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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Regeneration of Dudley town centre gets multi-million-pound triple boost

The regeneration of Dudley town centre was given a triple boost today (Tuesday March 16) with work starting on the street-running section of the Metro tram line and the announcement of multi-million-pound investment deals for the Portersfield development and a new Institute of Technology.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Cllr Ian Kettle, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, were on hand to get the Metro works underway and revealed a £6.3m West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) investment package to pay for essential highway infrastructure to serve the Portersfield scheme.

A £2.1m WMCA investment was also announced to support the construction of Dudley College’s Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology.

Both WMCA investments are the latest funding deals under a massive, region-wide urban renewal programme using hundreds of millions of pounds secured over recent years from Government to help unlock stalled sites for new homes and jobs and drive a green economic recovery from Covid-19.

With construction of the street-running section of the Metro line now underway, the £449m WMCA funded extension remains on course to open to passengers in 2024. It will link Dudley to the regional tram and rail network and be served by a new £18m tram and bus interchange station for the town which is also being funded by the WMCA, through Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

The Metro extension, which will run from the existing line at Wednesbury through Dudley to Brierley Hill, as well as the Portersfield, Interchange and Institute of Technology are all part of a wider £1bn regeneration of Dudley town centre that will help put in place the building blocks needed to help the town and wider region secure a successful economic recovery from the pandemic.

Other regeneration projects for the town include:

  • A new £18m Dudley Leisure Centre
  • A £28m Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre, supported by the WMCA
  • Improvements to both Dudley Zoo and the Black Country Living Museum

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “For too long towns like Dudley had been left behind in the West Midlands, and I made it my mission when first elected as Mayor to work with Dudley Council to right this wrong.

“The pandemic hasn’t made it easy over the last year, but we were utterly determined that we don’t get knocked off course and press ahead with the incredibly ambitious plans for Dudley.

“I am therefore delighted that we’re able to announce the WMCA’s funding towards both the Portersfield and Institute of Technology developments, as well as mark the start of work on the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill metro extension, serving Dudley town centre.

“With a revamped town centre, new high quality educational facilities, and a first-class public transport network linked to the rest of West Midlands, Dudley is undergoing a major transformation thanks to some brilliant collaborative working.”

Cllr Kettle added: “These are extremely exciting times for Dudley as a number of multi-million-pound projects reach critical stages.

“There’s £1billion worth of investment gathering pace in Dudley and these projects give a flavour of what is to come over the next few years. These schemes will not only change the landscape of Dudley but also lead to more opportunities for people in terms of jobs, training and connectivity.”

The Portersfield and Institute of Technology investment deals are the latest examples of the WMCA’s brownfield first policy in action. The policy is focussed on regenerating derelict industrial land (brownfield) to provide new homes and jobs for local people, helping to protect the Green Belt. It also includes transformational schemes that can help reverse the decline of struggling town centres and high streets.

The road infrastructure provided by the Portersfield investment will open up land for the £82m scheme which will feature around of 400 new homes, many of them classed affordable, leisure uses and retail. More than 500 jobs are expected to be created.

The £26m Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology will have a strong focus on high-tech programmes in transport technologies, complementing the research and distribution activity at the VLR National Innovation Centre. 

Work is underway and the project remains on track to start welcoming its first students from September this year. 

Jeremy Knight-Adams, owner of Avenbury Dudley which is developing the Portersfield scheme, said: ‘This crucial support from the WMCA is amazing news and is vital for the transformation of Dudley.

“It is refreshing to be working with people like Andy Street and Pat Harley and there is no doubt that without them this would not be happening. Their vision, enthusiasm and ceaseless determination have been fundamental in opening up this six-acre site by unlocking the issues preventing the demolition of Cavendish House and funding the new link road.

“Their ‘can do’ approach for essential redevelopment must act as a catalyst for others to come forward to improve the built environment in the Black Country and wider West Midlands.”

Neil Thomas chief executive and principal of Dudley College of Technology, the lead partner in the development of the Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology, said: “The £23m Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology will have a strong focus on higher level technical programmes in: advanced manufacturing, modern methods of construction, medical engineering and healthcare, to meet the regional demand for skills in these sectors.

“The new employer-led Institute brings together the training offer of Dudley College of Technology in collaboration with key partners including University of Wolverhampton, University of Worcester, In-Comm Training Services Limited and Avensys UK Limited,  allowing a wide offer of  non-traditional progression routes to degree level programmes that  will allow learners to study whilst in work.”

Peter Cushing, director of Midland Metro Alliance, which is planning, designing and building the region’s various Metro extensions on behalf of the WMCA and TfWM, said: “It’s fantastic to note the work now underway in Dudley town centre but that’s only part of the story on this massive infrastructure project.

“Our teams have been busy progressing the route with the removal of structures in Tipton, assessing mineshafts across Sandwell, beginning utility works in Brierley Hill and detailed design work, too. All of this activity coinciding with challenging circumstances caused by the pandemic.” 

In order to minimise disruption to the road network, Midland Metro Alliance will be undertaking the works on Castle Hill in two phases from spring 2021 through to summer 2022. Traffic will first be maintained one-way in the direction of Castlegate island with clearly marked diversion routes in place to assist road users in completing their essential journeys.

While construction is underway, those travelling to Dudley town centre, either by private vehicle or public transport, are being asked to leave more time for their journeys with diversion in in place. 

Access to funding for the Institute of Technology was provided by Frontier Development Capital Ltd (FDC), a fund manager working closely with property developers to arrange investments from the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund (CIF), Revolving Investment fund (RIF) and Brownfield Land and Property Development Fund (BLPDF).

Photo credit: WMCA – Left to right – Director of Midland Metro Alliance; Peter Cushing; Dudley Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Enterprise, Cllr Ian Kettle; Managing Director of Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology; Georgina Barnard; Avenbury Dudley owner (developer of Portersfield scheme); Jeremy Knight-Adams; Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street;

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