The regeneration of a Black Country town has been thrown into doubt following the shock resignation of the man leading the project.
Just weeks after the work to transform Walsall was hailed as a national exemplar, Walsall Regeneration Company (WRC) chief executive Dr Peter Cromar has taken early retirement with immediate effect. His decision, which was accepted by the board at a meeting last Thursday, also follows the recent resignation of WRC’s chairman Ben Reid.
Mr Reid, who is chief executive of The Midcounties Co-operative and chairman of Walsall Hospitals NHS Trust, said increasing work pressures had brought him to his decision.
New WRC Chairman Brian Lowe said he was confident the regeneration project would continue with a new team in place.
He said: “Peter has made a huge contribution in his time as Chief Executive but has now decided it is the right time to pursue other interests following the recently published External Review.
“Whilst we will miss Peter’s leadership at the WRC, the Board have confidence in the rest of the WRC team to continue to work with all our partners. We will put in place some interim arrangements but our clear message is that it is ‘business as usual’. It is worth reaffirming that all of the WRC partners remain absolutely committed to progressing the WRC’s agenda and in continuing the regeneration of Walsall.”
Dr Cromar said: “I have been chief executive of the WRC since its formation. The recent external review concluded that real progress has been made. I am proud of the contribution I have made working with partners to drive the town’s regeneration but feel that as we approach the next phase of the WRC journey it is personally the right time for me to leave to pursue other things.”
Akshay Parikh, WRC’s programme director, has been appointed as interim Chief Operating Officer to ensure that the business of the WRC is maintained over the coming months, pending discussions about permanent arrangements added Mr Lowe.
The challenging economic environment has put increasing pressure on regeneration companies with Regenco, the body tasked with regenerating neighbouring Sandwell, wound up earlier this year.
Walsall itself has been seen as one of the region’s success stories having already seen the development of a new college as well as infrastructure improvements through the town and significant investment in the canal basin to the north of the town centre.