In the acres of news print dedicated to gas prices, lack of CO2 for industrial use and fuel shortages, there was an elephant in the room. Climate change. As well as the whole issue of how we will power society in the future.
If you’ve looked at our Draft Net Zero Action Plan you will see we already have a small amount of renewable energy generation within the borough and we are exploring a Low Carbon Energy Network to serve Solihull town centre.
As a Council, we keep doing more and more. Solihull Community Housing (SCH) recently won the ‘Regional Housing Association or Landlord of the Year’ in the prestigious West Midlands Energy Efficiency Awards. The award followed SCH building seven new net zero carbon bungalows that demonstrate in real, practical ways - how to marry up combatting climate change with helping people to heat their homes more cheaply. Well done SCH.
I recognise that all of us will need to play a part in creating a sustainable future for the region and the UK. This will be exciting and challenging work. As a region steeped in cutting edge engineering and technology, we are well placed to become leaders in discovering and delivering the solutions that will allow us to create the sustainable economy and society we all want and need if we are to tackle climate change.
Education at all levels will of course be key. It will be the driving force of building a green economy. I’m delighted to see our Solihull College has students on the first T Level courses. These new qualifications open up new opportunities for our young people who, post 16, want to pursue a more practical education. T Levels put technical and academic qualifications on an equal footing. They offer a blend of classroom learning alongside an ‘on-the-job’ industry placement, which not only makes them highly desirable as a qualification but also directly relevant to employers.
I would like to send my best wishes to all those students who have just started their first year of T Levels at Solihull College and University Centre. And congratulations to all the staff who have worked so hard getting ready to deliver this new qualification.
I do hope that T Levels will become a popular choice for students. I followed a fairly academic route myself, through the law and then accidently into the building industry, which I loved. Not just the fact that it was down to earth and practical, but the increasing range of high tech and creative skills that are needed.
Continuing with the theme of youth and education, there’s a new fund to encourage organisations to support young people and drive clean growth. With up to a maximum of £500,000 available per project, the ‘Growing Places Fund’ will create opportunities for young people, as well as help local organisations to embrace the decarbonisation challenge and become more sustainable.
The fund is the brainchild of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and was launched on the same day that GBSLEP published its Young People Strategy - You(th)Matter.
An example of us being at the forefront of emerging technology is in the field of driverless vehicles. Solihull is one of the first places in the UK to test this technology in new ground-breaking passenger trials of an eight passenger shuttle bus. I hope many of you saw the piece on ‘The One Show’ last week.
The Council-led trial, which will operate on Pendigo Way between Hall 5 and Resorts World at the NEC over the next four weeks, will see how Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) might play a part in the borough’s transport network in the future. CAVs could have huge environmental benefits by cutting congestion and improving public transport so that more people are encouraged to leave their cars behind.
We are the first Council to have our very own CAV using funds from Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). The shuttles are built down the road by Coventry-based Aurrigo and use a suite of sensors to understand their surroundings, operating with little or no driver input.
If successful it might be something that could be rolled-out elsewhere in Solihull in the future.
You can find out more about this exciting trial here.
If any organisation is interested in learning more about the technology and potentially hosting a future trial themselves, they can contact us here
Finally, I was asked to let you know about support for local groups wanting to take over their local pubs. The Plunkett Foundation has been commissioned by West Midlands Combined Authority to offer free business support to any community groups wanting to retain, what in many areas, is an important community asset and focal point.
Over the last three years Plunkett’s “More Than a Pub” programme has helped hundreds of communities achieve community ownership or leasehold of their local pub when it was in danger of being lost.
Community ownership means a pub can become a place to put all sorts of activities and services into their buildings, as well as being the local place to have a drink. There are pubs hosting shops, post offices, health services, dementia groups, knitting circles and much more!
So if you’re involved in a community interested in saving your local pub, this support could put you in the best possible position for the next round of the Government Community Ownership Fund https://www.communityownershipfund.co.uk/
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council