What is Wildlife Ways about?
Wildlife Ways is a programme of works to make Solihull greener by opening up and improving existing routes, so allowing wildlife to flourish. The project will also help encourage more people to walk and cycle across the borough.
It will improve 69km of existing footpath and cycle networks. There will be 23km of new footways and improved access for cyclists. The routes will be landscaped and link, where possible, existing green spaces and offer sustainable transport options. The project will improve the habitat value of 56 hectares of parks and open spaces for the benefit of people and wildlife – more than 90 football pitches!
How much does it cost and who is paying for the work?
The cost of the scheme is £16.8 million. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is providing approximately half of this, with significant contributions from the National Productivity Investment Fund and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). So there is no contribution from local council tax.
Why aren’t you spending the money on other services?
The funding has been allocated specifically for this work and so cannot be spent on anything else.
Will there be any disruption?
Most works are on footpaths so there will be little disruption to traffic. Pedestrians will be directed along alternative safe routes where appropriate.
Will trees be affected?
The new cycle paths have been developed with the council’s landscape architects and tree officers to keep tree removal to a minimum. Some trees need to be removed if they cannot be retained without damaging the paths. We are planting approximately 800 new trees over the next few years.
The project also includes ‘Bees and Trees’ – some woodland and grassland management which builds on work already undertaken by our Habitat and Nature Improvements Project. You can get updates and information on Bees and Trees here.
Why isn’t Wildlife Ways coming to my area?
One of the reasons why Wildlife Ways has been designed as it has is to better connect the more built-up areas of the borough. However some of the areas not included have seen special projects take place (such as at Hatchford Brook in Olton Jubilee Park, and the Bees and Trees project) and applications can be made under the Small Habitats Grants scheme for projects in local areas across Solihull. Please contact the team here for advice if you would like to submit an application. Some additional areas can also be considered if they sufficiently meet the need to connect open spaces.
Many areas will also benefit from the council’s Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which is now being prepared based on DfT Guidance. This will enable us to develop a long-term cycling network plan which will include the delivery of high quality dedicated cycle infrastructure on some of our key corridors. More information can be found and will be updated here.
Will ERDF funding stop or have to be returned now we have left the EU?
No. The money awarded by the ERDF for the scheme remains in place and we will continue to deliver Wildlife Ways as planned.
What is the surfacing used on the pathways?
It is hard-wearing, permeable asphalt that provides drainage and long-term durability. Surface water ponding is reduced and it meets all local planning and usage requirements for walkers and cyclists.
Why are you planting flowers and trees? Is it just to make the borough look nicer?
Whilst the flowers and trees will definitely make the borough look nicer, they serve a more important purpose. Both the trees and wildflowers will help wildlife biodiversity, encouraging birds and pollinating insects such as bees, moths and butterflies which have been in serious decline over many years.
Who supplies your wildflower species, should I want to start a wildflower project or have some in my own garden?
We use a supplier called Pictorial Meadows. You can find out more about them and their products at their website.
Some people have commented that a few areas are quite grassy and appear untidy at the moment, with little sign of wildflowers. Why is this?
In some cases the benefits have been immediate. The meadow turf used by our landscape contractor idverde is designed to give an instant effect of colour and good structure. It has been liked by many who have seen it, as responses to our turf along Monkspath Hall Road and on Station Approach has shown.
Our wildflower seeded areas follow a longer and more deliberately managed process. However they eventually bring the same visual and ecological benefits as turf. Whilst they might not always flower in the first year and sometimes not until the second or third year it is still a natural key environment for many plant species. We experienced delays due to waterlogging over winter (the wettest February on record) and an exceptionally hot spring (the driest May in 124 years) which led to inconsistent seed growth in some locations.
We continue to monitor growth and will be maintaining any areas which have become unkempt, prioritising careful management of them over the remainder of this year and next. These verges will be cut in July or August to about four inches in height, leaving the cuttings temporarily and removing them after flower seed has fallen.
Our project manager Danny Hodson talks more about the wildflowers here.
Is the herbicide used on the grass verges harmful to people, animals and other wildlife?
The herbicide used is the industry standard used by agriculture and local authorities as it is considered to be the best available method for weed control. The product dries rapidly once applied, and therefore poses no risk to children or animal health in the areas where it’s been sprayed. Both UK government and EU risk assessments have found the product suitable for use.