At the very heart of England, the Meriden constituency is an area of stark contrasts. Ranging from the rural pasture of Warwickshire to the urban outskirts of Birmingham, my constituency contains a cross-section of modern Britain, together with the challenges and diversity that such a region offers.
Geographically, the constituency in the south ranges from the communities of Tidbury Green, Dickens Heath, Cheswick Green, Hockley Heath, Dorridge, Knowle, Hampton-in-Arden, Berkswell, and Balsall Common and in the north; Marston Green Chelmsley Wood, Kingshurst, Smith’s Wood and Castle Bromwich. These towns and villages form the borough of Solihull, Solihull town being a separate constituency in itself.
With huge modernisation taking place region-wide, Meriden is a constantly changing constituency. Since the opening of the Solihull Touchwood Centre in 2002, residents have been able to enjoy both the retail experience and the consequent development of surrounding areas. This, coupled with the technological development within Blythe Valley Business Park, has provided employment and prosperity to the region, but has also been controversial. With a need to ensure the security of the constituency’s rural character and also to ensure sustained prosperity, the Meriden ‘green belt’ has been a matter of contention. Back garden development and airport-expansion is a growing concern for local people as development continues.
In the north of the constituency, in the Chelmsley Wood area, there is a large area of council housing built in the 1960s. The sense of community is growing as voluntary organisations spring up and get involved in shaping the environment. This, furthered by my help and assistance in the intensive regeneration project being undertaken, has helped the area grow and tackle its particularly challenging social issues, such as unemployment.
My constituency also contains Birmingham International Airport and the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), both of which have a big economic impact on the region. The area is a popular place to live, with easy access to the Midlands motorway network and the West Coast mainline. The local schools are excellent and perform very well in league tables despite the fact that Solihull Education Authority is one of the lowest funded in the country. The emergence of school academies, particularly the Grace Academy, has furthered this success.
In such a diverse region, and with such a variation of viewpoints, it can be assured that if a policy does not work in the Meriden constituency, it will not work anywhere! I have represented the area since 1997 and it has been an honour to do so. I will continue to do my best to serve my constituents’ interests.