The Black Country long ago secured its place in the nation’s history as one of the catalysts of Britain’s industrial revolution. If it involved metal, the chances were that somewhere along the production line this sprawling, the soot-stained stretch of the West Midlands, boasting an abundance of canals, coal mines, forges, factories and warehouses, played a part in its creation.
But while industrialization brought jobs, it carried a heavy price. For decades, life expectancy was noticeably shorter in the Black Country than in many other parts of the country and the region has found it hard to shake off a reputation for being an industrial backwater where few want to live. Some claim that its myriad smoking chimneys were the inspiration for Mordor, the foreboding, the volcanic region in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Suffice to say that even the Black Country’s most passionate supporters are unlikely to mistake it for a garden city – one of the purpose-built, self-contained communities surrounded by green space, as promoted at the beginning of the 20th century by a new wave of urban planners. But just over a century later, the Black Country is unveiling plans to build the largest garden “city” Britain has ever seen, to meet what planners say is an unprecedented demand to live in the region. Already home to more than 1.1 million people, it is expected to house 200,000 more by 2026.
Ahead of a major property festival in Cannes, the region is seeking £6bn in investment to build 45,000 new homes over the next decade in what promises to be one of Britain’s largest ever brownfield site regenerations.
It will be the first garden city to be formed by bringing existing towns into one conurbation, from Wolverhampton in the west to West Bromwich in the east, Halesowen in the south and the village of Wednesfield in the north. The scheme will ultimately generate £18bn for the local economy, according to its supporters. Some 550 sites have been identified for possible development.
“Not since the second world war has a garden city been built on this scale or at this speed,” said Dr. Chris Handy, a board member of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.
Source: The Guardian