Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Marston Green church invites people to see their knitted nativity

OLD-FASHIONED YARN: The team at St Leonard's spent a
year knitting the nativity figures.
A KNITTED nativity scene - created by the congregation at a local church  - has proven hugely popular with parishioners.
The talented team at St Leonard's, Marston Green, have spent the past 12 months creating the child-sized characters for the traditional tableau.
Inspired by a similar installation at a church in Bristol, St Leonard's set to work on Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, Shepherds and the Three Wise Men. A donkey and sheep were also painstakingly purled and placed in a specially-constructed stable.
The figures were unveiled at the Christmas Eve crib service and will remain at the parish church until the end of next month.
And to mark Epiphany - the day when the Three Kings arrived to pay tribute to Jesus - a special open day will be held on January 6. Visitors are welcome to come and see the scene for themselves between 10am-4pm. Refreshments will be available.

Smith's Wood residents left without heating on Christmas Day

TENANTS in one local tower block have slammed the council after they were left without hot water or heating on Christmas Day.
Residents of Bedford House, in Smith's Wood, said they had to rely on electric heaters over the festive period and some have already demanded compensation from the authorities.
Solihull Community Housing has admitted that 18 out of 58 flats were affected when a temporary boiler - installed nearby - failed.
The system was in place because the local authority is in the process of replacing ageing storage heaters in 21 high-rise blocks with new biomass heating.
Solihull Council told BBC WM that the heating and hot water was now working again at Bedford House. A full investigation has been launched in conjunction with British Gas to determine what caused the fault.
  • North Solihull has recorded its coldest temperatures of this year in the last few days. Flurries of snow late on Boxing Day have been followed by freezing conditions. The mercury fell to -4 on Sunday night and residents have woken to white frosts the last couple of mornings. It is expected to become milder over the next few days, with the Met Office predicting that overnight temperatures will climb to 7 degrees by New Year's Eve.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Carols by Candlelight in Chelmsley Wood

FESTIVE FAVOURITES: The traditional carol service is
organised jointly by St Andrew's and Chelmsley Baptist Church

IF you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit, a Carols by Candlelight event will be taking place in Chelmsley Wood this evening (Sunday).
The event will be held at the new St Andrew’s Church, Craig Croft from 5-6pm. All welcome.
Call in for more details or visit www.cwbaptistchurch.com

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Toddler's parents cleared of murder

TRAGEDY: Levi-Blu Cassin died last year. He was just 21-months-old
A COUPLE accused of killing their young son were this week cleared of murder, but found guilty of causing or allowing his death.
Danielle Cassin, 27, of Frensham Close, Chelmsley Wood, and Mark Piper, 31, of no fixed abode, were convicted yesterday (Friday) following a four week trial.
Their son, 21-month-old Levi-Blu Cassin, had died at an address in Nightingale Avenue, Smith’s Wood after suffering “catastrophic” internal injuries.
In the early hours of February 20 last year, Danielle had dialled 999 and told emergency services her son had stopped breathing. Paramedics arrived at the flat but could do nothing to save the little boy.
A post mortem found that Levi-Blu had suffered severe abdominal injuries and a police investigation was launched. His parents had given conflicting accounts of the hours leading up to their son’s death, but both denied knowing how he had been injured.
Jurors took less than a day to return their verdict, clearing the pair of murder and manslaughter charges but concluding that they had caused or allowed their son’s death.

AWAITING SENTENCE: Mark Piper and Danielle Cassin

Insp Bob Sutton, from West Midlands Police, said: “The death of any young child is a tragedy and Levi-Blu lived for just 21 months.
“He should have had a full life ahead of him but this was taken away by parents who failed to provide the necessary care or a safe environment, finally subjecting him to a violent attack and ultimately failing to seek medical attention.
“Throughout the investigation and trial they have continued to conceal the truth and evidence gathered over 18 months by a dedicated team of investigators has led to a successful prosecution.
“As parents they were in a unique position of trust and care, they did not meet their responsibilities. There remains great sadness; it is small consolation that justice has now been done in regard to Levi-Blu.”
The NSPCC said it had been an “extremely distressing” case.
Sandra Mcnair, head of the charity’s regional branch, said: “We may never know the full story of what happened to Levi-Blu.
“However, we do know that he lived in a home where domestic violence and drug use was common place.
“The family was known to local agencies, so it is vital that questions are asked as to whether more could have been done to keep him safe from harm.”
The pair will be sentenced on Monday (December 22), while a report into the case is expected to be published by the Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Board in the spring.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Man "exploded" cash machine at Castle Brom bank

