Dame Caroline in push to bring National Park status to West Midlands

Plans to create a West Midlands National Park were put on display in Birmingham last week as part of a CATiD (Critical Artistic Thinking in Design) Research Hub Conference.

The proposals have been put forward by University Professor, Kathryn Moore (Birmingham City University) in response to the Government’s proposal to expand the number of National Parks in Britain.

Speaking with reporters from the Guardian, Professor Moore suggested that urban centres should not be overlooked as places where we can reconnect and rediscover wildlife.

“I love cities, but I want to give them a better 21st century identity so they’re better to live in, more productive as well as more attractive. I want to create a new connection between the communities and the countryside people here haven’t experienced for decades.”

“Birmingham was once famous as the city of a thousand trades,” she says. “Imagine if it became famous as the city of a thousand cycle and footpaths, a thousand parks and a thousand lakes.”

The Landscape Architect, who serves on the High Speed 2 design panel, is hoping that the rail-line from London to Birmingham may be used as a catalyst for urban renewal and biodiversity enhancement.

Dame Caroline Spelman’s Meriden constituency, which will be the first point of call for HS2 outside London, has been identified by Professor Moore as an area that could significantly benefit from this proposal. Together, Dame Caroline and Professor Moore have been working to champion a plan to increase protections for the Blythe River Valley in the Meriden Gap since 2014 and Dame Caroline organised for Professor Moore to meet the Transport Secretary to discuss her proposal.

Dame Caroline said, “I am delighted to be able to lend my support to Professor Moore’s visionary proposal for a greener West Midlands.

“Over the years, areas of the West Midlands, including areas in my constituency such as Chelmsley Wood have benefited from investment in urban renewal and the effects on the community - including resident’s quality of life, have been overwhelmingly positive.

“However, when we look closely at the way in which people in the city interact with the countryside, that interaction is, more generally, limited.

“In seeking to address this, Professor Moore has rightly identified that the West Midlands already has access to a significant amount of natural capital, such as a wider network of natural and made-made waterways and open landscapes. Through this carefully considered approach and the right investment in the right places, I am certain that we can bring the beauty of the countryside into a region known around the world for its rich industrial heritage and manufacturing expertise”.

Potential sources of funding for Moore’s national park include the Department for Transport, the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Canal and River Trust and the Maria Nobrega Foundation.