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ULI and HCA enlist region’s finance firms to focus on development

Leading lights from a range of business fields have joined forces to establish innovative ways of unlocking the barriers to development, focussing on a key site in the Black Country.

The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership co-hosted a workshop with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the government’s Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to look at development finance, innovative cross-sector funding models and application to schemes including that at Bilston Urban Village.

Brought about through the HCA’s extended role since the site transferred to them from Advantage West Midlands last year, the agency brought together partners from across the public and private sectors to focus on the important role Bilston Urban Village will play in supporting growth across the Black Country.

Regeneration bosses from Wolverhampton City Council were present at the session as well as senior managers from leading real estate, law, architect and professional services firms. The workshop included representatives from Colliers International, Associated Architects, EC Harris, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Wragge & Co.

The event included discussion and ideas around the potential end uses of the Bilston Urban Village site and issues around finance, delivery mechanisms and phasing of any future scheme.

The experts from a range of fields looked at obstacles currently stalling development land and discussed ways these barriers can be overcome. The multi-discipline approach prompted a number of new ideas that will be considered by the team driving delivery from Wolverhampton.

Anne-Marie Simpson, Head of Midlands Central for the HCA said:
“We recognise that there have been many barriers and challenges facing the development sector over recent years, including market conditions and availability of finance. Our role is increasingly about leveraging in more private finance, maximising value for money for our investment and delivering more for less. This event was about bringing key institutions together to look at how we do this in an innovative way, using Bilston Urban Village as a current example.”

Simon Eastwood, private sector lead on planning for the Black Country LEP, said:
“It is excellent that senior management from a number of leading firms from various fields have come together to look at ways of bringing forward development on this site. The Bilston site, which is well connected to the M6 at junction 10 and also to Birmingham City Centre via the Midland Metro, is key not only to Wolverhampton and the immediate surroundings but also to the Black Country as a whole.”

Councillor Peter Bilson, Wolverhampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Prosperity, said:
“We are delighted to have welcomed recent developments onto the Bilston Urban Village site but the remainder of the site is a significant piece of land. I am pleased the LEP recognises its significance as we look to ensure barriers for development at the site are removed in order for appropriate schemes to come forward.”

Morrisons Supermarket in Bilston stands at the corner of the site and a new academy school, The South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy, will open in September on part of the site. This new development follows quickly in the footsteps of the new £18.6 million Bert Williams Leisure Centre which opened in December 2011.

But following these exciting developments there will still be around 38 hectares of land prime for development on the site, which sits adjacent to the Black Country Route.

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