BLOWN IT: Constantin Alexandroaia (inset) targeted the
Castle Bromwich bank on April Fool's Day
A CROOK who blew up a cash machine at a Castle Bromwich bank - causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage - has been jailed for more than 13 years.
Constantin Alexandroaia pumped gas into the hole-in-the-wall outside the Barclays branch in Chester Road.
He then ignited the fumes, blowing open the front of the dispenser in an attempt to access the cash vaults.
But the audacious crime came to nothing, after security glass stopped Alexandroaia and an unknown accomplice from getting to the money.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that the masked men had already caused a similar explosion the previous month, at a branch in Alcester Road, Druids Heath.
On April 15, the pair tried the tactics a third time, targeting a Barclays in Birstall, Leicester. This time the attempt was successful and they escaped with £27,000.
But a stolen BMW, left abandoned in Morris Croft, Smith’s Wood, helped police to track the unscrupulous scrap dealer – a trace of blood in the getaway car linked him to the crime.
Alexandroaia was arrested by officers on April 24, after he attempted to board a flight to his native Romania, although he denied any part in the crimes.
However, at Birmingham Crown Court last Thursday, he changed his plea to guilty and was convicted of three burglaries and causing explosions.
The 33-year-old, from Sparkhill, Birmingham, was said to be “ashamed” of his actions, claiming he had resorted to the desperate offences after falling into financial difficulties.
Justin Hugheston-Roberts, defending, said: “He could not cope here in this country, which is why he undertook the request from others to become involved in organised crime.”
Det Con David Bailey, from West Midlands CID, said: “His reckless actions posed a serious risk to the public, to police officers and to himself and significant structural damage was caused to the Barclays banks on all occasions.
“The gas cylinders could have exploded at any point which would have resulted in serious harm to the attending officers and potentially to any passing members of the public.”

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Chelmsley Wood Christmas lights switch-on



CHELMSLEY Wood's Christmas lights switch-on takes place this afternoon.
Children's favourite Peppa Pig will be visiting the shopping centre, with music and entertainment from 11.30am.
There will be a parade from 3.30pm and the lights will be turned on at 3.45pm.
Families can also look forward to chocolate giveaways and can meet Father Christmas.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Councillors reject Marston Green "garden-grabbing" scheme

RESIDENTS were celebrating this week after councillors rejected plans for a "garden grabbing" development in Marston Green.
The controversial scheme, which would have seen ten semi-detached homes built to the rear of homes in Holly Lane, was thrown out at last night's planning meeting.
The application had been heavily criticised by neighbours, who thought the development would add to overcrowding in the village.
Writing on Facebook, Karen Powell said that the recent flood of new homes - such as the 125 dwellings built at Moat House Farm - had exacerbated traffic problems.
"Has anyone tried to drive in or out of Marston Green between the hours of 5.30-8.30pm. Most nights now it's chaos."
The Holly Lane application is the latest of its kind to cause controversy in the village, which has been at the centre of the row about back garden developments.
Aware that the problem was reaching epidemic levels in large parts of the country, the Government previously promised more powers for councils to stop the practice.
Although when Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles visited the borough in 2011, he was confronted with claims that many applications were still being approved - in spite of the changes to planning rules.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

North Solihull residents recognised with civic awards

DEDICATION: Marie Hodgetts receives her award from
the NEC's Gary Masters at the Civic Suite
UNSUNG heroes and community champions have been recognised at Solihull's  Civic Honours Awards.
Kris Chase-Byrne, the founder of North Solihull Singers, received the Creative Arts Award.
He arranges music, composes songs, as well as conducting the community choir, who meet weekly at Chelmsley Wood's Three Trees Community Centre.
Also recognised for her tireless efforts was Marie Hodgetts, who won the Community Involvement category.
Marie has volunteered around North Solihull for years, working with organisations including the Friends of Kingfisher Country Park, Chelmsley Wood Residents' Association and IMAGE - a group of local community leaders.
She also helped organised the first-ever North Solihull Cultural Festival, which took place earlier this year.
Kris and Marie were presented with the honour by the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Kate Wild, at last week's awards ceremony.
Paying tribute to the winners, Coun Wild said: "The dedication and enthusiasm that the winners of these awards put into their community is an inspiration to us all."
Among those from other parts of the borough to receive an award were teenage cyclist Dannielle Khan, who is hoping to represent Great Britain at the 2016 Olympics, and Abigail Lake, a volunteer for Solihull Life Opportunities (SoLO).

