A Good 2022, What of 2023?

Last year strikes me as having been a good one for Knowle. I would pick out just three examples of what made it a landmark year.

Firstly, we had a really successful celebration of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, the result of a host of village organisations coming together to make it happen. The closure of the High Street for the day along with the artisan and community markets, entertainment stage, games and street food drew one of the largest crowds the village has seen.

I must confess some bias, having played a prominent role in the organising committee, but all the feedback suggested that, despite some dampness, the event went down a storm.

In the Autumn, the Neighbourhood Forum, Knowle Society and Visit Knowle joined forces to highlight the looming issue of car park capacity and lobby for more spaces. The car parks are already very full at peak times.

That brings us to the second reason for 2022 being a great year- which is the planning approval secured for the regeneration of the St Johns Way Precinct. This, when delivered, will give us even more reasons to be proud of our village centre. However, that is certain to exacerbate the parking situation, so it was icing on the cake that the Council had secured a commitment from the developer to contribute to the cost of some more spaces and start to address that issue.

My third example is the Parklet, the combination of seating and planting, installed by Visit Knowle on the High Street adjacent to the phone box. We did not get the planting quite right last year, it being a bit too straggly and much too appealing to bees, but that is readily fixed and it will provide a place to relax and natter through the warmer months for years to come.

And what of 2023? Time will tell, of course, but again I can highlight but three things of which are certain to feature.

Plans are being initiated for another big village celebration, this time to mark the Coronation of King Charles III. The extra Bank Holiday, Monday May 8th, two days after the ceremony itself will again see the crowds drawn to the village to mark the occasion and enjoy themselves.

We can expect some disruption when the redevelopment of St John’s Way gets under steam. It is unlikely that it will remain a through pedestrian route during the construction period, but the end result will be worth it.

Our village organisations will continue to consider the implications of the Solihull Local Plan, the proposed redevelopment of Arden Academy and additional housing on the Arden Triangle and Hampton Road. Collectively, we recognise that additional housing is inevitable but parking is not the only element of infrastructure that growth will put under strain. We will continue to press for clarity on how those pressures will be dealt with.

A Councillor for Knowle

Monitoring Traffic Issues

I was delighted to have been elected as a councillor for Knowle and Chadwick End in May 2021 and to to now be serving our ward, making a tangible difference over my term of office and repaying the faith shown in me at the ballot box.

I was challenged by a fellow member of a Facebook group to explain my vision for Knowle . I would prefer, at this point to focus first on the term of my councillor appointment, for which I set out five priorities in the literature that dropped through every local letterbox (accepting that quite a few copies would have got lost inside a pizza delivery leaflet or similar and not been read, so they are worth repeating here!!)

My primary commitments to residents are that:

  1. I will continue working with businesses and residents to support and protect Knowle’s village centre as a thriving hub of retail and community activity.
  2. I will fight to resist inappropriate and over-development in the area and seek to ensure that any additional housing is matched by suitable infrastructure.
  3. I will champion the protection and enhancement of our parks and open spaces as safe, tidy and well maintained places for leisure and enjoyment.
  4. I will tackle the issues of inconsiderate driving and parking in all its forms, especially on roads near the village centre and local schools and in rural settings.
  5. I will make myself available for listening to and understanding individual or communal problems or concerns and do my utmost to assist with them.

The first four of these priorities are not from my head but from an ongoing understanding of a collective view of all of Knowle’s stakeholders and I will continue to be reliant on feedback to keep any efforts which I make on track, especially via representative voices such as Knowle Society, Visit Knowle and KDBH Neighbourhood Forum.

Most importantly, in my opinion, it is not for me to set out ‘my vision’ for Knowle. I would say that what matters is a communal vision. My current understanding of that collective goal for the next few years includes:

  1. A village centre that is thriving with no more empty shops, more independent shops, the broadest possible retail and hospitality offers and adequate car parking.
  2. New housing that is modest in scale, consistent with the established standards of Knowle in design and layout and provides affordability for younger people and families that want to remain here in moving to place of their own.
  3. Infrastructure that is matched to any housing growth, eg adequate, accessible and responsive health service capacity, sufficient school capacity and a road network capable of handling additional traffic.
  4. A reduction in inconsiderate parking, eg causing dangerous obstruction on road adjacent to Knowle village centre and on verges generally causing unsightly damage to them and of dangerous speeding on a variety of through routes in the area at quieter times, Warwick Road in Knowle and in Chadwick End and on Station Road being examples only.
  5. Well maintained sports and leisure facilities for all ages, especially in our parks and playgrounds, with sound litter management and good equipment, headlined with completion of the Playground project in Knowle Park.

I am, however, mindful of the need to continue refining my perspective on public opinion locally, recognising (as tracking social media indicates for us these days) the loudest voices are not always the most representative ones. So, in establishing and pursuing goals, I will seek to test that there is mandate for them and listen to the whispers as well as the shouts.

Meanwhile, if the priorities and conclusions above are off target in your view, let me know via the email address on the Home Page.