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07/07/2015
After one year, LEP Growth Deal projects are building a better Black Country
• £162m Government funding invested in 14 projects across the Black Country to 2021
• Investment generated an additional £312m public and private investment.
• Growth deal projects to create at least 5,000 new jobs and 1,400 new homes.


The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership’s transformational £500 million Growth Deal is taking shape one year on since Prime Minister David Cameron announced the Black Country Growth Deal on 7 July 2014.

Stewart Towe, Black Country LEP Chair said: "It’s time to celebrate the Black Country LEP’s Growth Deal projects becoming shovel ready. This follows a year of hard work to develop robust projects by the LEP Board and all our project partners from Local Authorities to Universities, College and Local Training companies. The scale of our Growth Deal, with £162m Government funding leveraging nearly £500m total investment until 2021 is a vote of confidence in the Black Country’s dynamic economic future.”

Greg Clark, Communities Secretary, said:  "Our aim is simple, to enable local areas to take the lead in creating jobs, nurturing businesses, building homes and improving services. Here in the Black Country we’ve allocated £162m of Growth Deal funding for projects identified by the local LEP and its partners.  I am delighted to see the fantastic progress already being made, with many of the projects supported building on the Black Country’s proud manufacturing tradition."

£24 million is on course to be spent across the projects in this financial year, highlights include:

 Goscote Lane Corridor housing development of 741 homes on three related vacant brown field sites in the Blakenall area of Walsall, totalling 21 hectares. The work will be accompanied by environmental and infrastructure improvements to adjacent public open space as well as delivering employment and training opportunities for local people.

• The first phase of the Wolverhampton Interchange project, which included the city’s new bus station serving local, regional and national operators, improved access to the railway station and 20,000 sq ft (1,858 m2) of retail and leisure development was completed in 2012. The next phase will take these improvements a step further by linking rail, road, tram, pedestrians and cyclists seamlessly to deliver a fully integrated transport hub fit for the 21st Century.
 
• The Growing Priority Sectors Fund for 2015/18 is now open for business. The fund has £6m available to invest in Black Country Businesses that are looking to expand and create new jobs. Over the next three years the programme is looking to support over 30 businesses, attract in £17m of private sector investment and create 600 jobs. The fund is available for businesses of all sizes, not just SMEs, with growth projects that cannot find adequate finance from elsewhere. 

Grants will range from £100,000 to a maximum of £1m and are available for capital investment in plant, machinery and property.

In order to continue the success of the Black Country Growth Deal, and with the expectation that further national funds could be released later in the future, the Black Country LEP are seeking to create a pipeline of potential commercial capital regeneration projects. Commercial proposals to accelerate economic growth from £250,000 to £20 million will be considered.
 
The Black Country Growth Deal Projects

SKILLS FOR THE SUPPLY CHAIN

1. Dudley College - Centre for Advanced Building Technologies
 
Work on Dudley College’s £11.6 m Centre for Advanced Building Technologies is well underway.

Construction will commence around Christmas 2015, with completion of the building in spring 2017 and will consist of several modern construction method training facilities, some of which are the first of their kind in the Further Education sector in the UK. 

Examples include a four-storey high ‘hangar’ in which students will learn how to fabricate and assemble buildings using the latest available technologies. There will also be a ‘digital centre’ in which innovative Building Information Modelling (BIM) and digital environment software packages will be used. 

2. University of Wolverhampton Science, Technology & Prototyping Centre
 
The new Science, Technology & Prototyping Centre will be designed to offer a unique combination of laboratory, workshop and high quality office accommodation to complement the existing facilities at the successful University of Wolverhampton Science Park.

The £10.14M Centre is intended to support science and technology related businesses, providing the infrastructure for research and development activity not available anywhere else in the Black Country. 
Design work is progressing well and the tendering process to select a contractor will commence in the summer. The facility will open in early 2017.

3. Digitally controlled machinery (Fab kit)
 
This involves three organisations who are providing digitally controlled fabrication machinery to provide local businesses with the latest high tech equipment and training to support future growth.

Sandwell College

A Black Country Fab Lab is set to open in Sandwell College’s Central Sixth campus, West Bromwich in August 2015.

Serving the Black Country and beyond, the Fab Lab – a digital fabrication laboratory – is being set up to inspire entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into new products and prototypes by giving them access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology.

At the heart of Fab Lab Black Country is digital manufacturing technology, combining 2D and 3D design with the latest fabrication technology, and producing single unique products from a digital design in a matter of minutes.

In-Comm, Aldridge

The Growth Deal will fund the acquisition of specialist equipment including a Computer Numerical Controlled Mill and five lathes. The lathes and milling machinery are part of an overall plan to increase apprentice capacity resulting in an additional 20 Engineering Apprentice starts per year.

