Transport and housing challenges must be overcome for region’s growth success

Andy Street

The West Midlands must overcome challenges to its transport infrastructure, housing shortage and skills base if it is to challenge the economic power bases of London and the Northern Powerhouse, the Mayor of the region has said.

Delivering a key note speech to the West Midlands Forum for Growth, Andy Street said the region had aspirations to be the equal of both of its rival blocs but stakeholders had to work together to achieve a positive outcome.

Marking the first anniversary of the West Midlands Combined Authority, he said much of what had been done during the past year so far as partnership building is concerned, was helping to lay the foundations for the region’s rise.

However, he said further collaboration was needed so the authority could push on from being a start-up to an entity that can start to deliver projects that will realise those aspirations.

The audience at the conference, held at the Vox venue at Resorts World Birmingham, comprised mainly of business delegates from large firms across the region.

He told them that their continued collaboration was vital and that an effective partnership between the public and private sectors, supported by the work being done through the region’s universities and other bodies would deliver the goals.

The forum was told that funding for transport infrastructure was starting to filter through, much of it due to HS2, which is acting as a catalyst for other projects such as the expansion of the Midland Metro, the light rail Sprint project and other bus and rail schemes.

Road improvements will take a little longer to achieve, with the audience being told that the region had to brace itself for some short-term pain in order for long-term gain.

The housing shortage in the region is also problematic. The need to provide accommodation for an expanding population is one of the biggest challenges facing the region.

Land shortages and the need to consider greenbelt sites as options for large schemes was one factor, while overcoming planning obstacles was another.

However, delegates were told that if the region was serious about its aspirations then it needed to attract the brightest young talent and if it could not provide decent homes for them then it was shot down before it started.