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Police front office facilities to close in Chelmsley Wood

CHANGES: Front office facilities are being reduced
across the West Midlands

WEST Midlands Police are closing their front office facilities in Chelmsley Wood as part of the latest round of cost-cutting measures.
The force confirmed that the Bluebell Centre, which is open weekdays and on Saturday mornings, was one of several that will be shutting to the public.
In an announcement today, it was confirmed that only ten front offices would remain open across the region and only one – in Birmingham city centre – would be staffed 24 hours a day.
Elsewhere in the borough, Shirley Station will also be closing its doors to the public, while Homer Road, which currently operates around the clock, will see its hours dramatically reduced.
Some residents have already registered their concern about the decision to remove front office services altogether, only two years after they were moved out of Chelmsley Wood Police Station into the nearby shopping centre.
At the time, the decision to share premises with Solihull Council’s Walk-In centre was hailed as a new way of working for the police.
Reacting to today’s announcement, Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) tweeted: “Very bad news. Only two years after promise [that the] desk would be future of police.”
David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, defended the move, arguing that these days the public preferred to contact officers via phone or the internet.
“The current service doesn’t meet people’s preferences and is becoming increasingly expensive as fewer and fewer people use it,” he said.
“We need to deploy staff to call centres where possible to free up resources that keep police officers where people want them: on the street, preventing crime and catching criminals.”
The changes will be phased in around the region next year.

  • What do you think? Is this a pragmatic or reckless decision? Leave a comment below or email us your views.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday events in North Solihull


EVENTS will be taking place around North Solihull to mark Remembrance Sunday.
This year's services will be particularly poignant, coming 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.
Events taking place locally include:
Castle Bromwich Remembrance Parade and Service: A band will assemble at Old Croft Lane and march to the village green. A service, conducted by Rev'd Gavin Douglas, will take place from 10.40am, including the traditional two minutes' silence at the stroke of eleven o'clock. For more information call the parish council office on 0121 747 6503.
Chelmsley Wood Royal British Legion: Members will be commemorating the fallen from 9.15am. All welcome to attend the branch headquarters in Clopton Crescent.
Marston Green Garden of Memory: Villagers are invited to the memorial event, which takes place in the garden on Bickenhill Road. A service at nearby St Leonard's Church will follow.

Chelmsley Wood residents urged to have their say about controversial TV series

HAVE YOUR SAY: Labour supporters, concerned by BBC
series People Like Us, visit Mansfield House, Chelmsley Wood

LABOUR Party activists have urged Chelmsley Wood residents to raise their concerns about a controversial new documentary, which purports to show the real life stories of people living on the estate.
Tom McNeil, who is the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the Meriden constituency, is concerned that People Like Us gives a false impression of the local area.
Now he's urging local people to make their feelings about the programme known.
"The people in the TV show come across as nice people," said Mr McNeil. "However, almost everyone I spoke to in Chelmsley had seen the programme and thought it bore no resemblance to their community.
"They were very upset about the false impression it gives to people who do not know the area.
"The people I met were working hard to support themselves and their families, or in retirement after a lifetime of work and want viewers to know that the vast majority of people in Chelmsley are just like that."
His concerns have been echoed by Emma Chidler, the vice chair of Solihull and Meriden Labour Party.
In a joint statement, the activists said: "Everyone has helped pay for this series through their television licence fee and it's only right that their views are taken into account."

Replica WWI trench developed at CTC Kingshurst

A LIFE-sized First World War trench has been dug in the grounds of the CTC Kingshurst Academy.
The impressive defence is 6ft deep and 130ft long - around the same length as four double decker buses.
The replica trench was constructed under the expert eye of former Army officer Carl Hoyles, who now works as facilities manager at the Cooks Lane school.
Complete with a covered command bunker, a first aid station and firing placements, the project will be used to teach pupils about the conditions that soldiers endured during the Great War. It is set to open in the New Year.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Winter Warmth Recipe Book on sale in Castle Bromwich

HEARTY MEALS: The Winter Warmth cookbook contains
recipes for stews, goulash and a clotted cream rice pudding
A WINTER Warmth Recipe Book has gone on sale at Age UK Solihull's Castle Bromwich shop.
The book contains recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, curries and puddings - nutritious meals that will be ideal in the cold months to come.
Teresa Mosedale, the charity's winter warmth co-ordinator, said: "It's important to eat well, especially in winter.
"Make sure you eat food that gives you plenty of nutrients and vitamins and eating at least one hot meal will enable you to keep warm."
The book is available at the shop in Hurst Lane North (suggested donation of £2.50).

