Combined authority set to unlock land for commercial development

Andy Street

An action plan to unlock hundreds of hectares of land for housing and commercial use is to be considered by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The Land Delivery Action Plan proposes a package of measures and interventions aimed at speeding up the supply of land needed to underpin the WMCA’s ambitious goals for new homes, jobs and economic growth.

The WMCA, chaired by Mayor for the West Midlands, Andy Street, will discuss the plan at its board meeting on Friday (September 8).

The action plan builds on a report published earlier this year by an independent panel of prominent UK property experts commissioned by the combined authority. The West Midlands Land Commission’s Final Report concluded that to meet economic goals the region should accelerate the supply of housing and employment sites.

The action plan sets out how councils could work collectively with the WMCA, using its funding and resources to provide an improved and balanced supply of land at a much more rapid pace.

Cllr Sean Coughlan, WMCA lead for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, said: “Identifying suitable land and speeding up its development will be crucial if we are to provide enough homes and jobs for people in all the communities of the West Midlands.

“This faster supply of land is also needed to fulfil our ambition to transform the regional economy by 2030 with 20,000 more businesses than now, 500,000 new jobs and a larger housing stock of 1.9 million homes.

“We therefore have to make the very best use of the limited amount of land we have. This action plan shows how we can work together to achieve that and in doing so help meet future housing and employment needs and ultimately improve people’s quality of life.”

Cllr Coughlan said the action plan could also serve as a springboard for the region to secure a housing deal with government as well as a significant share of its Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Another key priority of the plan is to bring former industrial sites back into use, minimising pressure on green belt land.

This will be supported by a £200m war chest set side by the WMCA to clean up 1,600 hectares of brownfield land over the next decade, much of it in the Black Country. It is hoped further funding will be secured through a fresh wave of devolution to the WMCA by government.

Mr Street said: “The combined authority is determined to tackle the issues that matter; the ones that make the biggest difference to the quality of life for people living and working in the West Midlands.

“But for people to have a good choice of jobs and homes we must find enough land for development and this is not going to be an easy challenge.

“That’s why this action plan and our commitment to collaborative working across the West Midlands is so important. It sets out a road map for how we can work together as a region to make more land available more quickly while minimising the impact on our natural environment.”

Other initiatives in the action plan are aimed at delivering a rolling programme of available land to speed development and meet the longer term economic and housing needs of the West Midlands.