What times we appear to live in, it just seems one thing after another; now we have had the extreme heat and drought. I hope you have made the most of the hot weather, but we do need some rain now, although it’s yet to arrive!
You will have seen in the news that “Birmingham” (actually it would be Resorts World, Solihull) has made the shortlist as one of the cities to host Eurovision in 2023. According to one report I read, we are second favourites. I think our performance as a region with the recent Commonwealth Games demonstrated just what we can do. I am hopeful also for the Birmingham bid for the European Athletics Championships 2026
A lot has already been said about the Commonwealth Games, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it once more, and take stock of how fantastic the whole experience has been. I was so lucky to attend the remarkable closing ceremony last Monday night, which I felt really encapsulated the spirit of our wonderful region – the people that make it so great, our rich history, diversity and some musical legends! The whole 12 days of sporting action, and the various lead up events and celebrations have been absolutely wonderful and I especially loved seeing the way the crowds supported all the athletes so loudly, whether they had won a medal or not.
The crowds and the volunteers certainly helped make the Games, and I would like to give a particular mention to the 19 Games Ambassadors who were based in Solihull Town Centre across our two festival sites. They did a fabulous job making sure everyone was greeted with a smile and representing our brilliant borough - thank you to you all. You can read more about the volunteers here.
As we hit a Level 3 heatwave alert again last week, it does feel that something that used to be quite rare is now happening more and more. Wall-to-wall sunshine is amazing for the outdoor life, but it is rather worrying for our plant life, our animals and what it’s indicating about our climate more widely. The Met Office has confirmed that July was the driest since 1935. Our natural environment does need some help at the moment, so if you do happen to see a tree in need, or one of our lovely floral community planters, please do give them a little water - preferably ‘grey’ (from your washing up or popping a bucket in your shower while it heats up). We can all do our bit.
Last week I was pleased to meet with our two MPs, Saqib Bhatti and Julian Knight, in Kingshurst, where we have plans to completely redevelop the village centre. They are backing the Council’s bid to the government’s levelling up fund (LUF), from which we hope to secure £12m of additional funding to help deliver this transformative scheme. With their backing, and the support of the West Midlands Combined Authority, I hope we can secure the funding which will help create a high quality, community focused new local centre in Kingshurst.
Despite the element of concern I registered at the beginning of this piece, with the success of our fantastic Commonwealth Games Festival Sites and all of the recent events organised by Solihull BID, such as the Jazz Festival, not to mention the Queen’s Baton Relay, there has been a real buzz around Solihull Town Centre this summer.
I wanted to touch on a few of the things we are doing to capitalise on this and ensure that our town centre remains a vibrant, attractive and welcoming place for everyone to live, work and visit.
You may be aware that the Council took ownership of Mell Square in March last year and since then we have been working up proposals for how this vital part of the town centre might be redeveloped and modernised. This kind of work will take time and there will of course need to be broad consultation with residents, businesses and key stakeholders before we can progress any plans, but we could expect to see some works starting as soon as Spring 2025. In the meantime, we are already planning some exciting works to improve Poplar Way and introduce natural light, as well as other improvements to that area – so watch this space.
Behind the scenes we have also been working with design and engineering consultants at Arcadis to develop proposals for an exciting new Public Realm Strategy (PRS). This will help guide design principles for future developments and provide continuity across the public spaces, streets and green spaces within our town centre. From bins to benches, and lighting to street signage, we want to ensure our approach to improving the public realm will be about using high quality features, which respects and enhances Solihull’s distinctiveness and identity. We are looking to share our emerging strategy soon, in order to start gathering crucial feedback. Look out for details of how you can get involved or sign up to our consultation email bulletin to automatically receive updates when a new consultation is launched.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council