34 EXPRESS & STAR | TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2022 Ready for action as Sandwell all set to welcome the Commonwealth Games JOHN CORSER firstname.lastname@example.org The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are coming this summer. Sandwell is proud to have the only venue built especially for the Games, hosting the diving, swimming and para swimming events. At the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Smethwick, the competition and diving pools are fully tiled, and steps have been added to the 10m dive tower. Soon permanent seating will be installed, and the pools filled for the first time, ready for international athletes to take their marks. Sandwell Aquatics Centre will be in use for the full 11 days of the competition – and its legacy will last for decades, as local people and visitors enjoy the health and social benefits of having world-class facilities in Sandwell. Further transformations through the Towns Fund Sandwell Aquatics Centre is one of many exciting things happening in Sandwell. In 2019, the government announced the ‘Towns Fund’ programme to support local economic growth across England. West Bromwich, Smethwick and Rowley Regis were among 101 places invited to submit proposals – and they were successful. Subject to approval of full business cases, Sandwell is to receive £67.5 million for regeneration projects in West Bromwich (£25m), Smethwick (£23.5m) and Rowley Regis (£19m). These span education, transportation, digital skills and housing and will bring improvements to parks, canal routes and local environment. In 2020, each of the 101 places received ‘accelerated funding’ for projects with immediate impact, helping them build back better from the pandemic. Thanks to this, Sandwell is already benefitting from improved walking and cycling routes, and upgrades to Rowley Regis parks. In West Bromwich, outdoor market stalls with solar panels are now generating their own electricity. Smethwick has a new two-way cycle lane; the first phase of a programme to boost connectivity between Smethwick Galton Bridge and the new housing development at Grove Lane. West Bromwich Towns Fund Having received approval from its cabinet, Sandwell Council is now seeking government go-ahead on three projects: l A Digital Den, led by Greets Green Community Enterprises, will offer digital training and local access to online resources and education, boosting the skills of Sandwell residents while reducing digital exclusion. l The Sandwell Civil and Mechanical Engineering Centre will Britannia Park in Rowley Regis The new Sandwell Aquatics Centre at Londonderry Lane, Smethwick, will be the scene of Games competition West Bromwich High Street will be seeing improvements be a new technical campus for Sandwell College, bringing learning opportunities and apprenticeships in engineering, advanced manufacturing, civil engineering, construction and hybrid electric vehicles for young people and adults, including those currently unemployed. l The Urban Greening Project seeks to create a ‘green link’ from the town centre to Dartmouth Park, with street trees, green spaces, play spaces, seating, lighting, vegetable planters, flower boxes and wildflower areas. A cultural programme will encourage people to engage in green workshops and hands-on activities. Sandwell Council and partners are preparing full business cases for the West Bromwich Town Hall Quarter Project, consisting of the internal and external refurbishment of West Bromwich Town Hall and the internal refurbishment of Central Library. They are also working on proposals for a ‘Retail Diversification Project’, which will deliver high-quality housing and help meet demand for town centre living. Meanwhile, the Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Project in West Bromwich will increase people’s options for sustainable travel. Smethwick Towns Fund In Smethwick, Sandwell Council is proposing a new Midland Metropolitan Learning Campus adjacent to the new hospital, in collaboration with Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, Sandwell College, the University of Wolverhampton and Aston University. The campus will offer training at all levels in healthcare and related professions, enabling local people to access employment in the new hospital and beyond. It will deliver university-level learning in Sandwell for the first time. There are plans to extend Smethwick’s Ron Davis Centre, expanding on the services it already offers, and giving local people ac- The aquatics centre will be ready for this summer’s Commonwealth Games cess to modern learning facilities. The Smethwick Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Project will boost access and connectivity within Smethwick, improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Currently, Sandwell does not have enough sites to meet the demand for new homes. Two Smethwick schemes will seek to address this: l Rolfe Street Canalside Regeneration Project (which will see the demolition of the Smethwick Enterprise Centre, and remediation of the site for development). l The Grove Lane Regeneration Project near the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital. Rowley Regis Towns Fund Sandwell College has plans to develop a Satellite Education Hub in Cradley Heath where adult learners can gain new skills and take advantage of local employment opportunities. The hub will also be available for community groups and activities. To encourage walking and cycling and better connections, the Canal Network Connectivity Project proposes around 7km of resurfacing for canal towpaths alongside the Dudley No 2 in Old Hill and the Old Main Line in Oldbury. Sandwell Council also seeks better accessibility and improved walking routes throughout Cradley Heath, Blackheath and Oldbury through the Rowley Regis Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Project. In Blackheath, major improvements are planned to Britannia Park, bringing new changing rooms, car parking, upgraded play and fitness equipment (including a skate park), allotments and a contemplation garden. Finally, the town centre will be enhanced with a new bus interchange, pedestrian space and redesigned Market Place, under the Blackheath Bus Interchange Project.