Derelict bread factory in Walsall transformed into vibrant new community by Vistry Partnerships

Architects interior designer hands working with Blue prints and documents for a home renovation for house design

After lying derelict for nearly a decade, the site of Walsall’s former Harvestime Bakery has finally been transformed into a thriving new community.

Work on the 88 new homes has just been completed and many of the properties on the site of the former sliced bread factory are already occupied by families and other tenants.

The scheme by Vistry Partnerships follows a £1.5m investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), which was used to clean up the site and make it suitable for development.

The scheme is the latest in a growing number of disused industrial sites that are being redeveloped to provide new homes and jobs for local people under a ‘brownfield first’ approach introduced by the WMCA.

The Mayor, who also chairs the WMCA, said: “Not long ago this site was lying derelict and now – thanks to our investment in brownfield first regeneration – we are providing good quality, affordable housing for dozens of local people.

“Brownfield sites like Harvestime are notoriously difficult to develop, which is why they’ve remained derelict for so long. But with the funds we’ve secured from Government, we’ve been able to intervene and clean up the land, making it ready for new homes and commercial spaces while simultaneously creating local jobs and helping to protect our precious greenbelt.

“This work to unlock some of the region’s most complex industrial sites for development has continued even through the pandemic, and Harvestime is yet another example of this.”

The 4.6-acre site, off Raleigh Street close to Walsall town centre, has stood empty and neglected since the Harvestime Bakery closed in 2012 and its buildings demolished.

Of the 88 new homes on the site, 66 have been made available for private rent through Gatehouse Bank and 22 are classed as affordable.

All housing schemes that receive WMCA investment are required to make at least 20% of the new homes affordable under the combined authority’s own locally applied definition, which is linked to real-world local wages rather than property prices. The 22 affordable properties at Harvestime have been made available through local housing association Whg.

Adam Sharpe, Preconstruction Director at Vistry Partnerships West Midlands, said: “This was a significant regeneration development opportunity for us in Walsall with great links to major nearby cities.

“It represents a significant contribution to the new-build local housing market in the area and we were delighted to be able to work with the WMCA, Gatehouse Bank and WHG on bringing this mixed tenure development forward. I hope all the residents enjoy their new homes.”

A focus on housebuilding on brownfield sites is a key part of the region’s Covid recovery plans. Throughout the Covid pandemic, the WMCA has continued to press ahead with its multi-million-pound investment programme to unlock and transform scores of brownfield sites like Harvestime, provide market confidence and help drive the region’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery, delivering new jobs and homes in the process.

Cllr Mike Bird, Leader of Walsall Council and WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land, said: “Without the WMCA’s investment, these sites would stay undeveloped, and Harvestime would have remained a derelict plot in the centre of Walsall.

“But this development shows that with the right investment we can breathe new life into local communities. Yet this is just one of dozens of former industrial sites we are transforming for new homes and jobs and it demonstrates why the WMCA is a national leader in brownfield regeneration.”

Harvestime Bakeries was once one of Walsall’s biggest employers and there had been a bakery on the site since the 1800s. But the company went into administration twice in 2005 and was rescued through an agreed takeover package by Maple Leaf Bakery UK, securing 250 jobs after more than 100 workers were made redundant.

The bakery closed in 2012 after the company announced it was leaving the sliced bread market, with around 230 staff being encouraged to apply for posts at the Perfection Foods bakery, which opened elsewhere in the town.