£200 million fund from WMCA to build 12,000 homes open to developers
4th March 2024
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The 75-acre West Works project – bigger in size than London’s Kings Cross redevelopment- is just the latest phase in a £1 billion regeneration of the colossal Rover car plant which at its peak employed more than 25,000 people. 


The project, featuring 350 homes and a 900,000sqftof business premises creating 5,000 new jobs, was unlocked by a £6 million investment three years ago from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) as part of itsnationally acclaimed ‘brownfield first’ programme which targets new housing on former industrial sites. 


On a visit today (Monday March 4) to see how work is progressing, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, confirmeda £200 million funding pot to spearhead the delivery of another 12,000 new homes on brownfield land across the region. 


At least 2,400 of these new dwellings will be affordable homes as residential schemes receiving investment from the WMCA must make a minimum 20% of the new homes affordable. The West Midlands was also the first region in the UK to adopt a localised definition of affordable housing linked to real world local incomes rather than property prices.



To date, of the 6,285 homes unlocked by WMCA investments since 2018, a total of 2,045 are affordable – nearly 33%. 


Thesepropertiesbeing built with the support of WMCA funding are also helping to keep the region on track toexceedits housing target of 215,000 new homes by 2031. 


The Mayor said: “The derelict Longbridge site was always a stark and painful reminder of how far the West Midlands had fallen during the so-called ‘boom years’ as the rest of the country surged forward. 


“But standing on the iconic site now, when so much life has been breathed back into it, shows just how far we have come in recent years. It is a wonderful example of this region’s undefeatable spirit and its ability to roll up its sleeves and bounce back. 


“And it hasn’t happened by accident. We have used the hundreds of millions of pounds secured from government over the last six years to relentlessly deliver on our brownfield first commitment. This has helped transform dozens of former industrial sites – including Longbridge’s West Works – into quality, affordable homes and decent jobs for local people. This approach has also helped protect our precious green belt from the bulldozer. 


“But this is just the start. With another £200 million now available to regenerate even more brownfield sites, we are ready to double down and deliver even more affordable homes and quality jobs.” 


The West Works was a key part of the old Rover plant, once the largest car factory in Europe. But in 2000, Rover Cars and the Longbridge factory were sold to the Phoenix Consortium, which renamed it MG Rover Group, in a management buyout for a symbolic tenner. 


Then, in April 2005, the MG Rover group went into administration leaving more than 6,000 workers without jobs. 


The 468-acre site fell into disrepair before developersSt Modwen, acquiredit in 2005.  

West Works is now being transformed into a vibrant, mixed-use of new homes, Longbridge Business Park and open spaces all linked by new cycling and walking routes. 


Critically, the River Rea, hidden for decades, has been re-naturalised for the first time in almost a century. The mile-long route will reconnect Rubery and Longbridge town centres.  
A riverside park is also being created to provide high-quality outdoor space and develop a sense of community and enhance biodiversity. 
The land is one of the most significant regeneration schemes in the UK, with the latest phase of development taking the total number of jobs delivered across Longbridge to a combined total of over 3,500 jobs to date, with many more to follow. 


New offices, a new town centre and park, Bournville College, and facilities such as the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, have already been delivered. 


Such is the fervour behind the Longbridge redevelopment, supermodel Twiggy helped cut the ribbon at the town’s new Marks and Spencer in 2015, spanning over 150,000 feet. 


Nigel Barfoot, aged 75, spent five years at the Austin factories. He said the apprenticeship he undertook, resulting in a mechanical engineering degree from Aston University, was responsible for his career as Sales Director at Unipart Cowley. 


He said: Around five or sixapprentices were sponsored to university by Austin each year plus in total at anyone time there could’ve been up to 500 apprentices at various stages in their training. 


Since those apprenticeships were started around 7,000 people went through the process. The Longbridge apprenticeship was probably one of the very best in the world and it is still highly regarded in the industry. 


Mr Barfoot spent six weeks in the pattern shop in West Works, primarily the press and body assembly for cars.  


