REGENERATION NEWS: Agency launches Longbridge vision

Plans for a £100 million hi-tech business park on surplus land at MG Rover's Longbridge car plant were submitted to Birmingham City Council this week.

The proposal by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and St Modwen Developments also includes a regional centre for microsystems, incubator space for smaller firms and community facilities for Longbridge residents.

The River Rea, which flows through the site but is covered, will be exposed and a riverside walkway will be built. Developers expect the park to create up to 3,000 jobs over ten years.

AWM acquired the 16ha site from MG Rover after the land became surplus to the car manufacturer's requirements. The agency views its transformation into a hi-tech park as a step towards making the West Midlands a "world class region" by 2010. If the plans are approved, demolition and reclamation work should start next spring, with construction beginning by 2007.

The site - bounded by Bristol Road South and Longbridge Lane - houses MG Rover's disused North Works, an adjoining car park and part of the South Works. It lies within a hi-tech corridor stretching from Birmingham to Worcestershire.

AWM chief executive John Edwards labelled the scheme a "highly significant project for the whole of the West Midlands". He added that it will bring high-value jobs to the region.

Longbridge is one of three major regeneration projects in Birmingham through which AWM and its partners aim to transform key areas. The others are the former Fort Dunlop building and the Eastside area of the city centre. The projects will share around £115 million of agency funding.

AWM will invest £18.3 million in the Longbridge business park, with the rest coming from the European Regional Development Fund and the private sector.

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