Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 11 August 2020

“Let’s do the right thing for Solihull”

Several things to mention this time, but first the Covid-19 update. Our centres are busier and people have been making the most of the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme. Most people are wearing face coverings when they should. For me, this is important, not just to protect others, but because it is also a sign of understanding that we are still in a crisis and that social distancing still needs to be observed.

The data is telling us that there is an increase in the number of cases within our communities, but nothing as yet tied to any particular venue or activity. We are keeping a careful watch on the situation, but let us hope that by following the current simple rules, we can control the virus, without having to impose further restrictions, or be forced to use our new powers. 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably dominated attention over the past months, we have also been looking to the future, to put in place the plans and policies that will ensure Solihull continues to build on its reputation for jobs and investment; help the local economy recover and seize the opportunities for Solihull that may present themselves despite the uncertainties of the present crisis

Today we are launching plans for the potential redevelopment of the current Council House site on the corner of Homer Road and Church Hill Road, adjacent to the High Street. Called ‘Eastgate’ the 5.66 acre site could be the business and commercial quarter within the town. Its size and good location, as well as being connected to the retail core of the town, makes Eastgate a unique investment opportunity for the area.

This announcement is basically about attracting a development and investment partner to help us deliver the opportunity, embracing new homes, business space, public squares and accommodation. Any design will need to incorporate the highest environmental standards and sustainability, as we must put climate challenge at the heart of everything we do as a Council.

Eastgate is about starting to shape the future of Solihull, keeping it as a key centre in the region, and is about our future prosperity.

On a different matter, how impressive was it to see the way that new bridge over the M42 was installed, in double-quick time? This is part of the work to connect the road network around the new HS2 interchange station, a key element in the borough’s future prosperity.

You will have realised that our woodlands and trees are close to my heart, so I am pleased to announce that we have agreed a long-term partnership with the Woodland Trust to provide 11,886 trees in the first year as a contribution towards our Planting Our Future project. 

Planting Our Future is about encouraging Solihull residents to get involved in tree planting projects, as well as any other green projects across the borough, such as offering support to private land owners who wish to plant trees. 

We have committed to planting at least 250,000 trees over the next 10 years as part of our wider commitment towards the climate change agenda. But we cannot do this work alone hence working with the Woodland Trust and others. For example, Solihull Council just does not have enough land – we have to ask everyone to help identify the land needed for the 250,000 target.

I also want to remind businesses in Solihull that the Small Business Grants Fund is closing soon.

To date more than £27million of government grants has been paid to over 2,000 businesses across the borough through the Small Business Grants and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund and the Discretionary Grant scheme. We have awarded a grant to 96% of those businesses identified as eligible.

The Government has now announced 28 August as the end date for the business grant scheme. If you think you are eligible, please make your application before Friday 14 August so that we can process any applications before the 28 August end date. Further information on the eligibility criteria for the cash grant or if you have any questions please contact Jo Robinson (Head of Income and Awards) 0121 704 8119 or email joanne.robinson@solihull.gov.uk )

This Saturday (15 August) is Victory in Japan Day. The Government has announced revised plans to mark this 75th anniversary, in a manner consistent with the current measures we have in place to contain the spread of coronavirus. A document (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KjhX45PRqJtx7bjmK3CiYsXMMmouR22-/view) has been produced, which outlines how people can celebrate safely and what the Government is doing to mark the day. The full announcement is on https://www.gov.uk/government/news/royal-family-to-lead-tributes-marking-vj-day-75

Please, keep social distancing, wash hands frequently, wear face coverings in enclosed spaces and at the first sign of Covid-19 get a test (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/)! If we all follow these routines we stand a chance of controlling the situation in Solihull.

Take care!