Plans to create national park in West Midlands 'would aid virus recovery'
Plans to create a sprawling national park across the West Midlands would be a key way to help the region recover from coronavirus, chiefs have said.
Leaders have said the green vision – set to include sites across the region – will "recharge and rebuild" the area after the virus is beaten.
It comes after the proposals were backed by the Government with a view to create new parks, forests, orchards, conservation areas and cycle routes last year.
Now an agreement has been made by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Birmingham City University (BCU) to push for the vision to become a reality.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: "A new type of national park in the West Midlands is an ambitious idea that will preserve and enhance the environment of our region, whilst creating a better quality of life for our citizens.
"These plans not only support our work to recharge and rebuild the region in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but will also help achieve our ambitions for a greener, healthier and more inclusive region that tackles the climate emergency and reaches net zero carbon emissions by 2041."
The proposals had been drawn up by Kathryn Moore, professor of landscape architecture at BCU, as a way to help transform the region into a "greener, healthier place".
If backed, it would see the West Midlands become the UK's 16th official National Park, joining the likes of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia and the New Forest.
The region missed out last year after it failed to make it into the final recommendations of an independent review headed up by author Julian Glover.
The proposals would stretch across Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, Birmingham and Coventry – with a focus on parks and squares which are easy to walk through.
Professor Moore said: "The West Midlands National Park is very different from a traditional national park.
"We are talking about a new kind of urban national park, one that brings the experience of national parks to urban populations rather than expecting people to travel to remote places.
"It’s about rekindling the relationship we have with the landscape, our sense of belonging and identity our sense of pride and desire to create a better future for our children and grandchildren.
"This is precisely what we need to have at the top of our political agenda in order to deal with climate change, to give plentiful access to quality green space and nature, provide cleaner air, water, soil and fresh food and create thriving self-sufficient communities post Covid-19.
"It will contribute towards the West Midlands having healthy places in which to live and work and becoming the best region to live in the UK because of the quality of the environment, quality of jobs and quality of education.
"Essentially the WMNP is an economic, social and environmental proposition that will bring many different strategies and ambitions together to transform the region."
The signed memorandum of understanding is the latest step in a 15-year programme of research and paves the way for the development of a programme of projects.
It is hoped further details of the park will be finalised in the autumn with programme plan agreed by the end of 2020.
'The toughest times in the history of policing': West Midlands chief calls for greater penalties to combat street parties