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Councils praised for bravery in bringing i54 to the market

Staffordshire County Council, City of Wolverhampton Council and South Staffordshire Council have been praised for their courage and foresight in bringing forward the giant i54 development site.

Noel Muscutt is a partner in commercial property specialists Bulleys, who have been involved in marketing the complex from the outset.

He said that in the early days of i54’s inception, the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands and then Homes and Communities Agency, were also to be commended for their stoic work in initiating the development of this strategically important site.

The partnership had taken a risk, it would never have happened without public money, but it had paid off spectacularly, he added.

Now he has revealed that there is further interest in what limited land remains out of the original total of 239 acres.

“Discussions are on-going,” he commented.

First on to the site were international aerospace company MOOG, taking 208,905 sq ft as a home for their design, development and manufacturing operations for multiple aircraft flight controls programmes.

They were followed by Eurofins, a leading international laboratory testing company servicing pharmaceutical, food, environmental and consumer product industries.

And then came the big one which transformed everything – the multi-million pounds Jaguar Land Rover engine facility now occupying 2,000,000 sq ft, with a total investment in the order of £900 million.

International Security Printers and ERA, the security hardware and electronics group, both also chose i54,

That left around 18 acres including a 15-acre site, designated Mucklow Park under the auspices of A&J Mucklow, which quickly pulled in Swedish engineering group Atlas Copco’s bolt tensioning subsidiary Tentec, transferring from West Bromwich and taking 46,000 sq ft for a new global centre of excellence.

In total, this leaves just 15 acres remaining, two plots on Mucklow Park, indicatively one of 160,000 sq ft and the other 74,800 sq ft – albeit they could be redesigned to provide for advanced manufacturing units of between 50,000 sq ft and 200,000 sq ft.

Plus, what is known as Plot C of i54, some 3.21 acres which had been earmarked for leisure interest such as a hotel or pub/restaurant, but which could yet be further advance manufacturing.

Mr Muscutt, whose firm has offices in Wolverhampton, Oldbury and Telford, said: “It has been an amazing success story and it is fair to say there is strong interest in the plots still available.

“But that success was never guaranteed. The councils put their neck on the block and their bravery has been rewarded – what has emerged is a real feather in their cap.

“They secured all these spectacular deals on a site so big it could perhaps only be compared with what happened with Toyota in Sunderland some 30 years ago.

“Without the council’s vision and tenacity these projects may never have come to the Midlands, never mind Wolverhampton.”

As part of the package the councils agreed to provide direct motorway access to the M54 and the site was designated an enterprise zone providing business rate reliefs for a five-year period.

When completed i54 will comprise 2,500,000 sq ft of space and has already attracted thousands of jobs to the area for local people. By 2020 it is anticipated circa 4,600 jobs will have been established on i54.