Solihull’s Urban Growth Company to close down

A company set up to maximise development and regeneration opportunities connected with the arrival of HS2 in Solihull is to close and come under the purview of the local council.

Urban Growth Company (UGC) was established in 2016 as a special-purpose vehicle to work on behalf of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

It will now cease to be a standalone company and its operations will transfer over to the council in the coming weeks, resulting in eight job losses.

UGC’s main remit was centred around a project known as ‘The Hub’.

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Covering 3,210 acres next to the M42, The Hub comprises Birmingham Business Park, the NEC campus, Birmingham International station, the airport, the neighbouring Jaguar Land Rover factory, HS2 Interchange and Arden Cross.

Much of the focus has been on Arden Cross, a 346-acre project east of the M42 which could eventually contain up to 3,000 new houses, six million sq ft of commercial space and other public space and facilities along with the new HS2 station and rail line running through the middle of it.

Since its inception, the UGC has worked with key partners and stakeholders on the masterplan design and other facets related to the Interchange station and Arden Cross.

Its work has led to substantial reductions in parking spaces around Interchange, from 7,500 spaces down to 2750, freeing up additional land for jobs and homes while also accelerating the start of development by at least five years.

It also worked on the planned £286 million regeneration of Birmingham International station which could see the creation of a new-look integrated transport exchange, bringing together existing rail, future high-speed rail, trams, buses and other modes of transport.

Work is also under way on plans to develop feasibility reports and business cases for the design and construction of two bridges to carry public transport and other modes over the West Coast Mainline and M42.

UGC chairman Nick Brown said: “Thanks to the work of the Urban Growth Company, we are now in a much better position to create the vision originally envisaged by the leaders of Solihull Council.

“That was to provide a place of economic growth and vitality in The Hub area. What’s now being planned is a much more sustainable and deliverable development and very different from the ‘Parkway’ type station that was originally planned by HS2.”

Managing director Jonathan Bretherton added: “The legacy will be two fold. Firstly, we have built in sufficient capacity, flexibility and resilience around The Hub area to enable future growth and secondly done that in a way that creates great places.

“There’s no doubt the placemaking opportunities going forward have been transformed by UGC’s role over the last seven years.”

BusinessLive – West Midlands | News