WILDLIFE CORRIDOR: “Arden Forest” plan takes root
A new Arden Forest – with thousands of trees providing a “continuous” wildlife corridor – is to be created in Solihull.
A huge programme of planting is planned across the borough, as part of a project named after the sprawling woodland which once covered great swathes of the region.
Details of the ambitious initiative were announced this week and follow the council’s commitment last year to plant a quarter of a million trees within ten years.
Although a spokesman has confirmed the Arden Forest scheme was intended to help build to the 250,000 target rather than being in addition.
Laying out the vision, Cllr Andy Mackiewicz, cabinet member for climate change, planning and housing, said the aim was to create interconnected habitats across the borough.
“It also links with our message to government on planning reform that better protection needs to be lent to Solihull’s green belt, in the light of the legal obligations we face on an ongoing basis to provide land for
housing needs, and for development to have better green infrastructure.
“To achieve this vision the council will work closely with residents and landowners to explore opportunities for tree planting and rewilding of land.”
And he argued that the importance of proposals had been made even more apparent by how many residents had drawn comfort from green spaces during the lockdowns of the past 10 months.
“Nature has been a lifeline for many, if not all of us, during the pandemic.
“Now more than ever as part of our recovery, both economic and social, I believe we must invest in nature.”
The project will build on the work of the flagship Wildlife Ways project, which also put great emphasis on “linking up” green spaces which have become increasingly fragmented – creating problems for wildlife.
While the Green Party, Solihull’s official opposition, has welcomed more tree-planting it has raised concerns about whether there will be proper compensation for those areas of vegetation to be cleared to make way for thousands of new homes.
Cllr Max McLoughlin, planning spokesman, said: “Tree planting is an essential part of addressing the climate emergency. My concern is that we won’t be planting enough, and we won’t see net gains in tree planting.
“The CO2 just from the building of the homes in the Local Plan would need 2.7 million trees to absorb.
“Just as important are habitats. We have to respect where established species are living. Changing an environment overnight can leave them nowhere to live.
“I’m confident these issues will be addressed in time.”
Further detail is expected in due course, with council scrutiny boards and the borough’s independent Climate Change Commission expected to feed into the process.
The historic Forest of Arden:
In centuries gone by, large parts of the region were covered by a massive woodland which stretched from Stratford-upon-Avon in the south all the way up to Tamworth, Staffordshire.
Solihull was among the areas which would have been planted thick with trees before the creation of major conurbations.
In fact the leafy surroundings are said to have inspired the setting of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
Although as cities grew and populations expanded, much of the famous forest was cleared.
Today only remnants survive in smaller pockets of trees and field boundaries.
Late last year, a planning committee heard that Cut Throat Coppice, near Solihull town centre, was a surviving part of the once sprawling green space.
Memory of the forest also live on in the names of businesses, buildings and villages – including the borough’s own Hampton-in-Arden and Henley-in-Arden, just over the border in Warwickshire.
David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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