The Black Country borough of Dudley is setting the bar for investment and regeneration in the Midlands and beyond. Despite the pandemic, activity has far from stalled, and the local authority is ploughing ahead with an unprecedented £1 billion investment programme, destined to radically transform the borough over the next decade.
A succession of regeneration projects ranging from transport and leisure, to education and residential, bringing jobs, housing and business investment, are sure to propel Dudley to the forefront of prospective investment hotspots in the UK.
Just recently, the go ahead was given by the West Midlands Combined Authority for work to start in the spring on a £24.1 million Transport Interchange in the town centre, connecting buses with West Midlands Metro.
The Interchange will complement a significant extension to the Midlands Metro line, reported to be the biggest light rail project in the UK. Work has already started on the 11 kilometre route, that will connect Dudley and Birmingham in around 40 minutes, reducing journey times and improving access to leisure and employment.
Dudley’s mark in the transportation sector is certainly gaining momentum. The pioneering £28 million Very Light Rail (VLR) National Innovation Centre will seek to positively transform the UK rail industry by creating new and more affordable VLR transport solutions and this is destined to push Dudley to the forefront of new rail technology innovation and manufacturing in the UK. A two kilometre test track has already been laid, and a new business centre, vehicle test shed; and test passenger platform will complete the project.
Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the council, said: “Here at Dudley we are proactive and forward-thinking, we aren’t content to just ‘tick along’. We have ambitious plans that will see our borough grow, thrive and flourish – defining the next generation.
“It’s not just our transport that is seeing big improvements, we are also making multi-million pound investments in business, education and leisure that will completely transform Dudley over the next decade. We will enjoy better connectivity, more housing, new learning and innovation opportunities and an improved lifestyle offer that will bring more jobs, people and businesses, which in turn, will see our economy escalate.
“We want to talk to businesses, developers and investors about jumping on board Dudley’s journey. This is a fantastic area with untapped potential and with all the improvements afoot, now is the perfect time to come and find out what Dudley has to offer.”
Not many other regeneration schemes on the area are on the same scale of Portersfield – an £82 million residential and leisure development that lies adjacent to the new Midland Metro route and planned transport interchange and is expected to create hundreds of jobs.
Skills and Education is likewise a high priority for Dudley. Earlier this month, a Towns Fund bid for £25 million was submitted to the government to help finance a £36 million Higher Education ‘university park’ complex led by Dudley College. It will provide higher education courses for the health sector and is anticipated to be up and running by Autumn 2024.
Meanwhile, the second phase development of the ‘Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology, costing £31 million, has also begun. The Institute will have a strong focus on high-tech programmes in transport technologies, complementing the research and distribution activity at the VLR National Innovation Centre.
A wide range of tourism and leisure improvements make up the investment package. Dudley’s leisure offer is receiving a £30m overhaul, encompassing a new £18.2 million leisure centre and extensive refurbishments to the two existing centres. Improvements to Dudley Castle, Zoo and surrounding woodland are on the cards, along with a £23 million scheme to develop a 1940s to 1960s town and new visitor centre at one of the area’s main tourist attractions, the nearby Black Country Living Museum.
Councillor Ian Kettle, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise added, “It is an exciting time to be in Dudley. With such unprecedented investment, our borough will witness an inspiring sea change over the next decade, rapidly becoming one of the UK’s hottest investment prospects. Dudley’s time is now, so get in touch with our regeneration team to find out more about our investment programme and what opportunities are on offer.”