Sunday, 10 December 2017

Weather Update: School closures, gritting runs, buses...

WHITE WATER: Babbs Mill earlier today
Picture by Jayne Robinson
ALL Solihull Council-run schools will be closed tomorrow (Monday) in response to heavy snowfall.
The blanket closure, affecting all schools which are part of the local authority, was confirmed this afternoon.
Academies, which are independent of the borough council, have been left to make their own decision - although the advice of officers has been for them to follow suit.
By 6pm this evening, Park Hall, CTC Kingshurst Academy, Grace Academy, Smith's Wood Academy and John Henry Newman Catholic College had all posted notices on their respective websites to confirm they would not be opening.
Solihull Council has announced that its gritting teams will be out at 7pm and again at 4am in an effort to keep the roads clear.
While current forecasts suggest that snow will stop falling before dawn, there are concerns that the freezing temperatures will make for treacherous conditions - particularly on the side streets which are untreated by gritting lorries.
National Express West Midlands - which suspended all bus services earlier today - has said it will be providing an update as to which routes will be operating tomorrow at around 5am.

Wintry weather grips the borough

NORTH Solihull woke to a thick blanket of snow this morning.
An Amber weather warning is in place across the West Midlands, with forecasters suggesting that up to 10cm of the white stuff would be reported in large parts of the region.
The snowfall has caused widespread disruption, with National Express West Midlands confirming that all services had been suspended until further notice.
The rail network has also been hit by delays in what could be a difficult first day for London Northwestern - which has just taken over the West Midlands franchise from London Midland.
The adverse conditions have also forced local people to cancel a number of Christmas events, with the winter woodland walk at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens (due to take place today) having been called off.
The snow is expected to continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning and although Monday is currently forecast to be bright and sunny, daytime temperatures are unlikely to get above zero. In fact, the Met Office is currently suggesting that the mercury could fall to as low as -6 celsius early on Tuesday.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Looking back on 50 years with Castle Bromwich Singers

IT is 50 years since Stella Aston was asked to play piano for a new group of performers.
And half a century on, the retired school teacher is still a key member of the Castle Bromwich Singers and, indeed, is currently producing their forthcoming show.
Originally from Bolton, Stella recalls being asked to get involved shortly after starting at Castle Bromwich Infant School.
She was one of half a dozen ladies who attended the first rehearsal in Poplars Drive in April 1967.
“I didn’t really think about how long it would last,” said the mum-of- two. “When you’re in your 20s you don’t really consider what you’re going to be doing in your 70s.”
Over the years, Stella has been involved in scores of shows, with highlights including playing the part of Charlie Chaplin and performing at Villa Park.
“When we started the focus was on more classical music, but we moved into doing popular music as well – which at the beginning would have been bands like The Beatles.
“We do try to keep things up-to-date [the group recently added modern-day chart-topper Jess Glynne to its repertoire]. When you see the reaction of the children in the audience, you hope they will take a shine to it.”
The variety is reflected in the age range of members, which runs from a couple of 17-year-old girls through to a woman of 96!
Despite Stella’s many decades with the group, she was nonetheless bowled over to be recently told she had won a Solihull Borough Civic Award - recognising her contribution to the arts locally.
“I was amazed when I had the envelope come through. The committee had nominated me but they hadn’t said anything. To be honest I didn’t believe it.”
• Castle Bromwich Singers’ Christmas show will be taking place at the Baptist Church, Timberley Lane on December 12. Rehearsals take place at the same venue every Tuesday evening (7.30-10pm), with new members always welcome.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Sleigh routes for 2017 confirmed

FATHER Christmas will be doing the rounds in North Solihull from Monday night.
The popular sleigh routes have once again been organised by Marston Green & District Lions, with extra roads confirmed for this year's timetable.
The club advises that they will try to get round every street on the rota, although their licence means that they can only stop out until 9pm.
For more information about the Lions and the good causes they support locally, please visit their website.

