15,000 new trees will be planted across the borough of Sandwell by 2030 as part of a bid to boost the environment and increase species diversity.
As part of the strategy, the Council will offer support and resources for businesses, community groups and residents to help with the planting of trees and plans to release an action plan and planting programme for the 2023/24 season shortly.
Councillor Laura Rollins, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure & Tourism, said: “We are looking forward to discussing the proposed tree strategy and considering the approach it sets out to meeting a tree planting target of 15,000 new trees by 2030.
“The benefits our trees provide cannot be overstated – trees enhance the quality of the local environment, homes, and contribute to thriving neighbourhoods in both aesthetic appearance and the overall quality of air and health.
“Trees are also recognised as an important way of mitigating the effects and impacts of climate change. Their presence alone cannot halt climate change; but they can help to slow the rate and enable adaptations.”
There are currently around 265,000 trees in Sandwell, which are said to provide £6bn in annual benefits based on carbon storage, air pollution removal, and rainwater interception.
With the aim of achieving zero suicides in the borough by 2030, Sandwell Council has launched a Suicide Prevention Strategy.
In line with the Sandwell Suicide Prevention Partnership, the action plan was put together with help from local community groups and residents.
Available to read in full on the Healthy Sandwell website, the strategy includes raising awareness throughout the community and investing in various areas, including:
Training frontline council staff, first responders and GPs
Developing effective communication around suicide prevention
Improving access to support
Building capacity in the voluntary and community sector
Councillor Suzanne Hartwell, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults, Social Care and Health, said: “We recognise that the causes of suicide are varied and complex, and that every story is different. So one of our main objectives is to make sure that anyone across the system who comes into contact with someone who is struggling or thinking about ending their life has the skills and knowledge to be able have a supportive conversation with that person and guide them to appropriate support.”
Plans to make the Sandwell Aquatics Centre one of the best community leisure facilities in the country are coming along nicely, according to council officials.
Due to open this summer, the centre is currently being transformed into a state-of-the-art leisure centre that includes the 50-metre Olympic-sized swimming pool and diving boards that were used by competitors in last year’s Commonwealth Games.
Additionally, residents can expect the following facilities:
three 150 sqm activity studios
two four-court sports halls (690sqm each)
108-station fitness gym
25-station women-only fitness gym
33-station indoor cycling studio
changing village for up to 600 users
dry diving centre with mini floor trampolines
a sauna/steam room
new outdoor football pitch and changing facilities
new urban park and children’s play areas
parking for up to 300 vehicles
Sandwell Council Leader Councillor Kerrie Carmichael said: “The centre will be fantastic for Sandwell people who, together with the region’s talented swimmers and divers, will benefit from having a world-class facility on their doorstep for decades to come.
“This amazing development is a key project for both regeneration and health – and the construction itself has already boosted the local economy by helping to create jobs, apprenticeships and work for local businesses in the supply chain.”
Other plans for the centre include a brand-new diving club and a packed swimming programme to benefit the local community, including schools.
When the centre was first built for the Commonwealth Games, it required a whopping 1.2 million gallons of water, 1,900 tons of steel, 190,000 tiles and 3,000 metres square of concrete!
29 venues across Sandwell have opened their doors as Warm Spaces to help local residents with energy support over the cold winter months.
19 libraries, three community centres and seven leisure centres are offering a variety of support services, including advice on how to manage bills, information about energy support and signposting to access financial help.
In addition to offering warm and safe spaces, all participating buildings will offer a hot drink as the ability to charge devices and connect digitally.
A spokesperson for Sandwell Council said:
“The cost of living crisis is impacting households across Sandwell, with rising energy, fuel and food prices affecting everyone. With many households having to cut back on essential items or dip into savings to meet rising living costs, the Council is working in partnership with community organisations to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access help when they need it. We want to support those most impacted, including those who have not faced financial challenge before.”
Leader of Sandwell Council, Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, said: “Libraries and community centres have always provided a safe space and warm welcome to our communities. As we enter the winter months, we are taking practical steps to support people in their community who need it the most.
“These include Warm Spaces across all six towns in Sandwell as well other important initiatives that are aimed at both addressing immediate hardship and building longer-term financial resilience and wellbeing.
“We know how much people are already struggling with rising energy prices and this network of Warm Spaces is just a part of our response.
“We saw the response from our community throughout the pandemic, as local groups stepped up to support those in need of help and know that we can maximise our impact by working in partnership with our local voluntary and faith organisations. We have launched a small grant programme, to enable them to open up their buildings through the winter.”
However, the original plan, which included a proposal to build 550 new houses in the area, has been revised following political pressure from the Brandhall Green Space Action Group (BGASG).
The new plans, approved by Sandwell’s Cabinet, were decided by councillors who were presented five different options upon consideration of what to do with the land.
After deliberation, the council decided on proposal number 3: Providing land for a new primary school (2.68 hectares), a new public park (26 hectares plus 1.47 hectares for Parsons Hill Park) and around 190 new homes (5 hectares).
New School Is “Essential”
The current Causeway Green Primary School will soon be rebuilt into a new, modern school for its children, something seemingly essential.
Headteacher, Julia Shingler, said: “A replacement school is much needed for our local community. The school buildings are ageing, uneconomical to repair and can’t keep being patched up. We very much welcome this news that the local community will benefit from a brand-new school to continue providing high-quality education in modern facilities that are fit to serve children and staff for generations to come.”
Priorities for the area must be deeply considered by the council. Necessities such as ecology, good school facilities and affordable housing- upon increasing demand- and preservation of green space are of greatest importance. However, consideration of council resources and different levels of investment within each sector must be weighed.
Low cost housing is vital for the success of the 190 properties, so, consequently a minimum of 25% are promised to be “affordable”, says the council. The Government has issued a warning over the discrepancy between the number of houses built, compared to the number of houses needed in this area.
Despite Sandwells ‘brownfield first’ policy (the full potential of brownfield land should be harnessed before any greenfield or Green Belt land is considered for development) little impact is made on the increasing high demand for more housing.
Peter Hughes, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Growth, said: “We have decided that creating space for around 190 new homes – significantly fewer than the 550 proposed as part of last year’s consultation – is the right balance for the site, having listened to all views and information. There is a desperate need for more housing in Sandwell, especially affordable housing, and we must fulfil our duties to make land available for this.”
New Park To Be More Accessible To Community
He then went on to comment on the development of a 26-hectare park, and the preservation of 1.47 hectares at Parsons Hill Park: “We will be investing in a large, brand-new, high-quality park, making up around 70% of the site. Currently, the site is not managed or maintained as a publicly accessible park, so we will now be able to make the green space at Brandhall much more accessible for all of the local community to use and enjoy.”
“We have also approved the designation of the majority of the site as a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation, which will give greater protection to the ecology of this space.”
“We have taken the decision that we feel best meets the future needs of the local community, and Sandwell as a whole.”
Bin workers in Sandwell have started a two-day strike today as discussions continue over health and safety, bullying and wage concerns.
Disputes between the GMB union and Serco, who run the waste collections for Sandwell Council, have failed to be resolved following a walkout of 100 bin men at Serco Sandwell in October. Further strike action is planned in November and December.
Members of the GMB union will strike again on November 24-25, December 20-23 and January 4-7 as they seek to get their voices heard.
The bin collection strike will affect thousands of homes in the Sandwell area. Collections will be affected this week on November 15-16.