One of the many attractions we have in Solihull is our fantastic selection of parks and green spaces. I dedicated much of this message a fortnight ago to celebrating them and the work that goes in to maintaining them.
I’m happy to revisit that message again now though, as news has come through that we have retained all 16 of our Green Flag Awards. This is the international mark of quality for these spaces and is well-deserved recognition for all the Council staff and local volunteers who ensure we continue to have wonderful green places for the community all across the borough. There’s more information and a full list of the parks here.
One group who have been taking full advantage of Elmdon Park, and even helping to advance our understanding of it, are the Solihull Young Archaeologists Club (YAC). They’ve been digging (with permission and under supervision) into the park’s past and you can see the fruits of their labours at an exhibition at The Core until September 14. Find out more here.
There is something of an economic theme to several of the pieces in the message, and this is no accident. Solihull is already a key driver of the West Midlands’ economy, creating a great deal of employment for local people and we’re confident that this positioning will only increase over the next decade. Our new Economic Strategy for the borough lays out just how we’re going to achieve that. We already support more than 151,000 jobs in Solihull and we want to make sure all of our residents can access the wonderful opportunities available. I’m also keen to emphasise that our economic aims are not seen as separate to our commitment to the environment.
The strategy refers to this idea of growth as being both inclusive and having environment at its front and centre. We’ve consulted business, industry, government, education, partners and residents on this. All their views have been taken on board to ensure this is a strategy that will benefit everyone, for the next ten years and long beyond that, as we enshrine the importance of growing our economy for all and protecting our environment for the future.
I’ve used the phrase ‘small enough to care, big enough to make a difference’ in this message before, mainly to refer to our social care activities as a Council, but it applies here too. We’re home to a wide variety of businesses across many sectors, ranging from small retail to very large manufacturing, but just the right size to ensure we have the capacity to support those giants whilst never overlooking the vital contribution of our wonderful small business community and everything in between.
Another key focus of the new Economic Strategy is creating thriving places which become centres of our communities and support local people. Perhaps the biggest of these within the borough is Solihull town centre. I know there’s a perception in some quarters that town centres are dying, driven to the wall by online shopping and changing behaviours post-covid, but it’s not something I’m prepared to accept in the case of Solihull. Whenever I’m on the high street, in Touchwood, or in Mell Square, I see it bustling with people; we welcome new restaurants and shops regularly. Some shops have moved out, but others will replace them, or those spaces will find new uses that bring benefit to the community and we need to embrace opportunities rather than mourn how things used to be.
Certainly as a council we must ensure that the spaces we control are as welcoming as they can be to residents, businesses, and visitors. The Town Centre Public Realm Strategy consultation ends on Monday so this weekend is your last chance to have your say. There are some really bold ideas in there, and we want your comments and hopefully support to implement them to make sure that whatever we do in the town centre is suitable for all who use the space.
Solihull isn’t just a great place to live, it’s a great place to visit as well. I know I’ve been guilty in the past of overlooking all that we have on our doorstep, and I’m sure that’s true of many of our residents. If you’re looking for things to do this summer or planning a staycation, take a look at the Visit Solihull website. There’s lots of information on where to eat, drink and stay, local attractions and events that you can enjoy without leaving the comfort of our borough. It’s a wonderful resource for residents of course, but mainly aimed at bringing visitors in to see all that we have to offer and support our businesses, both small and large, whilst they’re here. Visit Solihull have launched a new campaign, so do look out for that and why not encourage those who live elsewhere to see what it is that makes our home so special?
Finally, I know anti-social behaviour (ASB) is a concern for many of our residents. I’m pleased to announce that as part of the Government’s ASB strategy, Solihull has been awarded some extra money to help tackle it. £60,000 will be added to the existing budget this year and the next to ensure that ASB hotspot areas see an increase in police presence and support from other agencies. This will help deter anti-social behaviour, step up enforcement action against offenders and help to stop anti-social behaviour spiralling into more serious criminality.
Thanks, and have a good weekend,
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council