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Cutting the commute – Solihull Council trials new flexible workspace in the centre of Dickens Heath

Dickens Heath residents now have access to a high-spec flexible-use office space right on their doorstep. As part of an innovative six-month trial, Solihull Council has teamed up with Third Space Solutions to transform the vacant first floor of Dickens Heath Library into a flexible new workspace. The new space will provide those living in the new-build village with access to a paid-for accessible and professional place to work from, offering bookable desks, collaborative working booths, and even soundproof pods for video conferencing and private calls. The idea behind the ‘Dickens Heath WorkHub’ is to look at how car journeys might be reduced while responding to changing work patterns and the huge increase in hybrid working we have seen post-pandemic. Inspired by the principles behind the ‘15-minute neighbourhood’* this pilot will bring a facility that people need to access on a daily basis to within a short walk or bike ride from their home. Data mapping of current traffic patterns shows that Dickens Heath is one of the key sources for short car trips made within the borough. The trial will look at whether providing access to flexible community workspace can help reduce the number of commute-related car journeys, in doing so easing congestion and tackling the associated carbon emissions. With more homes planned along the A34 in the coming years it’s hoped that the findings from this trial can help planners understand what kind of services should be introduced and prioritised. Open 9am -5pm from Monday to Friday, WorkHub users can expect to access dedicated reliable broadband, and a range of modern and comfortable workspace options with mains and USB charging. A full day costs £15 but a range of flexible pricing options are available, allowing residents to book the space they need by the hour, day or for longer set periods. Local businesses and employers are also able to make block bookings for their staff based in the village. While the Dickens Heath Work Hub won’t be profit making the trial is seeking to test out the commercial viability of this model to see if it might be rolled out elsewhere. Dickens Heath residents are being encouraged to find out more and register for complimentary taster sessions by visiting www.yourworkhub.co.uk The trial forms part of the wider West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) funded UK Central investment programme, which is delivering a wide range of projects across the borough, from walking and cycling improvement schemes to local centre regeneration. Cllr Ken Hawkins, Cabinet Member for Economy and Infrastructure, said:

“Hybrid working is increasingly becoming the norm for lots of us. We know that post-pandemic many companies and organisations have reduced their office capacity, leaving lots of people with no permanent set place of work. Responding to this trend we want to test demand for local touchdown office space giving those that are able to do work remotely more options and greater flexibility.

The Dickens Heath Work Hub will give local residents access to all the equipment and amenities they would expect to find in any other professional office environment but hopefully removes the need to sit in traffic for the rush hour commute.

By bringing the reasons people travel closer to them so they don’t need to drive as frequently we think there is a real opportunity to change travel behaviour resulting in safer, quieter, and more economically vibrant neighbourhoods, as more money is spent locally.”

Cllr Diane Howell, Cabinet Member for Communities & Leisure

, said:

“As well as addressing the dual issues of local congestion and transport emissions, this pathfinder project is also a valuable opportunity for the us to explore additional future uses for buildings within our communities. We will be closely monitoring this pilot over the next 6 months to better understand the demand and financial viability of providing similar flexible workspace elsewhere in Solihull.

“If you live in Dickens Heath and this sounds like something that you could benefit from, make sure you visit the new ‘Dickens Heath WorkHub’ website and register for your free taster session.”

Notes:*15-minute neighbourhood

A 15-minute neighbourhood involves a menu of policy actions that provide residents access to most, if not all, of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home. It’s based upon four pillars: 1. proximity2. diversity3. density4. ubiquity 15-minute policies transform urban spaces into connected and self-sufficient (or ‘complete’) neighbourhoods. Reducing car use and encouraging active travel are central to delivering the 15-minute vision. The 15-minute neighbourhood serves as an organising principle for urban development and urban life that makes life more liveable for residents, by improving air quality and making neighbourhoods safer, quieter, more diverse, inclusive and economically vibrant. Dickens HeathDickens Heath is a large modern village and civil parish within the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull. Located 3.5 miles southwest of Solihull Town Centre the village consists of approximately 2000 individual households. There were 3,992 usual residents as at Census day 2011 with an average (mean) age of 32.3 years.

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