Deprived parts of Birmingham blighted by persistently high unemployment , low skills and poverty wages could be transformed by a new economic plan.
The East Birmingham Prospectus for Growth also confirms that some 37 acres of the giant LDV-Alstom site in Washwood Heath will be made immediately available for industrial development after the HS2 company agreed to give up its claim on the entire site – earmarked for a train depot.
The prospectus highlights some 3.7 million sq ft of development sites, including the Birmingham Wheels site, Yardley Brook Industrial Estate and Windsor Gas Works, which could bring forward 9,000 jobs over the next ten years.
It is also the city council’s first response to the criticism in the Kerslake report that too much development and regeneration is focused on the city centre, leaving the rest of the city behind.
Much of the growth will depend upon the development of HS2 and linked transport projects such as the Metro extension to the east, and the continued success of Jaguar Land Rover and the expansion of its supply chain.
Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne said: “This is the biggest plan for jobs in east Birmingham we’ve ever had. It was hard fought. But, by demanding the government, the council and HS2 pull together, we’ve got an amazing plan for jobs and skills.
“It is an explicit recognition that Birmingham can reach its potential and bring jobs and homes to east Birmingham.”
He said high-speed rail and its spin-offs would inspire growth. “Through HS2, the journey time to Canary Wharf will be just under an hour. That is a game changer for the city and its financial and legal services sector.”
Mr Byrne was also delighted some of the massive LDV-Alstom site would be freed up for development. “We took our fight to Parliament. We’ve forced HS2 to look at new plans to ensure 2,334 jobs are created rather than a giant train car park – plus a £1 million investment in skills for local people and the city council’s regeneration plan.
“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our local economy.
“At least were able to salvage something very important.”
The report was launched by Mr Byrne (Hodge Hill) and his colleagues Shabana Mahmood (Ladywood) and Jack Dromey (Erdington), whose constituencies are covered by plan, and council leader Sir Albert Bore and cabinet members for skills Penny Holbrook and development Tahir Ali.
Mr Dromey added: “ Our city has a great industrial tradition .
“We want Birmingham once again to be the workshop of the world, the city of a thousand trades.
“The constituencies we are proud to represent suffer from high unemployment and an acute shortage of affordable housing.
“This bold joint initiative with Birmingham City Council will create badly needed jobs and build badly needed homes, transforming east Birmingham into an economic powerhouse.”
Its launch comes against a background of criticism both in the Kerslake Report and more recently following the launch of the Snow Hill Development Plan, that the city council is too focused on city centre development to the detriment and cost of the suburbs.
Sir Albert Bore insisted the prospectus “shows our commitment to the east of Birmingham”.
Coun Ali said the east Birmingham area had the highest rates of deprivation and joblessness in the city – with an unemployment rate of nine-and-a-half per cent against a city average of six per cent.
He also pointed out that 28 per cent of the working age population had no qualifications, against a Birmingham average of 21 per cent.
Coun Ali (Lab Nechells) said: “This prospectus addresses the particular challenges faced by east Birmingham, which continues to have high levels of unemployment and low skills while other parts of the city have improved.”
The plan would target those unemployed, as well as the next generation of school leavers, with investment in training and apprenticeships to give them the skills, in sectors like engineering, that are required by employers in the area.
The council is now involved in a joint initiative, backed by £1 million funding, with the Department for Work and Pensions, the Local Enterprise Partnership and colleges called the Employment and Skills Partnership to tackle the low level of skills in the city – something else identified as a major problem by Sir Bob Kerslake in his review.
While many aspects of the plan are longer term, this part of it would be put to work immediately to help Birmingham’s unemployed capitalise on the 10,000 vacancies currently available in the city.
Cabinet member for skills Penny Holbrook said: “This is not just about putting someone into a job, but about driving up the wealth of citizens in east Birmingham through these well paid jobs.”
The area also has the highest rates of business start-ups, more than 2,000 in 2014, it also has a high level of business failures.
Many are the cottage industry type business, the eBay trader or, as Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood described it, the mothers at home cooking some samosas for their local shop.
“There is a huge entrepreneurial spirit, almost every young person I meet wants to start a business. We have all these micro businesses which some people do not even see it as a business. We need to develop that,” she said.
As well as industrial development, the prospectus also looks to guide retail development in three major centres at Erdington, Small Heath and Alum Rock as well as other shopping centres such as the Fox and Goose at Hodge Hill and Shard End.
East Birmingham development opportunities
Bordesley Park: The Wheels site – earmarked for industrial development to create 3,000 jobs
LDV/Alstom, Washwood Heath: Majority to become HS2 depot and create 640 jobs. Land now set aside for industrial development and 2,000 jobs.
Erdington Industrial Park, Chester Road: 6.9-acre site near to JLR’s Castle Bromwich plant.
Opus Aspect: Former GKN Site in Chester Road – also earmarked for industry.
Windsor Street Gasworks, Nechells: Storage and depot uses.
Rupert Street, Nechells: Light industrial site.
Yardley Brook Industrial Estate, Shard End: Industrial development and 900 jobs.
Ace Business Park, Kitts Green: Vacant site ready for 50 job development.
Central Business Park, Kitts Green: Again site ready for 50 jobs.
Jarvis Way, Erdington: Major site near to Spaghetti Junction.
Fort Parkway, Erdington: Near Esso Petroleum site, could create 100 jobs.