Sandwell Council is drawing up ambitious plans to regenerate three town areas in the borough – in a bid to win a slice of the £3.6 billion cash available nationwide for regeneration schemes.
Councillor Maria Crompton, Deputy Council Leader, said the council was pulling out all the stops to secure Government cash after three local towns – West Bromwich, Rowley Regis and Smethwick – were selected to bid for grants of up to £25 million.
The three names were on a list of 100 towns across the country selected for the Government’s Towns Fund scheme. The council is now working up comprehensive bids to secure some of the available cash for the three town areas.
The funding available can be used to help regenerate town centres, increase local skills – thus stimulating local businesses – and improve both digital and physical connectivity.
It is hoped that a successful application to the fund will provide the three towns with the opportunity for transformational change and ensure that West Bromwich, Smethwick and Rowley Regis are all prepared for the changing nature of the high street in the 21st century.
The investment plans, which will be developed with local communities and organisations, will be submitted to the Government by early 2021.
Councillor Crompton said the council had decided to set up a Super Board to develop bids for each town. The board – which has an independent chair, Jude Thompson – will work on an extensive community consultation to develop the bids, working in partnership with local people, businesses and partner organisations.
Councillor Crompton said: “We have ambitious plans to regenerate our towns and the Covid-19 pandemic increases our sense of urgency. We are continually seeking additional funding to help transform our town centres and improve facilities for our communities.
“The proposals to improve the towns can only be achieved and thrive if the investment is available and we have now been given three chances to convince the Government that Sandwell deserves the opportunity to bring them to fruition.
“We have to rely on Government for the very large investment programmes,” she said. “Sadly, we have been left short of resources to make further improvements over recent years due to the Government’s austerity measures, with more than £200 million lost in cuts.
“We are always seeking support to make sure Sandwell gets its fair share of resources and we are looking to our partners, including all of our MPs, to support our bids in a positive way.”
Councillor Crompton added: “We are very fortunate to have Jude Thompson who is also the current President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce as an independent chair of the Super Board and he is leading the work on the development of our three towns bids.
“We are all working extremely hard to make sure that the bids we submit will be a collaboration of local business, local council and local communities – including most importantly the voices of people who live in the three areas.”
A report on the Towns Fund will be discussed by the council's Cabinet on 22 July.