Birmingham news Traders angry at 'rat infested' centre left to rot by council PremierLeague-News.Com
PremierLeague-News.Com - Tenants at Smethwick Enterprise Centre describe 'dangerous stairs' and allegations of 'dogging'
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! Traders at a council-owned business centre - once planned to be Sandwell's answer to the 'Custard Factory' - claim they are being forced to relocate and pay for their costs. The site itself, traders argue, is riddled with asbestos; rotting shop doors; and has been subject to rat infestations. Anti-social behaviour - including individuals shooting ducks at a canal, and acts of 'dogging' - have allegedly been witnessed by the traders. At least 35 businesses currently operate at Smethwick Enterprise Centre - including a homeless charity, a domiciliary care provider, an engineering firm, a dairy, and a flooring business. READ MORE: Cradley Heath rogue builder fined £4k after charging friend £900 for 'poor work' Ballie Singh, 53, director of Bearwood Flooring Limited, contacted the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) to air his concerns. Mr Singh, who has been at the council-run site for 17 years, said: "One unit here has been unoccupied for three and a half years and it's in perfectly good condition. Now our trade centre feels derelict and empty. "This was a thriving business park when I arrived in 2005. When the traders leave here to go onto big ventures, they are not replaced by the council. But I have people driving, even walking up to my shop unit asking me how they can register for a unit on this site. "The council come to our site to do what is the minimum required by law, mainly checking our electrical certificates, and making sure the site itself is fire safe. They don't come here otherwise. They have left us to rot." A £42 million contract was secured by Sandwell council and PXP West Midlands, a joint venture property company with the West Midlands Regional Development Agency. The entrance sign into Smethwick Enterprise Centre. (Image: Rhi Storer) In 2013, PXP West Midlands received planning permission to create Brindley Village II - a canalside regeneration project opposite Smethwick Enterprise Centre to provide 193 homes. Another contract worth up to £3.5 million to regenerate the business centre was also on offer. It was dubbed a Birmingham-style 'Custard Factory', by then councillor Preet Gill MP. And another £9 million contract via the defunct European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) were also on offer by Sandwell council. But there were no signs of development when the LDRS visited the site this week. One trader, who wished to remain anonymous, said a barrier had been erected by the council. They claimed it was to prevent visitors entering the site as it was "riddled with rats". They said: "The fire safety stairs here are extremely dangerous. They are incredibly slippy. "I've seen couples parked onto the site late at night dogging. Once there was so much broken glass all of my tyres burst and I had to replace them. "The main gate here isn't locked. I've seen people fishing across the business centre from us. "If you see the stairs that lead down to the lower car park it's not safe for women. [Sandwell council] wouldn't do anything about it." In July the council ordered the site to be declared 'surplus to requirement'. The decision means the centre, including units actively trading on the site, can be demolished to make way for 115 new homes. Wayne Hickman standing in front of one of his £15,000 fridges. (Image: Rhi Storer) The staircase described as 'extremely dangerous' by one trader.
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. Last year the project received £2 million of government funding - a slice of the £23.5 million Smethwick Town Investment Plan to make way for 115 new homes. The government funding, Sandwell council claims, must be used, otherwise the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities can "claw back" the money from the council. The council also claim "reputational damage" may be inflicted on the council if they do not build new flats and houses on the business centre. Figures show the borough requires 27,873 new homes by 2039 to cope with a higher population . Sandwell council only has enough land to deliver 9,158 houses – leaving a major shortfall of 18,715. Wayne Hickman employs nine apprentices in his dairy business - Hickman Dairies. He said he has installed two built-in fridges into his unit worth £15,000 each. "I gave the council a quote and they've offered me up to £5,000 to replace them. If I have to leave here, I can't take the fridges with me. They will just have to be scrapped. "Down the road there are two other enterprise zones. Are [Sandwell council] planning to shut them as well? Are they holding them empty for a reason? Are they going to sell the land off?"
The reception to Smethwick Enterprise Centre (Image: Rhi Storer)
The conference room located at Smethwick Enterprise Centre. (Image: Rhi Storer) Sandwell council previously argued the centre is "unable to attract the types of businesses that were initially envisaged" for the site. Currently 37.5% of the site is occupied by active traders who provide a yearly income of £99,000 to the council who own the site. Sandwell council claim the yearly maintenance of the site is £161,000. The improvements - including new glazing, electrical rewiring, and roofing of each building - would cost Sandwell council at least £2.4 million - rising up to £3.1 million. The figures were estimated in July - before inflation reaching double digits. By declaring Smethwick Enterprise Centre as 'surplus to requirement', the council will save money on its continued maintenance costs to help run the facility. Conservative councillor Jay Anandou "strongly urged" the council to halt any development on the site and to instigate "meaningful conversation" with the tenants. A Sandwell councillor with knowledge of the site said: "The website to redirect traders to help is often down when I try to help. "We say we support Black Country businesses, that you don't have to be academic to succeed in life, but then we are killing the businesses ourselves. "Some of the traders haven't been able to access post by the council telling them of their eviction. It's shocking." Preet Gill MP and Sandwell council were both approached for comment. Have a story? Email email@example.com. You cancontact me by text, WhatsApp, or Signal using 07554 702 118. Get Midlands politics news and analysis direct to your inbox with the Midlands Message newsletter . READ NEXT: Protesters say Sandwell council's decision to destroy Brandhall golf course 'sadly predictable ' Free bin collections of green waste end in Sandwell with 'cheap' £35 charge imposed Police ‘concerned’ over Yardley shop in booze bid after counterfeit tobacco find Children 'hiding weapons near school' as cops find suspicious 'item' during knife search 'Exemplary' Sandwell councillor Ann Shackleton dies, aged 78
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