  • For more advice on keeping warm over the winter, pensioners can call the Winter Warmth Helpline on 0121 740 8080. Lines are open Monday to Friday, from 9am-5pm.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Still work to do in tackling inequality in Solihull

COUNCILLORS have been updated on a drive to reduce the gulf in living standards between North Solihull and the rest of the borough.
Solihull Council is closely monitoring how Chelmsley Wood, Smith's Wood and Kingshurst & Fordbridge compare with the other 14 wards, which traditionally have higher life expectancy and lower levels of crime and unemployment.
A report presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Board this evening reveals that attempts to tackle inequality have been broadly successful.
Incidents of anti social behaviour, hate crime and the number of young people out of work are now closer to the levels in Solihull as a whole.
The report's author, Melanie Lockley, said: "Overall levels of unemployment have continued to reduce, with most improvement for 18-24  year old unemployment, which has seen the gap between the regeneration wards and the borough average reduce significantly and the overall rate is now only marginally worse than national rates."
Major headway has also been made in persuading residents that they can influence local decisions; previously there had been a profound sense of disillusionment over the handling of regeneration schemes.
However, statistics show there are still areas where the gap between the borough's more "deprived" communities and neighbouring areas is in fact widening.
Notably, despite a number of high-profile healthy eating campaigns, obesity among primary school children is found in increasingly disproportionate levels in North Solihull.
The local authority hopes that initiatives to promote cycling and tighter controls on takeaways will tackle the problem.
There is also a growing disparity in the exam results of sixth formers, who continue to under perform compared to those in the south of the borough, and the number of people waiting to be housed.
You can read the full report here.


Santa's sleigh routes saved by Kingshurst cab firm

TOW-HO-HO: Santa's transport problems have been solved
A LOCAL taxi service has stepped in to save a stranded Santa Claus.
Last month, Marston Green and District Lions revealed that the company who usually provides a vehicle to tow their Christmas sleigh was unable to help this year.
Fearing that the annual tour of Chelmsley Wood and Marston Green may have to be abandoned, members made an appeal for alternate transport.
The group were inundated with offers of help from individuals, businesses and charities – including Midlands Search & Rescue.
In the end, the Lions accepted an offer from Kingshurst-based taxi firm TC Cars.
The company has offered to provide an eight-seater minibus to tow the sleigh, as well as covering the insurance and fuel costs.
This has meant an event, which started 35 years ago, will go ahead as usual.
Heather Lee, president of Marston Green and District Lions, said: “We were amazed to receive such a fantastic response to our appeal and would like to thank everybody who responded or passed on a message.
“Christmas has been saved and Santa will, once again, be visiting children of all ages in Chelmsley Wood and Marston Green.”
This year’s sleigh routes take place between December 8-16. If you would like to volunteer to help, call Simon Moss on 0121 681 4269.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Spectacular images of Berwicks Lane fireworks

PHOTOGRAPHER Paul Beale captured these fabulous photos of fireworks at the display in Chelmsley Wood yesterday evening. 
If you were unable to make it along, don't forget that Birmingham's popular Pype Hayes fireworks spectacular takes place on November 5. It's a bit of a journey for those in North Solihull who rely on public transport, but a shuttle bus runs from the Fort Shopping Park. More details here.