Here were probably the most skilled workers in the whole factory,” he said.“Sadly, there was no way I could match their abilities - you’d need to spend many years to become that good. 


The West Works was primarily the press shops and body assembly - a noisy place which I remember well along with the British Legion café which provided world class bacon butties and mugs of tea. 

Mr Barfoot is now Vice Chair and Honorary Secretary of the Austin Ex-Apprentices Association. With over 1,000 members it is open to all those who undertook a Longbridge Apprenticeship whether under the Austin banner or later brands, Rover and MG.  

"We are strong supporters of the Herbert Austin Legacy Awards programme which encourages youngsters to take up Engineering, have gained approval for a Blue Plaque on the Longbridge site to commemorate our benefactor and are campaigning for a statue in his memory at Longbridge,” he added. 


New businesses have moved into the West Works site including a multi-million-pound pet hospital. 


Julie Davis, hospital director at Blaise Veterinary Referral Hospital, said: “Helping to shape Blaise into what is now – for both people and animals - on the site of the old Longbridge plant is really special for me as someone from the local area. 


“I grew up nearby and recently lived on the East Works site so being part of the regeneration and building a great veterinary hospital for people and their pets means a lot.  


“We feel strongly about ensuring we give back to the local community that has been so welcoming to us, employing local people as well as using local businesses. Longbridge truly is a wonderful place to be part of. 


SarwjitSambhi, chief executive officer, St Modwen, said: “The £1bn restoration of Longbridge is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through the regeneration of brownfield land. 


“The closure of the car plant back in 2005 had a severe impact on the local economy and we are incredibly proud to play our part in bringing the site back to life as a manufacturing hub and thriving business community which has so far delivered more than 3,000 jobs, alongside more than 1,500 new homes. 


“This has all been achieved through public-private partnership. Our multi-million pound investment deal with WMCA agreed in 2021 allowed us to accelerate the delivery of vital infrastructure at West Works which gave businesses such as Waters Corporation, IVC Evidensia and Allsee Technologies the confidence to invest in the area.  


“The scheme provides a template for the regeneration of large-scale brownfield sites across the West Midlands and beyond.” 


Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council, and portfolio holder for housing and land at the WMCA, said: “The Longbridge scheme is another great example of what can be achieved by working in partnership with private sector partners and pump priming regeneration.  


“It also demonstrates how successful a ‘brownfield first’ approach can be, with our funds for site remediation making a real difference and helping us meet our ambitions of creating 215,000 new homes across the region by 2031.” 


Allsee Technologies, a Birmingham-based digital advertising manufacturer, has created 150 jobs after moving its headquarters to the site. The businessalso has offices in Belgium, China, India and Uganda. 


Baoli Zhao, managing director of Allsee Technologies, said: We're incredibly proud and excited to contribute to Longbridge Business Park's growth story. 


With a deep appreciation for the area's rich history in technology and manufacturing, we are thrilled to be part of Longbridge's growing reputation as a hub for science, technology, precision engineering and research and development.  
As we embark on this exciting journey, we look forward to fostering growth, collaboration and creating more job opportunities within Birmingham and the wider West Midlands area. 


To apply for funding email:invest@wmca.org.uk 


A history 


Longbridge is one of the largest and most significant regeneration initiatives in the UK. The town has been an icon of British car making for more than a century and gave birth to visionary automobiles including the Austin Seven and the Mini.  


At one point, over 3.4 million Minis were manufactured at Longbridge. It was also the site of intense trade union disputes with 523 walkouts during a 30-month period recorded. 


In the 1950s, the site employed 21,000 employees and produced 193,000 vehicles annually. The plant consumed nearly 75,000 tons of coal along with 1.7 million gallons of oil for electricity generating and producing steam for the miles of heating pipes. Water consumption over the whole site was 350 million gallons. 


Herbert Austin, the man behind the engineering vision, discovered the Longbridge site after a cycle ride out of Birmingham. A £20,000 loan from notable businesses including the Kayser Ellison Company and Harvey du Cross Junior, son of the Dunlop Rubber Company financier, helped the beginnings of the factory.  




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