On May 6 a number of Combined Authority mayoral elections will be taking place and, as part of a special series of events, we invited all candidates to explain what their ambitions are in terms of regeneration moving forward? Below are the responses for the candidates in the West Midlands CA who took part

Mayor Andy Street (Conservative)

“The regeneration of the West Midlands is happening. This isn’t about a vision that is going to start from scratch. Let’s just go through what’s happening and what we’ve got to continue.

“Ultimately what this is all about is opportunities for our citizens and those big economic sectors, that are going to give young people opportunities, need the commercial space to make them happen.

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“If we think about the life sciences sector, at last we have got the regeneration of Battery Park in south Birmingham. We have waited long enough for it. £200m of private sector investment coming in on the back of a small amount from the CA, LEP and government.

“Then if you take a completely different area and the whole light industrial sector and Phoenix 10 in Walsall. That site, the old James Bridge Copperworks, has been derelict for over 25 years. What have we done? We’ve managed, using WMCA funding, working with Walsall Council, to bring that back to life for industrial use.

“Think of Longbridge, derelict for 16 years, and that is coming back now. The first sod just turned in the Westworks there, on the back of a competition the WMCA basically won across the country to have that brownfield remediation fund there and the Secretary of State came to turn the sod for us a few weeks ago so my point is, the regeneration of these big industrial sites, are already happening.

“And then if we think of regeneration for housing if we have given a very clear commitment around brownfield first there and the best example of this is Friar Park in Sandwell where a vast site, which is an old sewage work from Severn Trent which has been derelict for 20 years – nothing happened and right next to the motorway junctions of the M5 and M6 in the heart of the connurbation – and we are bringing that back and there are many smaller sites across the region where that is happening.

“The last part of the regeneration has to be our town and city centres and again there are a lot of moving parts here and it is challenging. But again I want to highlight what the CA is doing. Coventry is probably the best example and that incredibly ambitious scheme from Shearer Property Group – the private sector doing the think and Coventry City Council’s committee but a huge part of the funding – £98m from the public sector is coming from us – and it basically sees half of the retail area of Coventry City Centre knocked down and rebuilt and what’s so interesting to me is it’s centrepiece will be a performance space and obviously and residential accommodation around it. So transformational and I think Coventry will be the example of medium sized city centre redevelopments and I am very proud we are doing that.”

Jenny Wilkinson (Liberal Democrats)

“I want us to look to the future, not the past, and be forward-thinking in our ambitions for the region.

“The pandemic has led many of us to reflect on how we live our lives. Many have had the opportunity to experience a new way of working; we have rediscovered our local communities; we have an increased connection with our natural environment.  At the same time, the decline of our previous town centres and high streets has only been accelerated.

“We can’t and we shouldn’t go back to how things were. Let’s reimagine our neighbourhoods and let’s build communities not just functional spaces.

“I am interested in exploring the concept of the 15-minute neighbourhood – where our day-to-day needs can all be met within a 15-minute walk or cycle of our home. I am also committed to the concept of Doughnut Economics and want to apply those principles of balance to our communities across the West Midlands. I want us to retain the sense of community we built during the pandemic and I believe it is vital that we build nature into all our developments.

“Fundamentally, it is about prioritising the green economy, sustainability and nature, whilst ensuring that all our developments are people- and community-focused.”

Labour’s Liam Byrne, Steve Caudwell (Green) and Pete Durnell (Reform) declined the invitation to attend.