Express & Star

Work starts on transforming derelict Black Country foundry into new neighbourhood

Work has started to transform a former industrial site in the Black Country into more than 200 homes.

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From left to right: Councillor Rajbir Singh, leader of Sandwell Council, Stuart Penn, Regional MD of Lovell, and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands

The clearance of the site, a former foundry in Fountain Lane, Oldbury was supported by a £3.95 million investment from the Brownfield Land Fund announced by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) earlier this year.

The former foundry was demolished in 2003, and the site has since stood derelict for almost 20 years. The clean-up paves the way for housing developer Lovell Partnerships to build 234 new homes, which is the latest to be regenerated under the WMCA’s ‘brownfield first’ policy.

The multi-million pound fund, first secured by the authority in 2018 from the central government as part of its Housing Deal, unlocks derelict sites for new development, helps to protect green belt land in the region and creates new jobs and homes.

WMCA investments such as Fountain Lane have continued throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, helping to provide market confidence and put in place the building blocks required to drive the region’s post-pandemic economic recovery plans.

The investment requires at least 20 per cent of the new homes to be classed as affordable under the combined authority’s own definition of affordability which is linked to real-world local wages rather than property prices. The Fountain Lane scheme will exceed that with 49 per cent of the new homes being offered through affordable rent and shared ownership tenures.

New life – The Fountain Lane site in Oldbury

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chairman of the WMCA, said: “Housebuilding on brownfield land has been one of the region’s real success stories of recent years, and it is brilliant that we’re keeping up that momentum and not being knocked off course by the pandemic.

“Work commencing at Fountain Lane also comes at a critical time as we look to protect the Black Country’s irreplaceable greenbelt by continuing to bring forward brownfield land sites for development.

“The WMCA will continue to work with partners to use the cash it has won from Government to clean up eyesore sites all across the West Midlands, helping to pave the way for new communities and truly affordable homes.”

Regional managing director for Lovell Partnerships, Stuart Penn, said: “We are so pleased to see work getting underway on site for this latest development with the WMCA. Together we aim to create a lasting legacy in Oldbury and for the residents of the Black Country. The high-quality homes we build and jobs we provide in the process will contribute massively to the post-pandemic economic bounce back in the region.”

Leader of Sandwell Council, Councillor Rajbir Singh, said: “This prominent site has been vacant for a number of years. It’s always very challenging to bring land like this back into productive use given the industrial legacy that it comes with.

“We’re delighted to be working with the developer and the WMCA breathing new life into the site and providing much-needed new, and affordable housing for the people of Sandwell.”

Councillor Mike Bird, portfolio holder for housing and land, and leader of Walsall Council, added: “WMCA’s brownfield regeneration programme has continued throughout the pandemic and is increasingly seen as nationally leading.

“Not only is Fountain Lane another great example of how we are investing now to support the region’s economic recovery from Covid-19, it also another step towards achieving our ambition of building the 215,000 new homes the West Midlands will need by 2031.

“Many of these brownfield sites we are unlocking have stood neglected and unused for decades and would remain that way without critical investment by the WMCA. If we had not used the housing and land funds we have secured from the government, Fountain Lane could not have proceeded.”

Fountain Lane is part of a partnership agreement struck between Lovell and the WMCA in September 2019, bringing together public and private sector skills and investment to accelerate the unlocking of old industrial land for development.

The agreement aims to deliver 4,000 new homes over eight years, boosting the region’s efforts to build 215,000 new homes by 2031.

Access to funding for the Fountain Lane scheme was provided by Frontier Development Capital Ltd (FDC), a fund manager working closely with property developers to arrange investments from the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund (CIF), Revolving Investment Fund (RIF) and Brownfield Land and Property Development Fund (BLPDF).