1 June was the first day no deaths were recorded due to COVID since the pandemic started. Because of the way the records are compiled this may be revised but, none the less, let’s hope it is a real milestone to a time when Covid does not dominate our lives. The vaccination programme continues apace, with new records reached, but we are watching carefully for any rapid progress of any variants locally.
On Wednesday I was in Solihull town centre for an interview about the town centre and M&S moving to Sears Retail Park, Solihull. Like many, I am very sorry to see M&S move, and was intrigued to hear how many thought their decision was not a good one in the light of our plans for the town centre.
At the time the decision was made, in 2020, they said “Shopping habits are changing” and, like many other retailers, they have had to change to keep their customers. As the Council is the new owner of Mell Square, this decision does present an opportunity to bring something new into the heart of the town.
We have a masterplan and projects like Westgate and Eastgate will bring new businesses and opportunities to key areas in the centre. It is clear from trends before the pandemic, for example, that successful town centres need to provide shops where customers can touch and try on before buying; they need to offer the right balance of independent, niche, and national brands.
With the masterplan, and our ownership, we aim to create that blend. We will also improve our arts, culture, dining and leisure experience, as these are the things people want to combine with a shopping trip. We are currently talking to many retailers and businesses keen to come to Solihull. The town remains an attractive place to invest and do business, and I hope to have more news in the near future.
I must also mention that time is ticking if you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen. You and your family need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure you can continue to live, work, study, and have access to free healthcare and benefits from the end of this month.
The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021. You must usually have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020. To find out more about the scheme and how to apply go here.
I’m pleased to report that the work on the Armed Forces Community Garden at Hillfield Park is going very well, with most of the planting completed, paths created, new seating arranged and wildflowers seeded.
As preparations for the Garden’s official opening on 16 July continue, colleagues from the Royal British Legion and the Council are speaking to some of the people who have been involved about what the Garden means to them.
The Royal British Legion spoke to a local resident Neill Marshall, who lost his brother in active service and he explained how the Garden will be the perfect place to bring his children to talk about his brother and reflect on all those who have lost their lives during active service. You can watch the video here.
Councillor Alison Rolf and Councillor Ken Hawkins have also been reflecting on what the Garden will bring – and how quickly it has been designed and planted too. You can watch the video here.
Please do be careful and follow the basics to avoid the risk of infection being passed on by keeping your distance, wearing masks, fresh air, using sanitiser and getting tested regularly.
You can get a test at one of our Community Test Hubs (Chelmsley Wood or Solihull town centres), order home tests online or pick them up at a local pharmacy – you find out where they are available here. Do this twice a week if you’re out and about and in contact with other people. Make it part of your routine.
Keep doing the right things for you, your family, friends and Solihull. Stay safe.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council