Families struggling to afford to rent a good quality, energy efficient home are set to benefit from a new Black Country housing scheme, built on derelict land using some of the latest low carbon construction technology. The former Wood & Moore Builders Merchants in Wallows Road, Brierley Hill, which was also previously used as a glassworks, has been unlocked for new residential development thanks to an investment of nearly £700,000 from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The site will be transformed to provide 30 affordable homes for local people to rent through housing provider Citizen Group. The WMCA investment will be used to clean up the two-acre brownfield site and make it ready for development as part of a £5.9m scheme which will also involve a £1.5m investment from Homes England.
The scheme will see regional developer Liberty Developments construct the new homes with more than 25% of them meeting the WMCA’s Zero Carbon homes requirements using advanced methods of construction. These will feature low carbon components produced off-site in factory-controlled conditions and will adhere to the strict criteria needed to meet the zero-carbon target.
The new properties, which will all be made available at affordable rents, will not only include homes that are low carbon in their construction, but also super energy efficient making them much cheaper for tenants to heat and power. Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “Delivering affordable, high quality, energy efficient homes for local people is a key priority for our region.
“This development is another contribution to that overall effort and is a good example of the type of forward-looking housing scheme that would be great to see replicated and scaled up across our region. This scheme breathes new life into a brownfield site whilst helping to protect our precious greenbelt and deploys modern methods of construction, generating jobs for local people.
“Brownfield first housing schemes like this are keeping us on track to achieve our regional target of building 215,000 new homes by 2031. By expanding the provision of affordable, high quality, energy efficient housing, we’re enabling local people to meet their property aspirations.”
Last summer the region launched its Plan for Growth, a roadmap to help level up the West Midlands, drive future prosperity and recapture its pre-Covid position as the fastest growing region outside London. The Plan seeks to combine the power of the private and public sectors around eight clusters, one of which is the manufacture of low carbon, factory-built homes and construction components.
Chair of Liberty Developments, Alan Yates OBE, said: “This is a challenging site, but we were keen to deliver a high-quality development incorporating offsite construction methods and low carbon technologies. The funding has enabled us to unlock this site and the fact that the WMCA is supporting new, regional housing developers such as Liberty Developments shows their genuine commitment to delivering its Plan for Growth with a range of partners.”
Councillor Ian Courts, the WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Solihull Council, added: “I’m particularly pleased that every one of these new homes will made available at affordable rents, providing badly needed homes for local people and those on the lowest incomes.
“Wallows Road is also part of a wider push by the WMCA to see more homes built using modern methods of construction. These construction methods support an emerging cluster of new West Midlands industries that are manufacturing innovative, low carbon, construction products.
“These are the industries of the future that will ultimately help level up our region and drive our future prosperity, while helping us achieve our #WM2041 ambition to become a net zero region within the next two decades.” The Wallows Road homes are the latest of thousands to be built as a direct result of a ‘brownfield first’ approach by the WMCA which has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to unlock and accelerate the regeneration of derelict industrial sites across the West Midlands for new housing, mixed use schemes and commercial premises.
Many of those sites had stood derelict for decades with developers reluctant to take them on because of the high costs associated with cleaning up the land and providing the essential infrastructure for development to take place. The WMCA has targeted funding on cleaning up former industrial land in order to drive forward schemes on locally agreed priority sites.
These investments have often proved the last piece of the jigsaw in getting developments to happen. In return, developers must make a minimum 20% of the new homes affordable using the WMCA's own regional definition of affordability and also show strong commitments to net zero and modern methods of construction.
This has helped the West Midlands earn a reputation as a national leader in brownfield regeneration and housing delivery, using the £700m it has secured from Government since 2018 to unlock wider benefits and outcomes for the whole West Midlands. The region’s Deeper Devolution Deal in March this year also secured up to £500 million to support housing and regeneration projects across the region.
The investment, together with unique powers, offers greater flexibility to drive the on-going transformation of derelict industrial land for new jobs and homes. The new powers will also see a dramatic shift in decision making, with strategic control over future development sitting with the West Midlands rather than Whitehall.