Express & Star

New images show 'stunning’ progress on Walsall land left empty for 20 years

Bird's eye images show the ‘stunning’ progress being made to clean up more than 40 acres of land which has lain empty for two decades.

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Aerial view of the Spark site in Walsall as of November 2023. PIC: HBD

Work is currently taking place on Spark, previously known as Phoenix 10, off Reservoir Place, Walsall, to make it ready for the creation of industrial space to let and create more than 1,000 new jobs for the area.

Contractor John F Hunt has so far excavated and treated 1.3 million tonnes of soils which will be reused on the site while 150,000 tonnes of concrete has been crushed and processed to produce recycled aggregate.

Bosses at developer HBD and Walsall Council said the work is progressing well and the clean up operation should be completed by next summer.

Last month, a ‘reserved matters’ planning application was submitted to the authority seeking permission for the first three units to be built on site.

A decision is expected in January and, if granted, it is anticipated construction work will begin shortly after the clean-up is completed.

In the application, HBD said: “The redevelopment of the James Bridge Copperworks will be an employment led development of strategic importance, not only locally, but also regionally.

“It is therefore critical that the proposals are of the highest quality, with the site master planned so that it maximises the benefits for the occupiers, users and neighbours alike.

“Key to this objective has been the considered siting of buildings within a well-designed and appropriately landscaped estate road infrastructure, which will combine access by all available modes of transport, giving high priority to pedestrians.”

Aerial view of the Spark site in Walsall as of November 2023. PIC: HBD

The work marks the end of the long-running saga of the battle to clear the site, which was once home to James Bridge Copperworks, for more than 20 years.

A deal was eventually struck between property developer HBD, Walsall Council and Homes England to transform the 44-acre land with funding being provided by the partners as well as Black Country LEP and West Midlands Combined Authority.

Outline planning permission for the redevelopment of the site was granted back in 2021.

Walsall Council deputy leader Adrian Andrew said: “This is brilliant progress. This is going to be a site that is going to create employment space for 1,000-1,500 local people to get local jobs and bring in that investment into the heart of Walsall.

“The work is incredible. To keep seeing that progress is unbelievable. The fact that all the concrete has practically gone, the soil is being stacked up ready to be put back, work is being done on the canal.

“A reserved matters application is in for the next phase already is just amazing news.

“Most of the stuff hasn’t been taken off site and materials which have are those that can be used for recycling. It’s being done in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

“We’ve been living with this for the best part of 20 years so to think the clean up works could be finished by next summer is stunning.”

Aerial view of the Spark site in Walsall as of November 2023. PIC: HBD

Justin Sheldon, Head of Region, HBD, said: “Spark is one of the most significant regeneration schemes in the Midlands, particularly in terms of the inward investment value and job creation.

“It’s fantastic to now be able to move onto the next phase of development at the site and we look forward to seeing the scheme begin to take shape.

“It’s extremely well-located, which has helped to drive strong interest from potential occupiers which is very positive.”