Since the death of Wagon Automotive, the historic former Edward Rose plant in Brownhills, I’ve been watching the vultures circling the site with some curiosity. Since the collapse last Christmas, equipment and anything of value was removed from the newly abandoned buildings with almost indecent haste. I watched everything from spray-lines to rolling mills wrenched out and loaded into trucks or skips. The plant has been almost continually ground into dust for some months now by a dedicated and thorough demolition crew; soon not a trace will remain to indicate that there was ever a major manufacturing employer based at the site. I have been puzzling for some time as to the sudden failure and consequent rushed destruction of one of Brownhills’ last large factories.
The demolition of the facility has been remarkable – I’ve taken pictures at various stages during the operation. At one stage, the wrecking crews were even working on a Sunday – quite why escaped me. There appear to have been no planning applications filed for the location, and I’ve not managed to obtain any information from those working on-site as to who they are all contracted to. This dismantling has been a huge task – being a metal processing plant with large presses, finishing lines and all manner of oil-lubricated plant, the infrastructure will have contained hazardous materials and large pits to deal with, not to mention a wide variety of electrical, gas and fluid handling installations to render safe and remove. In short, this was no cheap, five minute job, so who would be funding it, and why?
Some indication came tonight in a screaming front page headline article by the Express & Star, which has been scanned here, by the ever-diligent YamYam. In it, a decidedly over-excited hack declares that Walsall Council is in line to forge a land-swap deal for the current North Walsall council depot. In short, the council depot would move to the Wagon site, and the developers – named as ‘Mar City’ – would get the Norfolk Place depot for housing. A bit of shrewd Googling turned up this on Mar City’s website, which certainly seems to suggest that they’ve been looking at the Pelsall Road development for some time; indeed, they already seem to have a housing blueprint drawn up for the Pelsall Road site (That’s Pelsall Road, not Pelsall Lane as the paper said). Check out the plan graphics on the right of the article…
The following thumbnails are photos I’ve taken at various stages of the demolition. Clicking on them will take you to the larger version at Panoramio.
One statement by Councillor Adrian Andrew in the newspaper article intrigued me: the member for regeneration has the following to say, ‘I have been working on this for 18 months and it is great news that we are moving forward.’ 18 months? Wagon only went bust last december – about 7 months ago. What did the Council know that the rest of us – including it seems, the workforce of Wagon – didn’t? I suppose it could be a misquote by the often typographically challenged local paper, but it does look like something has been cooking for a while. That WMBC see the need to point out that it all has to go to tender and planning also suggests some dealing behind the scenes – why on earth would anyone think otherwise? Why would they need to tell us they were doing it by the book? I should think the residents of Pelsall will have a fair bit to say once they realise that a depot in that location will lead to council vehicles like street sweepers and dustcarts rumbling through their community in the early hours to get to their jobs in the other suburbs of Walsall, not to mention the attendant stream of workers cars.
Perhaps our friends on the council would care to comment…
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