St Modwen to move forward with the scheme on the 75-acre site.
St. Modwen has already overseen the regeneration of around half the wider Longbridge works which it bought in 2003, but officials say the West Works site has remained a major missing piece in the area’s regeneration jigsaw.
Once finished, the £1bn transformation of the entire former car plant is expected to have created up to 4,000 new homes, two millon sq ft of commercial development and 10,000 jobs.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who heads up the combined authority, has made regenerating brownfield sites, such as former factory works, one of his top priorities.
He said: “The closure of Longbridge’s MG Rover Plant in 2005 was one of the darkest days in the history of the West Midlands, and one that symbolised our region’s economic decline.
“Having spent some time growing up in Northfield I know just how iconic the site is, and I know that for 15 years now people have waited for its regeneration to finally heal one of our biggest, and most painful, economic scars. That is why I am delighted that the WMCA has been able to step in and help unlock the last major part of the site to be developed.
“Over the past four years one of the real strengths of the West Midlands has been using Government money to clean up derelict industrial land to pave the way for development, and industrial land doesn’t come much bigger or more iconic than the Longbridge West Works.
“Now instead of looking back over 15 years of pain, we can look forward to the thousands of new jobs, commercial premises, and hundreds of homes that will be coming to Longbridge.”
At its height in the 1960s, Longbridge was one of the world’s biggest car factories, employing tens of thousands of people producing ground-breaking vehicles like the Mini. A steady decline over the 1980s and 90s led to the collapse of MG Rover in 2005.
Since St. Modwen acquired the site, the ongoing redevelopment of Longbridge has already created over 3,000 permanent jobs, 1,450 new homes and over 1m sq.ft. of employment space, delivering a £250m a year boost to the economy.
Sarwjit Sambhi, chief executive of St. Modwen, said: “Unlocking West Works is a huge milestone for Longbridge and we are delighted to move forward in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority.
“Building the site infrastructure will accelerate the creation of 5,000 new jobs, 350 new homes and open up 27 acres of space for the public to enjoy along the River Rea.
“We’re already seeing strong interest from occupiers in Longbridge Business Park and the WMCA contribution will ultimately lever in up to £300m in private sector investment at West Works. This investment highlights the major contribution Longbridge is making to Birmingham and West Midlands.”