GBSLEP Blog – Cllr Ken Meeson (February 2013)
I am delighted with the news that the GBSLEP’s Growing Places Fund has been able to contribute to completion of the Smith’s Wood Village Centre in North Solihull, a project I have been quite closely involved with for over five years.
This exciting project forms part of an award-winning regeneration scheme aiming to reinvigorate the north of the borough.
It is the biggest regeneration scheme in the country and represents a genuine public-private sector partnership working together and sharing risk.
It includes the new Smith’s Wood Community School, completed in March 2009, which has transformed educational facilities for local children, as well as incorporating community facilities for the parish council and a volunteer-run kiosk offering a book-lending service to local people.
Later phases will include health care facilities and residential properties.
Following the demolition of two tower blocks, Nuffield House and Worcester House in early 2010, the development has taken shape. The new ‘High Street’ built in Smith’s Wood has replaced what was a warren of small roads and there is a direct link to the nearby Burtons Farm housing development of attractive and affordable homes.
The project known during development as North Arran Way and now known as the Smith’s Wood Village Centre, will see the building of a two-storey development including eight retail units and office space.
This commercial aspect of the wider regeneration of Smith’s Wood had stalled as a result of the economic downturn and, it became clear, accessing the necessary finance to get it kickstarted was always going to be challenging.
Thankfully, the Growing Places fund has enabled us to access £4 million of support and our private sector partners in the regeneration scheme, Sigma Inpartnership, are now able to progress with work which will be compete in spring next year.
While the LEP is still developing, a considerable amount of strategic work is necessarily taking place, it is pleasing to see this balanced with delivery on the ground in Solihull.
I hope it is the first of many projects and visible signs of progress that Solihull will be able to enjoy as the GBSLEP becomes stronger and more established.