The structural build commenced in June 2015, new machines will be installed mid-July, ready for the next apprentice intake on 10th August.

PTP Training, Walsall

PTP Training in Walsall are expanding their Engineering Centre,  recruiting engineering staff and developing commercial training as requested by local companies to support their growth plans. The Centre will be operational from August 2015 and the intake of engineering learners at any one time doubled from 15 to 30.
 
PTP are investing up to £200,000 in this project and the LEP Growth Deal funding will enable the purchase of more modern equipment and machinery as employers face a shortage of training using the latest kit.
 
4. Halesowen College Advanced Science, Engineering & Technology Centre
 
The Centre based at Coombs Wood Business Park for Advanced Science, Engineering and Technology, offering a variety of learning pathways and specialist teaching and learning resources to industry standards.

The infrastructure, hardware and software will be high quality to enhance learning, integrating digital technologies to meet employer needs and expectations. The skills required by local industries will be delivered through apprenticeships, traineeships, bespoke training and through a blended learning model to ensure absolute flexibility for the employer.

The total project value is £3.1m, work is about to commence on site, with phase one completed by September 2015 and phase two in March 2016.

5. Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills Feasibility Study
 
The Black Country Skills Factory has identified a lack of provision and equipment in the Black Country to train the next generation of skilled workers as required by local employers in 5 specialist manufacturing areas – foundry working, metal treatment, toolmaking, advanced machining & metal forming /forging.

The LEP’s Growth Deal provided funds to undertake a feasibility study, led by the Black Country Skills Factory, with a future potential of accessing £7.6m of capital to address these equipment & provision needs.

The Feasibility Study to date has confirmed with employers that there is sufficient demand to make an Elite Centre viable in a hub and spoke arrangement.

The study is now working with partners to establish the final configuration and location of the hub and spokes.  The Feasibility Study is expected to be completed in autumn 2015, with the plans for a new Elite Centre to open in 2017.

6. Growing Priority Sectors
 
The Growing Priority Sectors Fund for 2015/18 is now open for business. The fund has £6m to invest in Black Country Businesses that are looking to expand and create new jobs.
 
Over the next three years the programme is looking to support over 30 businesses, attract in £17m of private sector investment and create 600 jobs. The fund is available for businesses of all sizes, not just SMEs, with growth projects that cannot find adequate finance from elsewhere.


Grants will range from £100,000 to a maximum of £1m and is available for capital investment in plant, machinery and property. The beneficiaries of the fund will receive up to a maximum 30% support towards the total project cost.

 
Paul Brown, the LEP Board member who chairs the Access to Finance Group said "The Black Country Growing Priority Sectors Fund needs ambitious businesses with growth and job creation projects to come forward soon as we need to allocate this funding to assist business growth.”
 
HOUSING GROWTH

7. Goscote Lane Corridor, Walsall
 
Goscote Lane Corridor is a programme to bring forward a residential development of 741 homes on three related vacant brown field sites in the Blakenall area of Walsall, totalling 21 hectares.

Walsall Housing Group (whg) has secured Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) affordable homes grant funding of £2.66m for the delivery of phases one and two. Phase one has delivered 29 new homes completed in March 2015, and phase two – Waters Keep, will deliver 412 homes over the next three years in partnership with Keepmoat Homes.

A further 300 homes will be built as part of phase 3 of the programme by 2021. The overall programme is supported by whg borrowing of £23.77m with remaining private sector match funding of £52.16m coming through developer investment and sale of homes across phases two and three, the total project cost will be £87.41m.

8. Bilston Urban Village
 
Work is now well underway in delivering the Advanced Works Programme for Bilston Urban Village,
funded by Wolverhampton City Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and Black Country LEP Growth Deal.

This phase of works builds on the successful development of the Bert Williams Leisure Centre, the South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy and the release of an initial phase of residential land which will provide around 80 dwellings by Kier Homes. Total committed investment on the urban village site now stands at around £65 million with substantial further private investment to come over the next few years.

When complete the site will accommodate up to 500 new homes with associated improvements to public open space including a major new park for Bilston, improvements to the adjacent canal towpath, public transport infrastructure and the upgrading of important pedestrian routes through the site including the High Street Link to the town centre. Marketing of the site will begin in autumn 2015.

9. Woods Lane
 
Growth Deal funding will enable infrastructure, remediation, and demolition works to be undertaken to make the Woods Lane site a more attractive and viable prospect for the housing development market. This will include the construction of a new access road at Cradley Road / Macarthur Road.

Work is scheduled to get underway later this year on this £48.9m total project. Funding will also be available to support major businesses with their relocation needs with the aim of safeguarding and creating jobs in the Black Country.    

