An exciting new strategy intended to improve and upgrade Solihull town centre’s public spaces over the next decade has been approved.
The Council’s new Public Realm Strategy (PRS) has been created to help underpin its wider strategic aim of supporting continued investment in the town centre by setting out an overall vision to inform future development.
With a proven track record of attracting high quality occupiers and investment, Solihull is one of the best-performing town centres in the country. However, as retail habits and the way we use our local centres continue to change, Solihull Council want to ensure the town centre continues to thrive by encouraging more visitors and investment.
In 2020 the Council adopted an ambitious new Town Centre Masterplan which takes a wider view of upcoming developments and investment opportunities in housing, leisure, business and culture. This latest strategy supports the Masterplan by looking at how to improve the attractiveness and feel of the town centre through the delivery of seamless, high quality public realm spaces and establishing a clear set of design guidance which respect Solihull’s existing character and heritage.
To accompany the new strategy and show how this vision might be achieved in practice, a concept design has also been produced. This first phase design concept focuses on Solihull High Street, New Road and the access to Malvern Park via Park Road, which is a key route through the heart of the town centre.
Championing a more sustainable and resilient approach to town centre public realm, this design concept includes the installation of a green spine made up of ‘rainwater gardens’ providing the area with greenery all year round. The concept design looks at how the pedestrianised core of the town centre might be extended with the creation of an attractive new town square opposite the Grade 1 Listed St Alphege Church. The newly proposed ‘Church Square’ could serve as a focal point and be used to host community and ceremonial events.
A six-week public engagement exercise was held over the summer to share the emerging strategy and seek views on the concept design which demonstrates how design principles set out in the PRS could be delivered.
Over 3000 people visited the council’s engagement platform ‘YourVoiceSolihull’ to find out more and almost 200 members of the public stopped to speak to the project team in person, at a series of face-to-face sessions held on the Highstreet and at The Core Library.
In total, the Council received over 160 individual submissions with further representations from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Solihull Business Improvement District (BID), and the Royal British Legion.
Funding for the design phase of the project has largely come from the West Midlands Combined Authority via the Council’s UK Central programme. The next phase of the project will involve producing a business case which will identify further potential sources and clearly set out the economic benefits associated with upgrading Solihull’s public realm. Future funding is likely to come from a variety of sources and include a significant portion of external grant funding.
Councillor Ken Hawkins, Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure, said:
“Solihull town centre has a proud history and an exciting future ahead of it. As new developments come forward at different times our new PRS will provide an overall framework of design principles for future projects. This coordinated approach will ensure continuity across our public spaces and ensure it remains a vibrant, attractive and welcoming place for people to live, work and visit.
“From bins to benches and lighting to street signage we want to ensure our approach to high quality public realm respects and enhances Solihull’s distinctiveness and identity.”
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council and Portfolio Holder for the Economy, said:
“As a Council we know we have a key role to play in the future of Solihull town centre. This strategy represents part of a much wider parcel of planned investment in the town centre over the next decade. We have exciting plans to redevelop and upgrade Solihull Station, deliver world class new developments at our Eastgate and Westgate sites and, this Autum, intend to announce the appointment of a developer to help deliver a new vision for Mell Square.
“Our PRS is intended to accompany our Town Centre Masterplan and compliment the bold aims set out in it, while also aligning with the Solihull Public Realm Masterplan (2016) and Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal. With so much investment and development planned its vital we have a clearly defined public realm strategy in place to protect and enhance our high quality attractive public realm.
“This strategy sets out a coherent vision for our public realm which respect and enhances Solihull’s distinctiveness and identity to create vibrant and dynamic spaces that can be enjoyed by residents, workers and visitors alike and that celebrates Solihull’s history, character, diversity and future.”
The new Solihull Town Centre Public Realm Strategy can be found on the Councils website: Solihull Town Centre Public Realm Strategy
Residents can sign up to the Council’s new ‘Solihull Town Centre Public Realm Strategy’ Stay Connected bulletin to receive updates on the project.