Ah yes, the late 1940s. When the planning document for post war recovery in Birmingham and the Black Country could gleefully propose the…

“transformation of the Birmingham-Wolverhampton road into a great parkway, passing between fields, woods and gardens. Behind these comes a basic woodland pattern which runs along existing contours…”


Of course, it was precisely the roads — and the ever-growing number of cars on them — that were the long-term wreckers of such dreams. The later fashion among planners for brutalist 1960s architecture didn’t help either.

Now comes the re-branding of the Black Country, to be launched in the next 10 days, on the back of which various shelved metro links will hopefully be kick-started again. West Bromwich will be pitched as being the cultural centre of the area /cough/. And a whole ¬£8m will be poured — poured — into Dudley over five years. Which, once salaries are accounted for, is about enough for some new hanging baskets, some fresh brochures, and a website makeover. It’s partly to do with influencing the last-minute rejigging of the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy (translation: ‘where the hell are we going to put the 446,000 new houses we’ll need by 2026’?) and grabbing some of the last tranche of EU funding. I guess the subtext is ‘give the Black Country its long-awaited metro links and we’ll be able to build 30,000 new houses/flats alongside them’.