Expansion works on a major Midlands business park are running ahead of schedule with the construction of fully-serviced factory platforms now underway.
Advanced works involving site clearance, land investigation and testing across a 60-acre site at i54 South Staffordshire were completed last week, just two months after the opening of a newly-built access road – and while following the Government’s Covid-19 safety guidelines.
The western extension at i54, which is located on the county border with the City of Wolverhampton, will deliver up to 100,000 square metres of ready-made development platforms for companies at what is a globally-recognised advanced manufacturing employment zone.
The main works are expected to be completed next year and it is anticipated new occupiers could start arriving from 2022, providing around 1,700 new jobs for local residents.
The current i54 site has a workforce of over 2,500 people, with half of the jobs held by people living within a ten-mile radius. City of Wolverhampton Council, Staffordshire County Council and South Staffordshire Council have agreed a funding and delivery strategy for the initial 60 acres of the extension.
In addition to the councils’ investment, there has been strong support and financial commitment from the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “i54 plays a major part in the lives of thousands of people in Wolverhampton and south Staffordshire and, at this worrying time with Covid-19, it is more important than ever that we can make rapid progress on projects such as this and welcome new investment.
“We see the western extension as critical to the long-term recovery of our local economy after the crisis. Our joint investment at i54 has secured hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and has brought thousands of jobs to the area, with half of employees living within a ten-mile radius. We are now building on the success of what is already one of the UK’s premier advanced manufacturing business parks.”
Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader, Councillor Mark Winnington, added: “We’re pleased to have maintained construction work on our major projects site where possible, so we can maintain long-term economic stability. The safety of public and our teams remains the top priority. It’s great to visit the i54 South Staffordshire western extension site to see the progress made.
“This is vital work that will support our economy in getting back on its feet post-Covid-19. This is a critical project for our partnership and we know there is still high demand for businesses to locate here. That is why we made the decision to expand the site. We anticipate the western extension could generate hundreds more jobs and lever in millions of pounds’ worth of private investment. Successful business parks like i54 South Staffordshire generate business rates which support the funding of public services.”
South Staffordshire Council Leader, Councillor Brian Edwards MBE, said: “All of the partners associated with i54 South Staffordshire are committed to supporting the local economy and bringing more jobs and investment to the area.
“Our award-winning work continues at pace despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the new western extension is really starting to take shape and show its full potential now the construction of the fully-serviced factory platforms is underway. It’s encouraging news about this outstanding business location and I’m very proud to support this project.”
The western extension scheme brings a plan to boost employment skills, training and recruitment to local people with a £150,000 contribution – helping them to access the newly generated jobs.
The partners have also agreed a further £500,000 to support and promote sustainable travel activities, and £50,000 has been granted to Pendeford Hall Nature Reserve to help continue and develop its education, health and wellbeing, and personal and social skills development outdoor activities for local communities.
More than £1 billion has so far been invested in the original i54 site, with 2,700 people employed by multi-national companies JLR, Moog, ISP, Eurofins, ERA and Atlas Copco. Morris Site Machinery, one of the leading site machinery businesses, is also well underway with its new facility.
Over 3,500 students have also benefitted from a targeted skills and education programme.