Plans to borrow up to £30 million to keep a Solihull regeneration project alive have been unanimously backed by councillors.
A move to increase the authority’s prudential borrowing limit to keep the £1.6 billion Regenerating North Solihull project on track was given the green light at a full meeting of the council.
The 15-year scheme – given the go-ahead in 2004 and hailed as a model of regeneration – has already been delayed by five years and was in danger of being derailed due to the economic downturn.
Regenerating North Solihull set out to transform Chelmsley Wood, Smith’s Wood and Kingshurst & Fordbridge – some of the most deprived wards in the country – and was formed as a partnership between the council, Inpartnership, Whitefriars Housing Group and Bellway Homes.
The scheme was based on land values and new house sales, with money generated as the scheme progressed being reinvested.
But the slump in the property market posed a major problem for funding, prompting Solihull Council’s increase in borrowing to plug the gap. The move will mean new village centres at Craig Croft and North Arran Way can go ahead, as can plans to continue with a programme to build new primary schools or remodel existing ones.
Council leader Ian Hedley said he was delighted the borrowing bid had been approved and was heartened by support from all three main political parties.
“I was very pleased it went through and am very pleased it is back on track,” he said.
“It was unanimous across the chamber and no-one spoke against it.”
The Shirley East Liberal Democrat councillor confirmed no time was wasted, with designers working on the schools project and Inpartnership immediately instructed to get on with the job.
“We haven’t hung around – we gave them the green light the following morning,” he said. We said the money is available – let’s get on and do it. I want the schools built as soon as possible and the new village centres too.
“People need them. We are behind schedule because of the economic climate and we want the work to get done.”
Councillor Hedley said borrowing almost £30 million was essential if the scheme was to be completed.
“If we had to wait for the economic situation to get better to generate the funds required through house sales I don’t know how long it would have been,” he added.
“I have no worries whatsoever about borrowing the money. This was done with the full support of the council’s financial officers, has cross-party support and is the right thing to do.”
The council is now looking to borrow £9.9 million to fund the village centres and £19.6 million for its schools programme, which it is hoped will get under way in September.