Monday, December 11 (6.30-9pm)
Charlbury Avenue, Lambourne Grove, Hillys Croft, Ilkley Grove, Kettlewell Way, Grassington Drive, Leyburn Road, Buckden Close, Oxford Grove and Chichester Grove.

Tuesday, December 12 (6.30-9pm)
Perch Avenue, Grantley Drive, Pendrell Close, Conway Road, Stapleton Drive, Fencote Avenue, Elmore Close, Hadfield Way and Anstey Croft.

Wednesday, December 13 (6.30-9pm)
Clopton Crescent, Newby Grove, Tyne Close, Runcorn Close, Tay Croft, Alder Drive, Rowan Way, Box Road and Whitebeam Road.

Thursday, December 14 (6.30-9pm)
Bluebell Drive, Yorkminster Drive*, Lyecroft Avenue, Foxland Close, Waterson Croft, Ryeclose Croft, Hawksworth Road, Drake Croft, Hawksworth Road, Kitegreen Close, Heathgreen Close and Partridge Close.

Friday, December 15 (6.30-9pm)
Pike Drive, Bream Close, Graylings Walk, Chilham Drive, Ludlow Close, Wardour Drive, Penrith Grove and Drummond Way.

Saturday, December 16 (3-6.30pm)
Elmdon Lane, Canterbury Drive, Greenway, Newlands Lane, Digby Drive, Elmdon Road, Somerton Drive, Ashfield Lane, Moat House Lane, Wolverton Road, Rotherby Grove, Farndon Avenue, Hidcote Grove, St Leonard’s Close, Land Lane, Hall Drive and Aylesford Drive.

Sunday, December 17 (3-6.30pm)
Bickenhill Lane, Coleshill Road, Station Road, Chelmsley Lane, Alcott Lane, The Orchard, Holly Lane, Moseley Drive, Martin Rise, Marston Croft, Elm Farm Avenue, Wayside, Bickenhill Road, The Oaklands, Mowe Croft, Brook Croft, Bickenhill Road and Lyndon Croft.

Monday, December 18 (6.30-9pm)
Stokesay Close, Keepers Gate, Carisbrooke Avenue, Starkey Way, Longley Walk, Wavers Marston and Clarksland Grove.

Tuesday, December 19 (6.30-9pm)
Hamar Way, Shirland Avenue, Ludworth Avenue, Holbrook Grove, Enville Close, Costock Close, Maple Leaf Drive, Byford Way, Harby Close and Radlow Crescent.

*Please note that the sleigh only travels along Yorkminster Drive from Bluebell Drive to Waterson

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Gritters do the rounds with snow expected overnight

GRITTING teams are out in Solihull this evening as the borough braces for its first spell of properly wintry weather.
Snow is expected to fall from 3am, with forecasts that flurries of the white stuff will continue throughout tomorrow and over the weekend, with daytime temperatures struggling to get above zero.
The Met Office has indicated that between 2-5cm will be reported fairly widely tomorrow (Friday), with deeper drifts over high ground.
Solihull Council has previously suggested it is well-prepared for harsher weather conditions, having experienced a particularly mild winter last year.
Nine new gritting lorries have been brought into service in an effort to keep the roads moving.
Councillor Ted Richards, cabinet member for transport and highways, said: "Motorists’ safety is a priority for the council and we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that daily life can carry on as normal during freezing temperatures.
"I would, however, still like to remind motorists to take extra when out and about during cold months."

