Sandwell Housing Market Renewal Area - Urban Living

Raglan St
©Sandwell MBC
Smethwick New Pumping Station built 1892
©Sandwell MBC

Region: West Midlands

Local Authority: Sandwell

Owner Type: Many

Funding Body: ODPM; English Heritage; Sandwell MBC

Year of Intervention: 2004

Summary: An Urban Historic Characterisation study was undertaken of the Sandwell HMRA Pathfinder Area to assess and understand the historic environment that has formed and characterised the present urban development that has evolved within the HMRA. The Study will form a base from which urban regeneration and renewal can derive, incorporating features and buildings that form an aesthetic and/or historic union with future development.

Description: The towns of West Bromwich, Smethwick and Oldbury are three of the six towns that form the Borough of Sandwell all have important medieval origins with Oldbury possibly having a prehistoric core. It should be noted the study is only primarily concerned with the specific area of Langley the outlying district of Oldbury that is within the HMRA pathfinder scheme. The towns are also important industrial settlements that grew with the Industrial Revolution which have a strong heritage and character. The Sandwell HMRA includes large areas of residential and industrial development alongside ‘green spaces’, which includes new urban green spaces and designed parks.  

Housing Market Renewal (HMRA) is a new Government initiative that aims to turn around areas of low housing demand. The changes to be brought about under this initiative are to be on a scale sufficient to make a long term and sustainable impact with lessons that can be applied elsewhere. The Birmingham Sandwell Housing Market Renewal Area Pathfinder is one of nine of these Housing Market Renewal Areas nationwide. The Historic Characterisation Survey of the HMRA will contribute to the overall historic environment management by:

  • Providing better overall information on the historic environment by advancing the existing Sandwell Sites and Monuments Record towards an accessible Historic Environment Record.
  • Enabling greater confidence in historic environment planning advice through the identification of a context for the existing site based 'point' data.
  • Offering the basis for a strategic management framework compared to 'ad hoc' research in response to individual development threats.
  • Using a Geographic Information System (GIS) to enable integration with other local authority GIS based environmental and land management data systems and strategies.
  • Informing and supporting international, national and local authority designations e.g. World Heritage Site, listed buildings, areas of special landscape value.
  • Providing historical characterisation mapping in support of related development projects.
  • Contributing towards the forthcoming 'Broad Brush' Characterisation Survey of the Black Country.
  • Providing the opportunity to link management of the historic environment to regeneration schemes, through improved information and consultation.
  • Producing a digitally generated resource that can be adapted to wider public access.
  • Involving local people in the survey. Providing a response that will facilitate a deeper understanding within the local community of its built historic environment.
Strategy: Sandwell MBC in partnership with English Heritage and Urban Living commissioned a charcaterisation study to assess of the historic character of the Sandwell HMRA. The result of this study will provide a database of information to inform a high quality of urban design that will be critical to the success of the overall regeneration scheme. The aim is that the redevelopment and environmental enhancements to the surviving fabric will reflect and retain what is unique about the character of the built form of the component parts of the area.
Outcome: The study has recently been completed and is already being utilised to formulate plans for improvement works being carried out with HMRA projects and will be used in conjunction with the new generation of design guidance for development within the study area. This document will be used in conjunction other recent Conservation and Heritage Landscape Appraisals which have clearly demonstrated how heritage can act as a powerful catalyst for wider regeneration by providing added value and a sense of place.

Keywords: Assessment and Characterisation, Management Plans, Regeneration

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