29/09/2023 Message from the Leader of Solihull Council, Councillor Ian Courts.


This week I’d like to start by paying tribute to the 15 firefighters who have been awarded the Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation for their work during the tragedy at Babbs Mill Lake last December. Many of them entered the frozen lake without the requisite thermal protection as they did all they could to save the lives of those four boys we so tragically lost. With no thought for their own safety, they exemplified the values of decency, self-sacrifice, and duty that we know characterise so many in our emergency services. A number of Police Officers did the same, and the response from the ambulance service and their NHS colleagues in hospital was admirable. It was the worst kind of tragedy imaginable for those families. The response of those who attended the site was the best of our community, from the emergency services to the local residents who showed their solidarity and supported the families and each other. I congratulate those 15 firefighters, and thank them for all that they did that day and continue to do for us all. Thank you.

Earlier this week I paid a visit to a site in Kingshurst where work is underway to build 25 new homes as part of the wider regeneration of the village centre. The homes, which will be social rented properties managed by Solihull Community Housing on behalf of the Council, are being built of high-quality sustainable materials. There will be a variety of housing, ranging from one-bed maisonettes to four-bedroom houses, will be very energy efficient to keep costs down for the families who will live there. The whole scheme to provide a brilliant new centre for Kingshurst is wide-ranging and ambitious - it demonstrates our commitment to ensure that the whole borough benefits from the economic growth we’re seeing in Solihull. We know there’s a shortfall of affordable housing here and this scheme sets the standard for what we want to provide – good quality homes built to last into the future.

The ever-popular Oaks and Shires event is set to return Elmdon Nature Park next Saturday October 7. The event runs for three days during next week, giving the opportunity for invited groups of local schoolchildren to learn about the natural environment and sustainable woodland management. It then opens to the public on the Saturday, when visitors will be able to see a heavy horse dragging timber out of the woodland and many other attractions including willow-weaving, face painting, and bird of prey displays. It’s so important for young people in particular to form that special connection to the natural world which can last a lifetime, and this event is great opportunity to do so. It’s a good reminder in a globalised world of the seasonal nature of our local environment, and the ways we can work in concert with the natural world to all of our benefit.

This question of seasonality was already on my mind after the weekend, when I was delighted to see Cox’s apples in stock whilst doing my weekly shop. Seeing a colleague from the Council on my way out, I remarked on it, and it got me thinking about what we eat, when we eat it, and where we get it from. How many of us actually stop and look at where the food we’re buying has come from when we’re putting in the trolley. Supermarkets and, perhaps even more so, online shopping, disconnect us from the fact that produce is mostly seasonal, it’s only the fact that we can ship things in from all over the world that insulates us from this and allows us to eat whatever we fancy all year round.

I’m not suggesting a return to feasting after the harvest and stretching the salted meats through winter, but perhaps we could all benefit from stopping to look at where something has come from. Eating fresh local produce reduces food miles and the environmental impact of what we’re eating, it supports people in our communities and across our country, and maybe most importantly, it’s a good way to find yourself eating some very delicious food, like those fresh Cox’s apples.

If you’re now thinking about eating some wonderful locally sourced food, then I’ve got good news for you. The annual Solihull BID food festival starts today and will run through the weekend, featuring 80 stalls and demonstrations from celebrity chefs. There’ll be plenty of excellent produce on offer, so do go along and support this wonderful event in our town centre by enjoying as much of that food as you can manage.

Thanks, and have a good weekend,

Councillor Ian Courts