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A multi-million-pound programme of investment has been announced by Ellandi, the privately-owned shopping centre operator, which is set to transform Merry Hill shopping centre into a ‘best-in-class regional retail destination’ in the West Midlands by July 2025. 


Delivered over five years and beginning with a first stage relaunch in September 2021, the £50 million+ investment will see Merry Hill undergo a major transformation, including a new placemaking masterplan for the 2 million sq ft+ centre and surrounding waterfront and leisure destination. 

Ellandi said the goal of the investment is to build on the best-in-class retail offer provided by occupiers such as Next, JD Sport and Primark; creating a stand-out environment that will secure further leading brands in their flagship formats, and an enhanced leisure offer to provide customers with an exemplary experience unique to Merry Hill. Already, a further 22 units are in negotiation or under offer, totalling over 230,000 sq ft. 

Plans include the development of a new family entertainment ‘Leisure District’, allowing visitors of all ages to enjoy a range of non-retail activities and attractions, as well as new restaurants. 


Existing leisure facilities will undergo substantial upgrades and be better connected to the main mall. 

Mark Robinson, the co-founder of Ellandi, told Prosper, “Despite the pandemic, Merry Hill has seen footfall outperforming city-centre locations and other super-regional shopping centres, but we can’t rest on our laurels. Our plans will ensure that by 2025 Merry Hill will be the West Midland’s most vibrant family lifestyle destination, embedded at the heart of the local community.


“This investment will not only enhance and complement Merry Hill’s existing retail offering, but also the range of leisure-led, non-retail and food and beverage attractions – delivering a high-quality environment in which shoppers can also spend their days socialising, relaxing and having fun.” 

A new centre manager has also been appointed for Merry Hill. Jonathan Poole, formerly centre manager at The Liberty centre in Romford, took up the position this spring, bringing with him more than 20 years of experience managing some of the UK’s best-known retail destinations. 


Poole said, “I am delighted to have joined Merry Hill at such an exciting and transformative point in its history, with today’s announcement putting it on track to become the unrivalled shopping and family leisure destination for the West Midlands. 


“While I have only been here for a short while, I have been immensely impressed – not only by the fact that many retailers continue to operate at well above average but also Ellandi’s highly ambitious plans, which will truly take the centre to a new level.” 

Time Retail Partners and JLL have been appointed as joint leasing agents on Merry Hill, to support Ellandi in delivering the enhanced offer across retail, leisure and food & beverage.



Recently, I was invited to appear in an NHS video to persuade people across the Midlands to take up the offer of a COVID vaccination.


The NHS video featured a cross-section of local people explaining what the vaccine means to them.


My own contribution was personal, as I am one of the thousands across our region who have lost a loved one to this terrible disease - my mum. I know very well that if she’d been vaccinated, she’d still be here. 


I want to use this column to write about my experience, about where the vaccination programme is now and how a big final push can help businesses across the Black Country press ahead with confidence. 

I really didn’t anticipate my mum’s death – I was out walking with her just a week before she went into the hospital, where she contracted COVID. It was an incredible shock.


The day after she went into the hospital, Mum was called for her vaccine jab. It could have saved her life – it’s that simple. And that’s why I feel even more determined to get across the message that everyone should take up the offer to grab a jab. 

There is no doubt that the NHS vaccination programme is having a major impact. It has kept around 52,000 people out of the hospital and saved an estimated 60,000 lives.


The vaccination programme in the Midlands has constantly expanded to new sites, reached out to more people and ensured that a steady supply of vaccines is available. 

Every UK adult has now been offered a vaccination, which was a key part of the decision to ease restrictions and open up businesses. 

I have personally worked to ensure there are enough supplies of vaccine to deliver the jabs needed here. We can look everyone in the eye and say they have been invited to get a jab. 

Vaccination centres can be found everywhere from the Black Country Living Museum to the Molineux, from Portway Lifestyle Centre in Oldbury to Asda in Smethwick. 

We are starting to see more positive signs in terms of economic growth, and the business community is working hard to build confidence and footfall. The success of the vaccination programme is paramount to this – and I believe one final push to get as many people jabbed as possible is vital. 

We still face challenges, with some areas and communities displaying a higher rate of vaccine hesitancy. We are addressing this through outreach work that clearly explains the importance of vaccination, dispels any concerns over safety, and helps people book an appointment or find a drop-in clinic. 

There have been huge efforts by many of our faith groups to promote the vaccine, dispelling anti-vax fake news, as well as addressing legitimate concerns around fertility and long-term pre-existing conditions.


Now, with almost three-quarters of adults double-jabbed across the UK, we are seeing the national programme swing to focus more on younger people. People aged from 18-34 now make up more than one in five of those admitted to hospital with the virus. 

That’s compared to just one in 20 in that age group at the peak of the winter wave in January. In a young and diverse region such as the West Midlands, a lack of vaccine uptake in these groups is a concern to all. Indeed, the profile of our population means, as a whole, we are more unvaccinated than elsewhere - so there is a real need for young people to get jabbed. 

I have been working with the Street Team, a young group promoting work and volunteering opportunities related to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, plus the national Kickstart scheme and apprenticeships. 

It has been fantastic to chat to young people and hear about their experiences, as well as telling them about the opportunities being created in my push to create 100,000 jobs in two years. However, we have also been using the initiative to encourage greater vaccine take-up among young people.


The NHS is also working to rapidly extend the programme to 16 and 17-year-olds, while children aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable or live with adults who are at increased risk will also be invited for their vaccine over the coming weeks too. 

This huge national vaccination effort, which began with the oldest people in our society, may seem to be drawing to a conclusion as we focus on our youngest citizens. But there is a risk that we will rest on our laurels, instead of driving to get the job done.  

Right now, in the West Midlands, hospitals are cancelling critical operations because of a lack of ICU beds, as virus cases continue to drain NHS resources. This is not acceptable. 

This pandemic has touched all parts of society, impacting tragically on thousands of families, my own included. Businesses have faced an incredibly tough time. Yet communities have been sustained throughout by a feeling that we are all in this together.  

Now, as we face one final push to increase vaccination uptake, we need that spirit more than ever. The message is clear:  everyone, of every age and of every background - get the jab! 

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