11 March 2022 – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


The news and images coming out of Ukraine are dreadful and getting worse. The scenes of destruction and the evil that is causing it are quite unimaginable.  Many are wanting to want to help in some way.  To make it easier to offer support and help we’ve pulled together some information and links, which you can find here.

We are still waiting to hear from the government about any arrangements for hosting refugees, but Solihull will play its part as required.

I understand there might have been some misunderstanding over the review of the proposed charity and community events fees for events in parks. We’re reviewing fees because some large events allow commercial operators to benefit from running stalls, cafes and rides, and there are associated cleaning up costs afterwards which the Council currently pays for.

The review is intended to help cover these cleaning up costs, but of course we want to continue to encourage community and charity events to take place within our parks. A proposed new fee structure, based on a sliding scale, will ensure small event organisers don’t have to pay fees. The next step is for my colleague Cllr Grinsell to look at these proposals at a decision session later in the year before any proposals go out to consultation and a final fee structure is approved. This process is expected to take at least six months.      

The COVID pandemic has been a hugely testing time for businesses, and so I was delighted to see Touchwood shopping centre win Business of the Year in the Excellence in Hospitality and Retail category, at the 2022 Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Business Awards. Touchwood has been a great success for Solihull town centre and the borough. 

It was great to hear judges say it had "set the benchmark" for UK shopping centres in terms of sales and footfall performance”. They also praised “its focus on the local community with its support for the Solihull Shopmobility scheme, holding a ‘Quiet Hour' with Autism West Midlands and Purple Tuesday which helps disabled customers.”

Well done Touchwood!

Alongside Touchwood’s success, it’s also been a busy and successful start of the year for Mell Square. It has welcomed a trio of new retailers, including independent women’s clothing boutique, Sophie Bea. It is soon to be home to a very exciting new dining experience: Michelin-star chef, Rob Palmer, will be opening his new concept restaurant, Toffs, on 18 March.    It has already become one of the most talked about restaurants in the region.

Mell Square is already home to a vibrant and varied mix of places to dine, including independents Taste Collective, Green’s, Esabella’s and Tap & Tandoor. This latest addition will be a perfect fit alongside these existing independents and will offer a new dining experience for visitors to Mell Square, one which I hope many will enjoy.

In other good news, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has just announced that 150 homes in Elmdon will benefit from energy saving insulation as part of the £2.8m funding the WMCA secured through the government’s Sustainable Warmth Competition. (Another 150 homes in Coventry will benefit from this scheme too). Moving to more environmentally friendly housing will help save on energy, particularly with gas and electricity costs soaring.  

This scheme is encouraging, but it is really only the start. The energy used to heat and power our homes accounts for 40% of our overall CO2 emissions.  We have over two million properties in the region that could need retro-fitting, with better insulation and other energy conserving technologies. Moving to more environmentally friendly housing, can save energy and help us tackle, now and in the future.

We also need to start building new homes that are already energy efficient.  The new Future Homes Standard (FHS), which will become a Building Regulation requirement from 2025, is the government response to this challenge for the building industry.  FHS will see the introduction of tougher low-carbon regulation for new homes built from 2025.  The new homes will have to utilise a low-carbon form of heating and hot water and generally emit 75-80% less carbon than homes built today.

Many in the industry are already looking at how to deliver FHS and I was invited to Midlands Heart’s ‘Project 80’ launch.  Midlands Heart is a local registered social landlord managing 34,000 high quality, safe and affordable homes across the Midlands.  Project 80 is a research and development programme looking at FHS and is being undertaken in collaboration with Birmingham City University, Tricas Construction Ltd, key product manufacturers and other industry bodies and contractors.

The aim is to understand how the FHS will work in 50 test homes that meet the new regulations, before the 2025 deadline. These 50 new homes will use better insulation, as well as low and zero carbon technologies such as air-source heat pumps, hot water heat pumps, and wastewater heat recovery

This is exciting work and will provide invaluable knowledge and experience.  Well done, Midlands Heart, for undertaking this vital real-world research.

Can I wish you a good weekend. Let’s just hope that this senseless and brutal Russian aggression in Ukraine is brought to an end as soon as possible.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council