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WMCA investment unlocks regeneration plans for two more historic buildings

Midlands: Plans to regenerate another two historic buildings – the Victorian-built Globe House in Walsall and the derelict former Erdington Baths in Birmingham – have been unlocked by fresh investments from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

As part of its nationally acclaimed brownfield regeneration and housing delivery programme, and using funds secured in the 2018 Housing Deal, the WMCA Board has agreed in principle to make investments that will kick-start both schemes, breathing new life into the historic buildings and creating more than 150 jobs and 35 new homes in the heart of Erdington and Walsall.

The Erdington scheme will see the ‘landmark’ former swimming baths in Mason Road, transformed into an enterprise and community hub with community facilities including a restaurant and café.

The Erdington baths, which are almost 100 years old, have stood empty since they were closed in 2014. Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) has submitted exciting plans for a multi-million-pound regeneration that will turn it into a multi-use site with an emphasis on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The former Erdington Baths will be regenerated into an enterprise and community hub

The ornate Globe House in Walsall, a Grade II listed building in Bradford Place, will be converted from offices into 35 apartments. At least 20% of the apartments will be classed as affordable under the WMCA’s own definition, which is linked to real world, local wages rather than property prices.

Globe House, which was constructed in 1888 to mark the previous year’s Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, was used as a college for more than a century before being converted into offices. This new conversion to apartments will create a new use for the building and support the WMCA Housing and Land Board policy of encouraging town centre living through its brownfield investments.

The Victorian-built Globe House will be transformed into 35 apartments. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Both projects are the latest in a series of WMCA housing and land investments using funds secured since 2017 from Government to provide new homes, jobs and commercial spaces on urban, brownfield sites, helping to support the region’s economic recovery from Covid 19 and to unlock private investment while reducing pressure on the green belt.

The Board’s decision will now trigger detailed negotiations between the WMCA and the developers to finalise the critical investment deals needed to unlock and deliver the schemes.

The WMCA is working in close partnership with Birmingham City Council to bring forward the Erdington Baths scheme and with Walsall Council and Black Country LEP on the Globe House project.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “With the investments we are making into both Erdington Baths and Globe House, we are helping to transform derelict sites into thriving centres of local life bringing much needed jobs and homes into the very heart of these communities.

“It is great news that at the same time as we are getting this vital regeneration underway, we are preserving these beautiful heritage buildings for future generations to enjoy – building on our backing of the sensitive restoration of two historic buildings on Corporation Street in Birmingham.

“Across the West Midlands, with the public, private and third sector working together in partnership, we are unlocking the potential of previously neglected locations to supercharge our region’s development – creating jobs for local residents and protecting the greenbelt.”

A report to the WMCA Board said the façade and historical features of Globe House, which is located near the Cenotaph and Saddlers Centre in Walsall town centre, would be mostly unaltered by the proposed conversion into apartments.

The abandoned Erdington Baths, which are said to be in a state of disrepair, would be given a sensitive transformation to provide affordable working and meeting spaces for local small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as for individuals and residents groups.

This would include meeting spaces and breakout areas, a co-working space and an events area and stage. Other communal areas would include a restaurant, bar and café, a community garden at the front of the Baths and a rear outbuilding used as a ‘market space’.

Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, said: “Globe House and Erdington Baths show how we are putting our money to good use to help drive a successful economic recovery and safeguard our local heritage.

“Even during the pandemic, the WMCA continued to make a pipeline of investments to help provide market confidence and support the region’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery plans.

“We believe these two schemes can not only play a key role in helping to restore and revitalise the two buildings themselves but also the surrounding areas.”

The Board was told the Globe House and Erdington Baths investments should be seen in the context of the WMCA continuing to exceed the targets and milestones set by Government for its devolved housing and land funds including the £100m Land Fund, £24m National Competitive Fund and the £84m Brownfield Housing Fund.

Meanwhile, the WMCA is continuing negotiations with Government on securing additional and more flexible funding to enable WMCA and its partners to build on its strong track record of delivery.

Additional funding will enable the WMCA to go further in supporting town centres to thrive and adapt and unlock new private sector investment. It will also support the delivery of a greater range of regeneration projects, securing wider benefits such as affordable housing and greater use of advanced methods of construction and support the region’s net zero ambitions while maximising the benefits of committed infrastructure investment.

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