Comment: People Like Us

TALL TALES: Footage of foreboding looking flats proliferated in the first
episode of BBC3's People Like Us.
DID you know that the country's best businessmen and women got where they are today by repeatedly walking over London's Millennium Bridge. They wear sharp suits and an expression which suggests either grim resolve or a serious case of constipation. They like similes about predatory animals...
That's certainly the impression you might get if you took BBC's The Apprentice to heart. Fortunately few people accept the puffed up candidates, with their shaky grasp of how percentages work, as a true reflection of Britain's white collar workforce.
So should we really be all that worried about People Like Us, the new "documentary" that debuted on BBC3 last week? Surely the viewers will realise that the series is hardly representative of life on council estates?
Unfortunately, as shows like Benefit Street have demonstrated, some sections of the media are rather too eager to seize on the idea that crime and unemployment are endemic in inner-city areas. So when a production company arrive looking for the locals most likely to stoke controversy, it's an absolute gift. Here suddenly are a dozen or so individuals whose behaviour, or in some cases misbehaviour, is perfect propaganda for those with an obvious agenda. "Looking for a reason to carve up the welfare state," they snarl. "Look no further..."
What was most notable about People Like Us, particularly for those who were local, is that the makers clearly struggled to find enough suitable subjects on an estate with a population of over 12,000 people. So while the advert may have declared "Welcome to Chelmsley Wood", in actual fact large parts of the opening episode took in the adjacent areas of Tile Cross, Shard End, Kingshurst and Castle Bromwich.
The opening montage would have been fantastic for anyone who owns the Michelin Spotter's Guide to deprivation. Graffiti - check. Foreboding blocks of flat - check. Yoofs roaming the streets - check.
There was admittedly something along the lines of a disclaimer buried in the voice-over. Mention of a multi-million pound regeneration project and the fact that crime was in actual fact falling in the area. There was even some footage of some pots of plants being carried onto the estate. But after that the focus was mostly on controversy and woe. And let's face it, that's the stuff that will be remembered by Daily Mail columnists and disgusted Twitter users.
And there in lies the problem. People Like Us is only going to reinforce stereotypes and negative perceptions of an area where in actual fact most people obey the law, help each other out and go to work.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Chelmsley Wood fireworks display takes place this evening.

REMEMBER, REMEMBER: You don't have to wait until Wednesday to
enjoy some fireworks in Chelmsley Wood.

CHELMSLEY Wood Town Council’s annual fireworks display will take place this evening (November 1).
The free event will be held in Berwicks Lane; gates open at 6pm, with the display getting underway at 7pm.
Under 12s must be accompanied by an adult and organisers have reminded residents that alcohol and sparklers are not allowed on the site.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Come and see the dinosaurs in Chelmsley Wood

ROARSOME: The dinosaurs will be in the
shopping centre until Friday
A DINOSAUR exhibition has been installed at Chelmsley Wood shopping centre.
The line-up of prehistoric creatures includes a 15ft Brachiosaurus and a 12ft wide Triceratops. Families can also take part in free workshops and fossil digs.
The dinosaurs will be on display until Friday (October 31) from 11am-4pm.

Monday, 27 October 2014

All Hallow's Eve event in Chelmsley Wood

TOOTHY GRIN: Come and carve a pumpkin lantern at
Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church

A ‘LIGHT Night’ event will be taking place at Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church on Friday evening.
The family party will feature traditional games – including apple bobbing - and pumpkin carving. Food will also be served.
The event runs from 5.00-6.30pm. Tickets are limited, so ring 0121 788 3402 to book your place.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Model Railway Exhibition in Castle Bromwich

FULL STEAM AHEAD: Birmingham Model Railway Club,
which has organised the event, was founded in 1928
BIRMINGHAM Model Railway Club will be holding an exhibition in Castle Bromwich today (Saturday).
There will be detailed displays, traders and society stands at Arden Hall, between 10.30am-4pm.
Admission is £3 for adults, or £1.50 for children. Family tickets are available for £8.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Chelmsley Wood venue receives £80,000 boost

A CHELMSLEY Wood venue has been handed almost £80,000 to spend on improving its facilities.
The Three Trees Community Centre, in Hedingham Grove, was awarded the grant by the Veolia Environmental Trust. The welcome windfall will be used to refurbish the toilets, corridors and community room.
Neil Roberts, chairman of the Three Tree’s management team, said: “The improvements this grant will fund will mean we can continue to offer space to all sections of our community, young and old and whatever their background.”
The grant was one of 51 agreed at the trust’s quarterly meeting on September 8, with a total of £1.5m awarded to community and environmental projects across the UK.
Paul Taylor, executive director, said: “The centre needs to be congratulated on securing a grant from us. Demand for funds is high and it succeeded in a very competitive environment.”


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Chelmsley Wood residents voice concerns about TV series filmed on the estate

CONTROVERSY: The first episode of People Like Us, which will air on
BBC3 next Wednesday, features residents including Sade (pictured above).