It is anticipated that the Woods Lane site can accommodate up to 351 dwellings, in a sustainable location in close proximity to public transport links and Cradley Heath centre. In line with the funding the works infrastructure, remediation, and demolition will be complete by spring 2017, and it is hoped that the residential development will be complete during 2021.
 
TRANSPORT PROJECTS

10. M6 J10 congestion-busting
 
Walsall Council and Highways England have formed an integrated project team to ensure this congestion-busting £64.5m scheme project is on-track for delivery in line with the agreed programme.
 
The scheme will see new, widened bridges (from 2 lanes to 4) being built over the motorway, improvements to the motorway slip roads, installation of intelligent traffic signals, widening and modernisation of the nearby Bloxwich Lane junction and modification to a small section of The Black Country Route.
 
The necessary planning and development is ongoing throughout 2015-17, with construction expected to start in 2018. More than half of the funding for the scheme has been secured by the council through the Black Country LEP; the other 50% through DfT and Highways England.
 
This investment will help make the junction operate efficiently and reduce journey times. It will free up the major gateway route into Walsall, and improve the infrastructure to support existing and future businesses, particularly those that will be set up in the Darlaston part of the Black Country Enterprise Zone.
 
11. Wolverhampton Interchange
 
The first phase of the Wolverhampton Interchange project, which included the city’s new bus station serving local, regional and national operators, improved access to the railway station and 20,000 sq ft (1,858 m2) of retail and leisure development was completed in 2012.
 
The centrepiece of the Interchange masterplan will be a new mainline railway station at the heart of the UK’s high speed rail network, serving over 4.75 million passengers per year and a refurbished and extended multi-storey car park, almost doubling the number of existing parking spaces to around 900. Centro’s proposals to extend the Metro route, linking the existing network to the bus  and railway stations, are also progressing in parallel.
 
This investment in the transport infrastructure will act as a catalyst for commercial development with an anticipated 300,000 sq ft of mixed commercial floor space to be delivered as part of the wider Interchange masterplan. Proximity to these excellent transport links will generate over 2,000 high value jobs and improve the strategic gateway to Wolverhampton and the Black Country.
 
Growth Deal funding of £13.5 million will contribute to an estimated £120 million scheme that positions Wolverhampton squarely as the City of the Black Country. The Interchange partnership includes Wolverhampton City Council and Neptune Developments, Centro, Network Rail, Virgin Trains and the Canal and River Trust.
 
12. Managing Short trips 
 
The £4.6m Managing Short Trips scheme will see improvements to 26 kilometres of canal towpaths which will improve facilities for cyclists and walkers in the area. The work will improve connections to busy residential, employment and education hubs like the i54, Walsall town centre and Pensnett Trading Estate.

The project will help provide real alternative travel options for people travelling around the Black Country and help to reduce the congestion on the roads which costs the West Midlands £2.3 billion each year.
The first round of improvements will be made to canal towpaths linking to Wolverhampton city centre and work has already begun. Work to upgrade canal towpaths in Stourbridge will begin in the summer and is due to be completed in winter 2015.


13. Transport works to access growth
 
The LEP Growth Deal major transport projects such as the improvements to Junction 10 of the M6 and the investment in Wolverhampton Station Interchange will be complemented by a fund for smaller transport works to assist business growth.

A £12m Black Country fund from 2015 - 2021 will assist local authorities to deliver smaller schemes (above £500,000, but less than £5,000,000) which improve access to employment sites and strategic centres. The potential projects include highway efficiency improvements, sustainable transport, and interchange improvements.

14. Wolverhampton Civic halls refurbishment and adaptations to the Grand Theatre


Black Country LEP Growth Deal Funding of £6.6m is supporting a £10 million refurbishment of the Civic Halls and £400,000 towards Grand Theatre improvements.

Wolverhampton Civic Halls and the Grand Theatre are amongst the largest cultural businesses in the Black Country generating £4.3 million and £3.6 million to the economy. 

Investment in refurbishment of these venues will generate a further £1.7 million, safeguarding 60 jobs and creating a further 100 jobs directly with further impact on the wider economy through increasing visitors to Wolverhampton and the Black Country.

The Grand Theatre has re-imagined the layout of the stalls bar into the Encore Lounge to maximise the use of space, provide more seating and create a small stage for extra performances, such as comedy and live music.

The work at the Civic Halls is due to begin early next year, and will see the Civic Hall given a second balcony - raising standing capacity from 3,000 to 3,600 and seated capacity from 2,026 to 2,700. The Wulfrun Hall will also get a balcony, increasing its standing capacity from 1,134 to 1,334 and seating from 641 to 841. Bar, circulation spaces and toilet facilities will be revamped to give visitors a much improved experience.
 

 

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