Up to 7,500 new homes will be built across the West Midlands after Boris Johnson announced the region will get £84m to clean up derelict land.
It’s part of his plan to kick-start the economy and stop unemployment soaring, launched during a high-profile speech in Dudley.
Cash will be used to prepare land previously used by industry so it is fit for housing, allowing developers to build homes across the region while protecting the Green Belt. The West Midlands funding is part of a £400m national housing fund.
Mr Johnson said: “We will build fantastic new homes on brownfield sites and other areas.” And he promised to “help young people get on the housing ladder in the way their parents and grandparents could”.
It’s one of a series of measures designed to kickstart the economy and reduce the impact of coronavirus and the lockdown, which is expected to lead to a massive increase in unemployment.
In his Black Country speech, Mr Johnson said the Government would “build, build, build,” saying: “If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health.”
But he admitted: “The jobs that many people had in January are not coming back, or at least not in that form.”
He said there had been a “vertiginous” fall in GDP and many people were waiting for the economic impact of the lockdown to hit them.
The Prime Minister announced an “opportunity guarantee” so every young person has the chance of an apprenticeship or in work placement.
The Prime Minister described his £5bn spending package as a New Deal, in a deliberate echo of the language used by former US President Franklin D Roosevelt during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
He vowed to back West Midlands Mayor Andy Street’s plan to bring a “gigafactory” – a massive factory building batteries for electric vehicles – to the West Midlands. Mr Johnson said: “We will back that vision. This government will back that vision.”
Mr Street and council leaders across the country have asked the Government for £250m to create a gigafactory, saying it could create 10,100 jobs.
Mr Johnson also said the UK would design and build the world’s first long-haul plane that did not create air pollution, which he descrbed as “jet zero.”
Health Secretary Mat Hancock would soon publish a list of 40 new hospitals to be built or rebuilt, he said.
The Government would work with the opposition to reform social care funding so that people no longer need to sell their homes, he said.
Mr Johnson stressed the Goverment’s continued support for the HS2 high speed line and the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail line.
He said there would be 4,000 new zero-carbon buses, and a “massive new plan” for cycleways across the country.
He said Chancellor Rishi Sunak was working on a plan, called “Project Speed”, to reduce red tape to ensure infrastructure schemes could be built more quickly.
Other measures include
- £1.5bn this year for hospital maintenance, eradicating mental health dormitories, enabling hospital building, and improving A&E capacity.
- £100m this year for 29 projects in the road network, from bridge repairs in Sandwell to boosting the quality of the A15 in the Humber region. Plus £10m for development work to unblock the Manchester rail bottleneck.
- Over £1bn to fund the first 50 projects of a new, ten-year school rebuilding programme, starting from 2020-21. These projects will be confirmed in the Autumn, and construction on the first sites will begin from September 2021.
- £560m for repairs and upgrades to schools this year, and £200m for FE colleges.
- £142m for digital upgrades and maintenance to around 100 courts this year, £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places
- £900m for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year. This will provide all 101 towns selected for town deals with £500k-£1m to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets, and transport.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, said: “The West Midlands has been leading the way since 2018 on regenerating brownfield land to create thousands of new homes, and I am pleased the Prime Minister has given us the cash needed to keep the work going at pace.
“Our Brownfield First policy is critical as it not only regenerates contaminated, derelict old land – which in some cases has blighted communities for decades – but it also allows us to protect our precious greenbelt at the same time.
“This latest funding will allow hundreds more acres of former industrial land to be developed into thousands of new homes, something that will be critical as we look to re-boot our economy following the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Labour MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) said the West Midlands had not received a fair share of funding from the Government so far. He said: “Across our region people are really worried that we’re on course for a huge recession. West Midlands industry is the jewel in the crown of British manufacturing and bluntly it’s now at real risk of wipeout. So we need to pull together fast to save our factories.
“It’s good that the Prime Minister has come to listen to the real world.
“The problem is that once his new pot is divided across the country, it’s going to be far less than even the underwhelming amount our Tory Mayor has asked government for.
“It would have been better if he’d agreed that it’s time for our fair share of the national investment pot because today, government investment in London is two times what it is in the West Midlands. That simply isn’t fair.
“We can’t take the risk of too little, too late. What we need is real help now – and once and for all, our fair share of the national investment pot.”
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