Time to be proud of Wolverhampton renaissance, says West Midlands Mayor
Wolverhampton is bouncing back – and is playing a key role in the ‘regional renaissance’ of the West Midlands, according to the region’s mayor.
Andy Street told a packed assembly of more than 170 members of Wolverhampton Business Forum that they should be proud of their city.
And he said team work and unity were key to its future success.
The former managing director of the John Lewis Partnership issued a rallying call for the city.
He said Wolverhampton had an incredibly proud history and the success of Wolves' return to the Premier League was a special opportunity for the city to build its brand around sport.
“The city is rebounding in terms of its economy with the Jaguar Land Rover plant at the i54 at the cutting edge of Midlands manufacturing and there is a lot to celebrate like 125 years of the Grand Theatre next year,” he added.
“As Wolves are on the up I hope you will all take part and also play a part in a region that is genuinely rebounding.
“It is all about team work. The West Midlands Combined Authority is the glue that links between all of that.
“I genuinely think the difference is working as one team with one plan and as you know you can never beat a united team,” enthused Mr Street.
He said that the ‘renaissance’ had started in Wolverhampton and the ambition for the city could be seen in the images produced by the city council of what it will look like in the near future.
He said the wider West Midlands had grown faster than anywhere else in the country over the last five years after being bottom for four decades in a row.
“Exports growth is an incredible story, he told the meeting, held at the city’s Carvers Building Supplies.
“We are now the exports capital of the UK. On job creation we have moved from laggard to leader.”
Mr Street said that it was fantastic that the 5G communications pilot project for the whole country was now taking place in the West Midlands.
He said huge investment was taking place in transport including HS2 and Wolverhampton’s new “world class” Interchange station brining together rail, buses and Metro.
“You will soon have a state-of-the-art train station rather than something that does not welcome you to a city on the rise,” he enthused.
He added that 2021 was the target for the opening of the new Wolverhampton to Walsall rail line.
On housing he praised the Canalside scheme in Wolverhampton as “great work by the city council” and said 1,100 homes would be coming to the site.
“What a transformation that will be: everyone who passes through Wolverhampton on the train will see it,” said Mr Street.
Questioned on the state of retail in Wolverhampton, Mr Street said the combined authority was going to draw up a plan to rally town centres.
“You can’t put the current retail trend back in the box.
“You have got to go with it. On the future there will be more local retailers, more specialist shops and more emphasis on services.
“There will be more restaurant experiences in town centres and more people will move to live in town centres.
“The city council has got to help meet that challenge,” he told the business representatives.
Asked about whether parking charges in the city could be reduced to help the city’s traders, Mr Street said the real challenged was to move commuters to public transport. he said improvements to rail and tram services would help.