A NEW documentary series about Chelmsley Wood has caused controversy before the first episode has even aired.
Councillors and community leaders are concerned that People Like Us, which starts on BBC3 next week, will only serve to reinforce negative stereotypes about the estate.
The six-part programme will introduce viewers to local residents including "determined jobhunter" Sade and Antonio, a man "whose criminal past is never far behind."
Fears have been fuelled about the way the area will be portrayed, after the first series, which was filmed in Greater Manchester, attracted fierce criticism.
Residents living in Harpurhey accused film-makers of making their hometown look like "a slum".
Such was the backlash, more than 1000 people petitioned the BBC to pull the plug on the series and the channel eventually promised it would not return to Manchester for a second run.
Instead the production company settled on Chelmsley Wood earlier this year, handing out leaflets and tweeting people to ask if they'd like to take part.
With just a few days until the opening episode is broadcast, many locals have spoken of their concerns.
Reverend Neil Roberts, from Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, has written of his reservations on his blog.
"Understandably, many of us have been extremely wary, experience has shown that this sort of thing doesn’t often end well. Benefit Street in particular and reality TV in general doesn’t have a glorious reputation for building people and communities up.
"I am prepared to apologise profusely if this isn’t the case, but the only time people usually show interest in what would be stereotyped as ‘deprived communities’, is either to patronise it or to make fun of it. We’ll see if People Like Us manages to break the mould."
Councillor Karl Macnaughton (Green, Chelmsley Wood) feared that the programme would gloss over the area's many positive points.
"During my time as a local councillor, I have knocked on many doors in Chelmsley Wood and spoken to a lot of people and I can honestly say they are the friendliest, kindest and most caring bunch," he told the Birmingham Mail.
Many residents have also registered their concerns on social media.
Writing on Facebook, Louise O'Mahoney said: "Will it be showing all the talented young people that have made something of themselves? I doubt it."
And Wayne Elcock, who runs a local boxing initiative, revealed that he'd stopped the show filming in his gym after their first visit.
"From the trailer I believe I made the right choice," said the former British middleweight champion.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Road improvement works start in Castle Bromwich

AT A CROSSROADS: What the junction is expected to look
like once the Hurst Lane Place project is complete

EXTRA parking spaces will be created as part of a project to improve the centre of Castle Bromwich, which got under way today (October 20).
Businesses have previously petitioned Solihull Council to improve facilities, following concerns that customers were struggling to find somewhere to park when visiting the shopping parade.
Now additional bays will be created in the service road alongside the north side of the Chester Road. These are expected to be completed by the end of next month.
To limit disruption, construction will then stop in the run-up to Christmas and restart on January 5.
The second phase of the £1.3m project will see road narrowing work to reduce the speed of traffic and alterations to pedestrian crossings. Ageing street lighting and traffic signals will also be replaced as part of the improvement work.
Councillor Ted Richards, cabinet member for transport and highways, said: “We’ve listened carefully to residents and businesses in the area and this project is about making this part of a busy section of the Chester Road a space for people and not just a place for movement of traffic.
“The works will encourage lower traffic speeds and will better meet the needs of pedestrians and cyclists to feel safe moving through the area.”
A previous study conducted by the council claimed that 90 per cent of residents were in favour of the development. Work is expected to be complete by the end of March.
For more information, visit www.solihulll.gov.uk/hurstlaneplace.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Castle Bromwich Singers' annual show

TONIGHT is your last chance to see Castle Bromwich Singers’ annual show Anything Goes.
The performance takes its name from a classic Cole Porter musical and whisks audiences off on a tour of music through the decades.
Proceeds from the show, taking place at Arden Hall, will go to Solihull Life Opportunities (SoLO).
Doors open this evening at 7pm, with the show starting at 7.30pm. Tickets £7 adults and £4 for under 16s,with refreshments available.
For more information about Castle Bromwich Singers, visit http://castlebromwichsingers.madewithjam.org/

Councillors slam suggestion of building rail depot on Chelmsley Wood's greenbelt

OUTCRY: Solihull Council have slammed plans to build a HS2 maintenance
depot on Chelmsley Wood's doorstep

