Rachel-Ann Atterbury presented a report which updated the Board on the extensive work undertaken by the WMCA, the AMC Officer Working Group and the AMC Expert Advisory Panel in producing a Routemap for accelerating Advanced Manufacturing in Construction in the region, as commissioned by the Board. She reminded the Board of the links between this workstream and the Zero Carbon Homes workstream.
The Chair questioned whether any companies had intimated an interest in basing manufacturing operations within the region. Gareth Bradford reported that discussions were on-going with several such manufacturers regarding locating such factories in the region and advised that the pipeline of schemes including AMC properties provided a higher level of certainty and encouragement to such prospective companies.
Councillor Keith Allcock advised that Sandwell MBC was exploring the options of using AMC buildings and this extended beyond timber framed buildings with an approach having been received from a local company, Hadley Industries, regarding a steel framed building. A further company in Coventry had also made contact regarding such a building but the current cost of the unit was considerably higher than existing alternatives. The Chair advised that Walsall MBC had used steel framed buildings previously in developments.
Councillor Ian Courts advised that such steel framed buildings had been used in Japan during a recession within the traditional steel industry. He reminded the Board that it should not become fixated on one particular AMC option as there were several available including ‘Pods’. He commented that use at scale would assist in driving down costs.
Councillor Jacqueline Sweetman endorsed the previous comments but expressed concern with regard to the action to be taken to link the initiatives with training providers and colleges within the region in order to secure fully trained staff for employment within the industry. The Chair concurred with this comment and referred to the Shropshire Council Plan where 70 hectares of land was identified for employment purposes. He commented that if AMC development opportunities were available, this site was in commuting distance of the West Midlands Metropolitan area and could provide employment opportunities for those who had lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Gareth Bradford assured the Board that the two elements of the AMC proposals (skills and real estate) were being addressed by local HE/FE providers represented on the Task Force. The bid made to the Government for funding included seeking support for the skills element, together with the manufacturing element.
Councillor Jacqueline Sweetman suggested that a report be presented to the next meeting of this Board on the implications and impacts of the Government’s planning reform proposals for the Green Belt. Gareth Bradford reminded the Board that the WMCA had statutory planning powers.
1. That the contents of Part 2 of the AMC Routemap as detailed in Appendix B to the report, which had been worked up by the AMC Officer Working Group and expert Advisory Panel be noted;
2. That the proposals to explore options for implementing the Routemap’s recommendations in collaboration with the AMC Officer Working Group and AMC Expert Advisory Group be agreed;
3. That the intention to launch formally the AMC Routemap be noted;
4. That delegated authority be granted to the Director of Housing and Regeneration in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Land to agree the final version of the Routemap (for publication);
5. That the excellent support from local authority Officers on the AMC Working Group and industry experts on the AMC Expert Advisory Group in formulating the Routemap be noted.