20th Aug, 2019

WESTMINSTER DIARY: Council efforts to protect birds and wildlife in Solihull welcome

This time of year reminds me we are so lucky to live in a community which, according to its motto, is the urban life in a rural setting.

As I was out jogging recently I heard a strange birdcall which sparked a childhood memory of a familiar farmland bird known as a peewit whose call is like its name. In those days flocks of them would follow the plough as it turned over clods of earth revealing its favourite foods. Now it is on the red list of endangered species.

Our modern ways of life have driven this bird and many others to near extinction. I was asked by the RSPB to take on championing another one of the endangered species: the willow tit and I’ve sat patiently in the wooded areas of Meriden hoping to spot it without success. So I’m pleased that the local authority has made a commitment to protect and support endangered wildlife.

The planting of wildflowers which attract insects that many of these birds depend on across the grass mounds designed to protect our green spaces is evidence of this commitment to protect nature. Solihull council are doing impressive work all round.

It has a multi-million pound project, part-funded by EU money through the GBSLEP ESIF committee, called ‘Wildlife Ways’.Wildlife Ways is a three-year scheme which aims to connect up the borough’s green spaces, encourage more species and make paths and cycleways more attractive.

The Council commitment to the environment is also reflected in their green agenda under its ‘Green Prospectus’ and ‘Solihull Habitat and Nature Improvement’ project, which are definitely worth looking up.

We can all play our part in the greening of Solihull by improving the habitats for wildlife. So you can imagine my anger when I saw the news of nets being thrown by developers over hedgerows and nesting places at this time of year. This is not legal and the Communities secretary has written to them to remind them we are signed up to the EU Birds and Habitats directive, which even when we leave the EU will be reflected in our national laws.

Solihull is always under pressure for development because of its proximity to the West Midlands conurbation and we are bound by law to build enough homes to meet demand and we have thousands on a waiting list with a qualifying connection to the borough but we can balance these demands across the region if there is a will to use derelict land before green space.

Solihull has successfully regenerated a 1960s council estate in Chelmsley wood rebuilding its schools and much of its housing while creating 1000 new affordable homes and all the while enhancing green space and making it more accessible. If every local authority in the land as resourceful we would not need to use as much farmland and leave more space for nature.

The government has a pledge to leave the environment in better condition than it found it and to that end has a 25 year plan to protect and enhance the natural environment. It has a legal obligation to do this underpinned by statutory targets and an independent watchdog to make sure it happens.

Dame Caroline Spelman MP

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