COUNCILLORS have voted unanimously to oppose proposals to build a high-speed rail maintenance depot on farmland near Chelmsley Wood.
It had previously been agreed that the marshalling yard, which will be used to store train carriages and wagons, would be developed on derelict land at Washwood Heath, Birmingham.
But recently a group of MPs argued that the inner-city site could be put to better use and have instead thrown their weight behind finding an alternative location.
Two sites in the borough have been suggested. The first is the area of greenbelt land next to Chelmsley, with a separate site at Birmingham International Station also under consideration.
With the HS2 line already set to pass within a few hundred metres of Yorkminster Drive, residents are appalled by the thought of further disruption and loss of open space.
At this week’s Full Council meeting, a motion was put forward by Councillor Karl Macnaughton (Green, Chelmsley Wood), calling on members to make their feelings known to HS2 Ltd.
“You can imagine how a maintenance yard with tens of long trains being maintained overnight will fit in with the local environment,” he said.
“It would involve engineering works, cleaning, all under enormous floodlights with the peak working period being midnight to 5am.”
Councillors across the political divide rose during the debate to voice their concerns.
Speaking to this blog following the meeting, Coun Macnaughton warned of the huge impact that the depot would have locally.
“With HS2 already blighting Chelmsley Wood and taking up our green space, which we can’t afford to lose, it would be a big kick in the teeth to have the maintenance depot tacked on to the edge of Chelmsley Wood as well.
“It’s the landowners and property developers at Washwood Heath who want the depot in our back yard… as it would be in their financial interests.”

CONCERN: Coun Karl Macnaughton

Meriden MP Caroline Spelman has also waded into row and last month vowed to “strongly resist” the proposals.
However, her fellow Member of Parliament Lorely Burt, who represents the neighbouring constituency of Solihull, is among those who believe a depot could be a big boost for local employment.
“There is a huge opportunity to create 600 jobs in Solihull and several thousand in one of the poorest areas in East Birmingham,” she said. “However, I would point out that the Chelmsley Wood site is just one alternative.”

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

25,000 people sign Chelmsley Wood family's petition

FAMILY PET: 18-month-old Black Foot was hit by a car and
killed, leaving her owners heartbroken.

THE sad death of a much-loved family pet has led a Chelmsley Wood family to campaign for a change in the law.
More than 25,000 people from around the country have signed the online petition launched by Daniella Catton, whose cat Black Foot was hit by a car and killed last month.
The collision was witnessed by Daniella and her partner Andy, who were in the garden at the time. To their dismay, the motorist, who is understood to have been driving a private hire cab, did not stop at the scene.
Now the 32-year-old is calling for highway laws to be overhauled, so that drivers are required to stop and report a collision involving a cat.
At present, the Road Traffic Act requires a driver to contact police if they hit a dog or farm animal, but there is no obligation if they run over a cat or wild animal.
Daniella said that the existing legislation is “outdated” and needs to be changed.
“The ‘Black Foot Law’ will ensure that all cats are treated with the same consideration as dogs, sheep, cattle and other livestock. Cats are not vermin!”
The incident was captured on CCTV and reported to police and Solihull Council on September 2.
A council spokesman said: “The CCTV was brought to the attention of our Licensing Team, however as only the side of the vehicle was recorded it was not possible to positively identify the vehicle or driver involved. Therefore we are not able to take any further action.”
You can sign Daniella’s petition, which she plans to hand in to Parliament, at www.theblackfootlaw.com

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Consultation starts on plans to open engineering academy in Chelmsley Wood.

TRAINING BASE: The college will help tackle the skills
shortage facing the manufacturing industry.

AMBITIOUS plans to build a state-of-the-art engineering academy in Chelmsley Wood are to be put out for public consultation.
The project was given the go-ahead by Chancellor George Osborne in August; one of several sites around the country which will provide specialist technical training to young people.
Two months on and plans have now been drawn up to develop a campus on land between Chelmsley Road and Conway Road.
The site would be modelled on an existing college in Coventry and would cater for over 600 14-19-year-olds. If all goes to plan, the facility could welcome its first intake of teenagers by September 2016.
The academy partners have said they are keen to hear what potential students, parents, employers and the wider community think about the proposals.
Chief Executive of the WMG Academy Trust, Dr Richard Hutchins said: “This is an important stage in the development of our second WMG Academy. We really want to hear the views of all sectors of the community.
“Our goal is to enable students from across Birmingham and Solihull to access to the same high-quality, innovative teaching we will be providing in the WMG Academy in Coventry; giving them the chance to gain technical qualifications alongside the national curriculum and gaining important business skills such as team-work, problem-solving and leadership.”
People are encouraged to complete an online questionnaire and there is also a public meeting scheduled to take place within the next few weeks.
To find out more about the proposals and take part in the consultation (which runs until November 30) go to www.wmgacademysolihull.org.uk/