Council planners accused of "ineptitude" over Marston Green scheme

A WOMAN whose home is a stone’s throw from Birmingham Business Park has criticised the decision to approve plans for two “gigantic” warehouses on a tract of green space.
Glenis Heappey, who has lived in Blackfirs Lane for the past 20 years, condemned Solihull Council’s handling of the controversial application.
Addressing a recent Full Council meeting, Ms Heappey noted that a decision had been deferred twice since outline planning permission was granted in October 2016.
Although concerns had been expressed by members at previous meetings of the planning committee, the application was ultimately rubber-stamped in October.
This was in spite of the fact that an investigation into the planning process, ordered in light of earlier criticism, was not available when councillors voted. Other Side of Solihull has since learned that frustrated residents are yet to learn the outcome of this probe - some eight weeks later.
Ms Heappey accused the planning department of “ineptitude” and said that residents felt “badly let down”, arguing there were many more appropriate sites for the development.
“[This has] condemned the residents of Blackfirs Lane to living as part of a massive industrial estate for years to come,” she said.
“We are seriously disappointed with the council’s planning department.
“We have never been against having suitable buildings erected on this site to create jobs for the area – far from it – but we are against huge structures opposite our home, which will dominate the landscape and create noise and toxic fumes around the clock, every day of the year.”
At the decision-making session a few days earlier, another resident, Alec Inshaw, said the consideration of the development had been “flawed from start to finish”.
And Richard Cobb, speaking on behalf of Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council, said that despite some improvements to the proposals, the principal concerns remained.
Councillor Jim Ryan (Con, Bickenhill) had questioned whether it was “right and proper” to take a decision before the investigation into alleged failings in the planning department was completed.
However, the planning committee’s chairman, Coun David Bell, had argued the application and the investigation were separate matters. This view was shared bythe council’s solicitor Sherrie Grant.
The plans were ultimately approved by a majority of the committee (with seven out of nine members  in favour).

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Castle Bromwich school crossing falls victim to cuts

SAVINGS: The council is looking
to shave £100k from its annual budget
A CROSSING patrol in Castle Bromwich is among those set to be wound up as part of a controversial council cost-cutting drive.
Earlier this year, Other Side of Solihull revealed that the borough council was considering a dramatic reduction in the budget available for crossing patrols. In order to save £100,000 a year, Solihull Council has set out plans to “disestablish” a total of 22 sites.
First in the firing line are eight locations where there is a facility such as a Zebra or Pelican crossing as well as a traffic warden. This includes the crossing in Hurst Lane North, opposite Castle Bromwich Junior School.
Last month, Councillor Ted Richards, cabinet member for transport and highways, approved plans to do away with the lollipop person along that stretch of road and at seven other sites.
He told fellow members it “wasn’t an easy decision”.
“At the end of the day I have to ask the question if you have any other thoughts about where we’re going to save £100,000?”
Earlier in the meeting, representatives of opposition parties had voiced some misgivings about the process.
Coun Glenis Slater (Lib Dem, Elmdon) said the plans gave her “a great cause for concern” and specifically identified Hurst Lane North as “an extremely busy area”.
“It’s a very, very well-used road, there’s a lot of vehicles on that road and it’s not just cars, it’s buses as well and big trucks and all sorts of things. There’s quite a lot of inconsiderate parking down that road as well. Personally I think it’s a mistake, a great big mistake, that the council are making.”
Council highways officer Paul Tovey argued that the eight crossings were something of an anomaly, with around 120 similar sites already operating without the presence of a warden.
“People manage to use those 120 very safely,” he said. “But I do appreciate it is a change and certainly we can offer support to those schools where we do take away that facility...”
Solihull Council has said it does not envisage making any redundancies at this stage, given that there are around 10 vacancies at other sites, which would enable the local authority to “shuffle the pack” and redeploy the wardens affected.
The council admits, however, that the jobs situation may need to be reviewed as it considers the future of more than a dozen other patrols.

Another view:
A crossing warden we spoke to from another council area said they believed the role was still very important.
 “Children are distracted on their way to and from school,” said the mum-of-three. “They’re either staring at their phones or chatting to friends.
“We provide a vital service, not only making sure they cross the road safely, but we add another line of defence safeguarding them from harm. I get paid just over £200 a month – I’m sure any parent would consider that money well spent.”