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Redevelopment of Aldridge McKechnie factory to go ahead

By Jack Averty | Aldridge | News | Published:

A mammoth factory site that has been plagued by vandals and arsonists is to finally be redeveloped.

An artist's impression of how the redeveloped site could look

The former McKechnie Brass factory has sat abandoned in the middle of Aldridge for nearly four years and has become a hotspot for criminals.

But troubles at the site are set to come to an end after planning chiefs in Walsall approved an application on Thursday night that will see the remains of the factory demolished.

The St Francis Group,based in Aldridge, also received permission to change the use of the site to include light industrial purposes as well as storage and distribution.

Councillor Mike Bird, the leader of the opposition on Walsall Council, said at Thursday's planning committee meeting: "I think we should welcome this application. It is a substantial site and has been a substantial employer in the locality for many years.

"This is something we really need to support. Redeveloping derelict sites is something we need to get right and this development will improve and enhance opportunities in Aldridge."

How McKechnie Brass used to look in 2011

His comments came after a council officer told the committee about the problems the emergency services had been having at the site since McKechnie closed its doors in 2013.

The meeting was told: "This site has had lots of disturbances recently, causing all sorts of problems for the fire service and police with vandals and trespassers. We feel this development will remove the anti-social-behaviour."

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There were no objections from councillors on the night to the plans, as they were approved unanimously after just minutes of discussion. There was little reaction from a full public gallery when it was announced the plans had been approved.

McKechnie dated back more than a century but shut down in 2013 amid debts of £3.8 million, causing 60 job losses.

Before its closure,the site was thought to be the UK’s last remaining factory making brass rods and copper wires for a range of products including copper alloys and padlocks.

Founded in St Helens by Duncan McKechnie, the McKechnie firm moved to Birmingham in 1894 before building its Aldridge factory in 1954.

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Like many manufacturing firms, it had been been hit by the 2008 credit crunch when it made 129 workers redundant and it went in administration in 2011.

It was bought out with the backing of West Midlands industrial group Grove Industries, led by the late David Grove.

Following that, despite a growing order and significant operational improvements, McKechnie was making substantial losses.

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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