The regeneration at Goscote Lane Corridor will deliver around 700 new energy efficient homes and considerable environmental improvements.
Goscote Lane Corridor consists of two key development sites: Waters Keep, which includes 177 homes for affordable rent from whg, and a further 235 for open market sale from Keepmoat – a mixture of 1, 2, 3 and 4-bed properties. On Site B, on the former Goscote Estate, a mixture of properties and a wellbeing scheme for the over-55s are planned. The regeneration has also involved improvements to the neighbouring Blakenall estate, including 300 properties that have been upgraded with thermal wrap insulation and new roofs.
Although this project has created affordable modern homes for residents, it is not just about building homes. It is about investing in people and improving lives in order to achieve sustainable long-term change in the neighbourhood.
New homes on the Waters Keep estate
Partnerships for delivery
The regeneration is being delivered thanks to a partnership between whg and Walsall Council. As a stock transfer and major landlord in the area (owning around 20% of the stock in Walsall and housing around a quarter of the population), whg has historically strong ties with the local authority. Shortly after transfer in 2003, whg and Walsall Council jointly commissioned a Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF), establishing a blueprint for planning, investment and the regeneration of housing and district centres in the town. The SRF set out a long-term vision for sustainable social, economic and environmental regeneration and identified the redevelopment of the Goscote Lane Corridor as one of ten priority projects.
The success of the Goscote Lane regeneration has been built upon a shared commitment from whg, the council and the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). As well as strategic planning through the SRF and the provision of land through an overage agreement that will see further regeneration investment in the area, the Council has played a significant part in enabling the scheme to move forward through planning. LEP funding has been used to deliver major improvements to the adjacent Lea and Swannies Fields to improve open spaces and provide play facilities and better leisure opportunities that have helped to transform the area.
Pictured at Swannies Field, from left to right, is Cllr Lee Jeavons, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Walsall Council; Gordon Griffiths, Director of Landscaping at Jack Moody LCE Ltd; Robbie Seagrove, Quantity Surveyor, and Mark Tranter, Director of Development at whg
With a total project cost of £88m, Goscote Lane illustrates clearly the scale of investment that large-scale regeneration demands, and the importance of both private and public sector involvement to make a project work.
whg has secured £2.66m for affordable homes from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Black Country LEP Growth Deal funding of £8.82m has been used for initial site preparation, environmental enhancement and local engagement. But the majority of funding has come from the private sector – whg has borrowed £23.77m for the project and the remaining match funding of £52.16m has come through developer investment and sales.
A key challenge throughout the project has been winning over the local community. This is the largest regeneration scheme in Walsall and residents were understandably concerned about change and the new community that would develop in the area. whg has managed this through ongoing dialogue with residents from the beginning.
Residents were actively involved in the shaping and design of the Goscote Lane Corridor Masterplan. Consultation began in 2007 when proposals to redevelop Goscote were being explored. This included community information days and engagement with local schools, with the name Waters Keep chosen by schoolchildren. Two community champions have been appointed, both to liaise with residents on the regeneration and to support new and existing residents into work.
Hannah Devine moved into a three bedroom home on the Waters Keep estate
A Community Action Group (CAG) was launched and continues to run today, made up of local councillors, residents and representatives from whg and Walsall Council. This group continues to meet regularly to give their feedback. whg also launched a newsletter, WS3, which was delivered to around 4,000 residents to keep them up to date on the latest developments. The association and the council are working with the CAG to explore options for the long-term management of the refreshed green space in the area through a stewardship or land trust model led by local residents, with the aim of providing training and employment opportunities.
whg has invested heavily in social regeneration projects aimed at improving the health of residents and their training and job prospects. Through the Community Champions project, developed using funding from the European Social Fund, champions are employed by whg for two years before moving on to further work or study, opening up the programme for new entrants.
There is an employment and skills centre within the area that was passed to whg at stock transfer, providing the perfect opportunity to expand the association’s employment and skills offer for local residents. Though initially focused on construction skills, over time whg has developed the training to focus more readily on the needs of local residents and employers – providing digital training and employability skills, and developing pathways into work. whg works closely with local businesses including Jaguar Landrover, TK Maxx and the hospitality and service sectors to understand their staff skills requirements.
The development agreement delivered by whg and Keepmoat outlines a number of added value commitments, including the creation of 48 apprenticeships
Apprenticeships, traineeships and jobs have been provided around construction, catering, and environmental/green space management. The training is also aimed at helping people secure better quality jobs and improved incomes, for example by providing guidance to residents about the risks of zero hours contracts.
The partners have also tried to maximise the direct social impact of the regeneration – the development agreement delivered by whg and Keepmoat outlines a number of added value commitments including the creation of 48 apprenticeships and 40 traineeships, support for 32 local businesses and maximising use of the local supply chain.
Working with Walsall Public Health, whg has also delivered health and wellbeing interventions in the regeneration area. This has included lifestyle advice such as weight loss and smoking cessation programmes. These programmes have resulted in an increase in referrals and access to mainstream services, an increase in the number of outreach services available and improved links and referral pathways between provider organisations.
What can we learn from this project?
The viability of this project was seriously affected by wider instability in the housing market. When the market fell in 2007, development for sale became risky and whg had to scale back and slow down its plans. In order to sustain the regeneration and prevent the area falling into further decline, whg continued to develop but at a smaller scale – building on a number of infill sites of around 10 units.
One of the biggest challenges for regeneration is that projects move in and out of viability as the housing market fluctuates – and this is why housing associations are uniquely placed to deliver. Its social purpose means that whg is heavily invested in the community and, as a business, it is reliant on the area succeeding which means it can provide the long-term commitment and patient capital needed to sustain regeneration and development despite the viability challenges.
This project is also a clear example of how regeneration can be delivered in lower value housing markets. Current approaches to regeneration are based on rising land values generating a return on investment. Goscote Lane shows that, with the right approach, this can be achieved in areas that are unlikely to experience high increases in land values. The development is already proving to be one of Keepmoat’s most popular developments nationally and a key element of this success has been that Keepmoat has priced the properties for sale to be attractive to the local market.
Alongside all of this, efforts are needed to ensure that existing residents are not left behind by growth and change. whg has concentrated health and employment support in the Goscote Lane area but could not have delivered this scale of intervention without external funding through the LEP and the European Social Fund. Without access to such funding it would be even more challenging for housing associations to deliver the sustainable social change that is achievable through regeneration.