Move to demolish industrial estate for major homes plan
An application has been lodged to demolish a crumbling industrial estate to make way for new homes as part of a huge regeneration project.
The ageing Smethwick Enterprise Centre in Rolfe Street, Smethwick, is set to be knocked down as part of a move by Sandwell Council that could eventually see up to 600 new homes built in the neglected area.
The council revealed a year ago it was planning to demolish the buildings on the council-owned industrial estate – giving some of the remaining 35 businesses, which included a homeless charity, a long-standing engineering firm, a dairy and a flooring business, just months to leave and find a new home.
A decision is expected to be made by the council’s planners by the end of the year.
A ‘masterplan’ for the regeneration of Rolfe Street, dubbed the ‘biggest brownfield site in Europe’, was backed by councillors in the summer – with Smethwick Enterprise Centre and council-owned former Rolfe Street Baths among the first in line for the work.
As well as the hundreds of new homes, the masterplan includes a public square, green spaces linking up existing canals in the area; and new connecting points between the train station and the Midlands Metropolitan hospital.
Sandwell Council said the industrial site has been touted for housing as far back as 2008.
As a result, the regeneration of Rolfe Street was included in the council’s plans when it bid for Towns Fund money from the government.
In all, Sandwell was given access to £23.5 million with £2 million going towards demolishing Smethwick Enterprise Centre.
The former industrial estate is a key location in the council’s regeneration plans for the key Smethwick to Birmingham ‘corridor’.
Sandwell Council said some of the units had not been “appropriately maintained” and had “fallen below the standard considered suitable for rental.”
Before being kicked out by Sandwell Council, traders had complained about asbestos, rotting doors and rat infestations and claimed to have witnessed dogging and ducks being shot.
Because of this, two-thirds of the industrial estate lay empty by 2019.
The council said it was not receiving enough rent money to cover costs and “over time the buildings became dilapidated and the maintenance budget was not sufficient to make the necessary repairs.”
In the application by Sandwell Council, a statement said: “The costs of maintaining the site far outweighed the rental being received from the existing tenants which therefore had a knock-on effect on reinvesting rental income back into the site.”
The council said repairing the units at the industrial estate to bring them back up to standard would cost more than £3 million.
This, coupled with no guarantees over whether the refurbished units would have any tenants, the council said demolishing the entire site was the “most cost-effective and land-efficient long-term option.”