Plans to transform and revitalise town centres across the West Midlands have been unveiled.

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The pioneering project from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and local councils will initially target 5 town centres, including Bilston.

Extensive investment by City of Wolverhampton Council and private investors in housing, leisure, commercial and highways developments in and around Bilston Urban Village has seen the momentum gather in Bilston.

A pedestrian link has been created from the village to Bilston High Street and City of Wolverhampton Council feel it is the right time to make further improvements to benefit the people of the town and improve the visitor offer.

The focus is now on the town centre and the high street, with a masterplan being developed to provide the town centre with the economic boost it needs.

Councillor John Reynolds, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: "This is good news for Bilston and will supplement the huge amount of work we have already done in the town.

"We value our small retailers that bring so much character to our town centres and this programme will give a boost to the masterplan we are developing to boost Bilston town centre - and in particular the high street."

High streets across the country have suffered as consumers have switched to online shopping and out of town retailing.

The new town centre programme was agreed by the WMCA Housing and Land Delivery Board today (Thursday). It will unlock new funding, expertise and support from the WMCA and other partners and be delivered by councils.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has pledged to use his decades of experience in the retail industry - he was managing director of John Lewis before entering politics - to help revive some of the region's town centres.

The Mayor said: "The future of the high street will not only be about shops, it will be about public services, homes, small businesses and community activities.

"There are many opportunities for our high streets. We must find a positive future for them which embraces technological change. The future of our communities depends upon it."

"Today is just the start. We want to be the region that leads the way nationally in reimagining the role and function of town centres in the digital age.

"And with a very bold housing and regeneration ambition, strong leadership and as the home of 5G we are well placed to do so."

Councillor Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio lead for housing and land, said: "Many of our town centres need to re-invent themselves to meet the challenge of the 21st Century and meet the needs of our resident.  The WMCA will help councils accelerate their plans to transform these centres and ensure they remain viable."

Councils were asked to suggest high streets in need of intervention.

Five town centres were selected as a first wave of communities where the combined resources and expertise of WMCA, local authorities and the private sector will be brought together to create new opportunities and actions.

The other 4 are Walsall town centre, West Bromwich town centre, St Thomas' Quarter in Dudley, and Bordesley Green in Birmingham.

The programme is tailored to the needs of each individual centre.

Further town centres will be eligible for a second wave of support next year, building on the experience from the first wave of centres.

A Regional Task Force is also being created to bring together experts from retail, finance, housing, universities and Government to share their knowledge and lend support to the programme.

The support for town centres is part of the WMCA's wider commitment to focus regeneration efforts and housing delivery on existing urban areas and brownfield land.

  • released: Thursday 25 October, 2018