City of Wolverhampton Council has officially announced its new preferred developer to take on the Canalside South scheme – one of the largest city centre residential development opportunities in the Midlands.

The selection, approved by the council’s Cabinet in July, follows the initial preferred developer, Legal & General Modular Homes, closing its modular homes production factory in May.

The council has now finalised Heads of Terms and entered into an exclusivity agreement with Wavensmere Homes to build more than 500 new homes, subject to planning approval, at Wolverhampton’s Canalside South – a former industrial site benefiting from frontage onto the Wyrley & Essington Canal and the Wolverhampton Branch of the Birmingham Main Line Canal.

The 17 acre waterfront development opportunity sits on the eastern edge of the city centre and is made up of the Canal & River Trust owned former Crane Foundry site, and the Council’s former British Steel site and its land off Qualcast Road – all brought together to ensure a comprehensive development takes place.

Strategic real estate advisors, Avison Young, have supported the marketing of the site.

Wavensmere Homes’ plans are for 384, 2 and 3 bedroom townhouses and 140, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, designed to target an EPC-A rated specification. Wavensmere Homes has also put forward plans to redevelop and reanimate disused railway arches on the site into 7,000 sq ft of lettable commercial space.

Glancy Nicholls Architects and RPS have been appointed to draw up the plans, which will be published for public consultation in early 2024. The design concept for the low rise development emulates the surrounding conservation area and maximises both the canalside setting and 4.4 acres of new public open space.

Developing the Canalside South site will provide an improved connection between the canal and Wolverhampton city centre, opening up the waterfront for new and existing communities. The site is also located within a few minutes’ walk of the heart of the city centre and its award winning £150 million transport interchange.

James Dickens, Managing Director of Wavensmere Homes, said: “We are thrilled to be working with City of Wolverhampton Council and the Canal & River Trust to bring forward this transformational development project. Canalside South will be the catalyst for a new wave of ambitious city living, which is vital to see the Wolverhampton Pound spent locally. This scheme will open up a new walkway to the city core, reducing the previous walk time by 20 minutes and igniting investment into a commercial corridor. 

“Our team has a strong history of regenerating vacant land in the Black Country, and we are ready to transform this site into a £150 million landmark development that the whole region can be immensely proud of. 70% of our existing supply chain is embedded into the Black Country, and the construction programme will create more than 100 jobs for local people. We are delighted with the collaborative way all land partners and stakeholders are working at pace to deliver change and reanimate this strategic stretch of canalside land.”

City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “I am delighted to announce Wavensmere Homes as the new preferred developer for this large and exciting opportunity at Canalside South.

“Through our Canalside Delivery Partnership with the Canal & River Trust, we remain determined to bring back to life our brownfield sites on Wolverhampton’s canal network, which will in turn boost footfall in our city centre.

“We are confident Wavensmere Homes will bring about a nationally significant development on what is one of the most historic stretches of canal in the country.

“It will enable our residents to benefit from superb connectivity, amenities and health and wellbeing opportunities at this wonderful heritage location.”

Wavensmere Homes plans to future proof the Canalside South site by installing electric only heating systems across the site. A range of technologies will be utilised, consisting of air source heat pumps, solar panels and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR). The proposals for the site will also feature dedicated EV charging to each home, alongside an array of EV chargers for visitors.

The multi award winning national urban regeneration specialist has 3,500 homes on site, or currently in planning. It is in the final phases of the £175 million redevelopment of the former Derby Royal Infirmary – Nightingale Quarter has brought 925 energy efficient houses, apartments, and commercial space to the previously vacant 18.5 acre site in Derby city centre. Wavensmere Homes is constructing 2 other major brownfield regeneration schemes, located in central Birmingham and Ipswich, and has further projects – including 4 additional landmark schemes in Derby and Cheltenham – in the immediate pipeline. 

The overall vision for the Wolverhampton Canalside masterplan is the delivery of around 1,000 homes to meet both the city and wider region’s housing needs, with sustainability and place making at its heart.

Cheryl Blount-Powell, National Property Development Manager at the Canal & River Trust, added: “We are delighted to be working collaboratively with City of Wolverhampton Council and Wavensmere Homes to bring forward a transformational high quality Canalside residential led scheme which will deliver generous well connected walkways and public open spaces. The proposed layout will transform this derelict brownfield land, connecting more people to the canals and to its rich biodiversity. 

“We believe this opportunity has the potential to influence the quality of future development around our canals and help demonstrate the positive impact that water has on those who live and use the waterways, encouraging more people to engage with their local canal and at the same time help support what we do as a charity and show that life really is better by water.”