I am backing plans by Solihull Council to build more than 1000 town centre homes – saying it will help ‘future proof’ the town centre while easing pressure on the cherished green belt.
I have backed the council’s Town Centre Masterplan, which includes an ambition to build hundreds of more homes including on the council house site, to create a more robust economy for the future.
As someone who grew up in Solihull, I know just how important the town centre is to local people – having a healthy, vibrant town centre says a lot about a place, and Silhillians have been rightly proud of theirs.
However, I think it’s vital that we put in place plans that help the town centre move with the times, not only to deal with the growing use of online shopping, but also the challenges we face coming out of the pandemic.
That means rethinking how town centres work, and building new homes to create town centre living will be an important part of that in Solihull and everywhere else.
Crucially, it also follows my own Brownfield First policy, which aims to ensure as many new homes as possible are built on brownfield sites, and not the green belt or open spaces.
The Masterplan includes more than 1,100 new homes, a revamped Mell Square and a brand-new multi-storey car park. A major redevelopment of the railway station, civic and community hub and traffic projects at a number of key roundabouts are among other proposals included.
Solihull Council leader Ian Courts said: “There are significant challenges facing all sectors of the economy at this time but our Town Centre Masterplan sets out a roadmap for the continued prosperity of the town centre, helping attract future inward investment and build on Solihull’s position as a key regional wealth creator.
“Solihull Town Centre benefits from a proven track record of attracting international occupiers and investment, supporting a strong commercial and residential market.
“The Council is determined to support our retail and commercial centres by being an active partner in their future; I wish to see more facilities in the centre that will enhance its attractiveness, such as culture and arts. This is more important than ever in the current climate as all sectors plan their reset and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
If we want to future proof our town centre, we have to consider other uses and services – retail and shopping will still play an important part, of course – but town centre housing will bring life and footfall back into our civic areas, so I believe it is the right way forward.
Of course, there is also the added benefit that building homes in town centres also relieves pressure on the green belt, which we all know is a real challenge in Solihull.