A group of seven-year-olds sat excitedly in the 19th century schoolroom adjacent to St Cyprian’s Church examining ‘bits of old wire and rope’ manufactured by one of the UK’s leading specialist wire makers, Webster & Horsfall, whose factory is next door.
‘The expression on their faces was wonderful,’ says Sandy Robertson, a trustee of the Hay Mills Foundation Trust, which is chronicling Webster & Horsfall’s 300-year history. ‘They had so many questions and they were really interested – it was very refreshing to see.’
The youngsters, from nearby Redhill Junior and Infant School, are among several groups of local schoolchildren to have visited the ten-acre site or enjoyed talks about its heritage in their own classrooms. And it is they who will possibly benefit most in the long-term from the development of Tyseley Energy Park (TEP).
‘I think the local schools are key to helping the local community engage with and benefit from TEP,’ says Sandy. ‘Another local primary school, Oasis Academy Hobmoor, is very forward-looking, so I don’t think it will be difficult to get local schools more involved in what’s going on at TEP. And the more interested and engaged the children become, the more their parents and the wider community will get involved in what is happening here.’
The regeneration of one of Birmingham’s deprived areas will also offer them jobs when they leave school.
‘The employment opportunities won’t just be about attracting “grand” people from outside; there will be quite a lot of work for locals: clean energy technology is a new industry, so it will give young people the chance to get apprenticeships and learn new skills.’
Along with employment, the development of TEP will also bring leisure benefits.
‘The University of Birmingham’s innovation hub will bring academics into Hay Mills, which will fuel a demand for cafes, restaurants and leisure facilities,’ Sandy points out. ‘These will considerably change the nature and look of the area, as well as providing additional jobs.’
The Hay Mills Foundation Trust would also like to help raise sufficient funds to landscape the River Cole valley to provide a safe, green oasis for local people to enjoy.
‘If you’re going to revitalise the area economically, you also need to improve the area in other ways too. Somewhere with a bit of greenery, where people can feel safe and relax would make a big difference.’
Local councillor Zafar Iqbal MBE is full of praise for the work of the Trust and the development of TEP in helping to breathe new life into the area.
‘Tyseley has a rich industrial history and Webster & Horsfall have been a part of that history for hundreds of years,’ he says. ‘The development of TEP will sustain that history with traditional manufacturing and innovative technologies, bringing jobs to the area and helping to enhance the skills of local residents.
‘I have worked with the Hay Mills Foundation Trust and Webster & Horsfall and wholeheartedly commend the work they are doing with schools and universities. As the local councillor for Tyseley and Hay Mills, I am dedicated to helping to deliver the sort of project that involves local people and improves the area in which we live, creating inclusive economic growth that benefits all.’