Yesterday the Government published its long awaited ‘Levelling Up’ strategy and while Solihull wasn’t amongst the areas to be directly targeted there were some aspirations that are UK wide and are to be welcomed.
These include the target for the UK to have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population by 2030. In addition, narrowing the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy between local areas where it is highest and lowest, something we recognise is an issue in our borough.
Two other items that caught my attention were the potential for ‘trailblazer’ devolution deals to expand the powers of our Combined Authority and the new Innovation Accelerator for the West Midlands, which will be a cluster of innovation with local businesses and researchers being funded to turbo-charge local growth. Both will be worth exploring and I look forward to seeing more detail on these proposals in due course.
In terms of levelling up in Solihull, I think our own UK Central programme is allowing us to invest in our future and our future prosperity.
For instance, in Kingshurst our redevelopment scheme is gathering pace. While we wait for the determination of the full planning application submitted in November, Birmingham based contractor, City Demolition has been appointed to carry out the first phase of site clearance and demolition works. This is another practical step in delivering a high quality, community focussed new village centre for local residents in Kingshurst.
Subject to final approvals, the first phase of site clearance and demolition is set to begin imminently. The work will be limited to demolition of old buildings past their life - the garage blocks on Church Close, School Close and Over Green Drive, the old clinic building on Colling Walk and the old housing office on Church Close. It will not include any retail units or residential properties.
Kingshurst, like HS2 and the other big infrastructure projects around the new HS2 station, present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build the foundations for creating the future jobs, homes and communities in Solihull that we all want to see.
Speaking of supporting businesses, I know the Omicron COVID variant has led to businesses losing trade and some now find themselves in financial difficulties. This is particularly true for those businesses in hospitality, leisure or accommodation and who pay business rates.
I urge any of these businesses to find out if they are eligible for our Omicron Hospitality & Leisure Grant.
Please do check these grants out, it could help you keep afloat and move back to business as usual.
I am pleased to announce the launch of a pivotal campaign to help prevent exploitation in Solihull, called ‘SAY something if you SEE something’.
Exploitation negatively affects everyone - victims, communities and business. It’s everyone’s responsibility to look out for and report all exploitation whether the victim is a child or adult – together we really can make a difference. The campaign is initially targeting businesses but please look out for the public launch in the coming weeks so that you can play your part too. Follow this link to find out more about our All Age Exploitation Reduction work and see the strategy here.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of welcoming one of Her Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenants for the West Midlands, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, to Langley Park to meet students and teachers from Langley School, local ward councillors, contractors and council staff.
The event was the planting of 54 trees, one for each of the Commonwealth countries, as part of our contribution to The Queen’s Green Canopy, an initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee this year.
Langley Park’s new 54 trees will honour the Queen’s 70 years of leadership of the nation and help to enhance our environment. As well as being a lasting legacy they are a beautiful addition to our urban landscape. They also produce oxygen, purify the air, lower the air temperature, help prevent flooding and sustain wildlife – creating habitats for lots of different birds and animals.
On the back of our success in demonstrating our robust climate change plans and being ranked fifth in the UK, it was lovely to meet the Deputy Lieutenant and students from Langley School as we made a practical contribution to The Queen’s Green Canopy and our own environmental ambitions.
Here in Solihull we understand the importance of trees to both residents and our wildlife and have pledged to plant 250,000 trees over the next ten years.
Remember, a single tree can absorb as much as 22kg of carbon each year and it can lock away one whole ton by the time it is 40 years old. This makes tree planting one of the best and cheapest ways of taking carbon out of the atmosphere to contribute to our work tackling the climate crisis.
This was really impressive work by our Council's Planting Our Future team, and it was good to see some local councillors digging too, although we do need to identify more land for planting.
During the event Langley School Head Teacher Clare Thorpe mentioned that one of their students at the school, Amelia Giles, 13, has picked up a “Be Kind” award for all her selfless work in her community during lockdown.
The Be Kind Awards recognise and celebrate young people not just for their academic achievements in school, but also for the way they treat others and show acts of kindness. I hope to visit the school soon and have a proper chat with Amelia and congratulate her in person.
Finally, I wish you Health, Happiness, Harmony and Hope
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council
P.S. Solihull Moors 5 - Altrincham 0. Another great win for our team!
P.P.S. While I was at the ground, I saw some of the work of the Moors Foundation and have been promised to be shown more - that will be a report for another time. I also met the Chairman, had a good discussion and shall be meeting him again.