Factbox:
The academy is being sponsored by the University of Warwick and has the backing of industry heavyweights including Jaguar Land Rover and Prodrive.
It is one of seven University Technical Schools (UTCs) that were given the green light over the summer. The aim is to train young people to pursue a career in industries such as engineering.
Four out of five manufacturing companies have experienced problems recruiting new staff, and Business Secretary Vince Cable warned earlier this year that the skills shortage facing the industry was a major cause for concern.
The blueprint for the North Solihull college will be the WMG Academy for Young Engineers, which opened in Coventry last month.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Traveller caravans invade pitches at Bluebell Park, Chelmsley Wood

POLICE and council officials were called out to Chelmsley Wood this morning (Friday) after a group of caravans pitched up on parkland.
The travellers have set up camp on football pitches in Bluebell Park and it’s understood that a number of junior matches that were due to take place tomorrow are likely to be cancelled
Several residents posted on Facebook, voicing their anger about the arrival of the eight caravans, which rolled onto the site at just before 12noon.
Claire Pickles Tyers wrote: “They need to leave now. That park is well used by local kids and dog walkers. Those travellers have no right to be there.”
Gill Linforth added: “I have called the council. Whilst I do not live in CW, I totally support my fellow council taxpayers and we will all be picking up the bill for the damage we know the travellers will cause.”
Solihull Council said it was aware of the situation and was working with West Midlands Police to resolve the matter peacefully.
If travellers do not leave promptly, local authorities usually issue a notice ordering them to leave the land they have occupied.
In a separate incident last month, the council was left with a bill running into thousands of pounds after caravans left a trail of destruction in Chadwick End Park and Tudor Grange Park.
Councillor Bob Sleigh, the leader of Solihull Council, said: “I would like to reassure residents and businesses in Solihull that the council will continue to work with the police and other partners to stop these illegal occupations of sites and if they do occur, to use whatever legal avenues are available to resolve them as speedily and decisively as possible.”

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Apple Day Weekend at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

ROSY RED: Dozens of varieties of apple are grown at
Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens.
PIP, pip hooray! Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens are getting ready for their annual celebration of the humble apple.
Traditional varieties of the fruit, harvested from the gardens and other local orchards, will be on display in the green house.
Visitors can also enjoy a falconry display, molly dancing and a guided tour of the grounds. There will also be stalls laden with autumn produce and demonstrations of wood turning and bee keeping.
Apple Day Weekend takes place this Saturday and Sunday (October 4 and 5), from 12noon-4pm.
For full details and admission prices visit the Hall Gardens' website.

Core Blimey: There are around 7500 varieties of apple and they are cultivated for lots of different reasons. Some, such as the sour-tasting Calville Blance d'Hiver, are ideal for cooking. Those partial to a bit of cider won't go far wrong with the Redstreak, well-known in Herefordshire and Somerset. Other varieties you might see on show this weekend include Wyken Pippin, Margil and Catshead - which has been been grown in England for centuries. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Motorcyclist killed in Fordbridge collision was "weeks from her 21st birthday"

TRAGEDY: Lauren Roberts
TRIBUTES have been paid to a young woman who died in a motorbike crash in Fordbridge last week.
Lauren Roberts was killed in the collision at the junction of Forth Drive and Chester Road.
The 20-year-old, from Water Orton, went into cardiac arrest and, despite the valiant efforts of paramedics, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A family statement issued this week said: “On Thursday evening our beautiful Lauren was tragically taken from us just a few weeks before her 21st birthday.
“Lauren was a loving daughter, granddaughter and sister and the whole family are totally devastated by her untimely death. The gap that has been left in our loves can never be filled.”
The motorbike collided with a blue Honda CBR at just before 8.45pm.
West Midlands Ambulance Service said that the car driver, a man in his 30s, was treated for facial injuries and taken to Heartlands Hospital for further assessment.
Emergency services closed the road for several hours after the crash to conduct inquiries and are urging anyone who saw what happened to come forward.
Eyewitnesses should call the collision investigation unit on 101.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Phones 4u store in Chelmsley Wood closes


A CHELMSLEY Wood store shut its doors for the final time last week, with the loss of five jobs.
The Phones 4u branch was one of the 362 outlets to close, after the retailer went into administration earlier this month.
While Vodafone and EE had agreed to buy up a number of premises, the store in Chelmsley Wood shopping centre was not among those to be handed a reprieve.
Rob Hunt, joint administrator, said: “It is with much regret that we made the difficult decision to close a large number of stores.
“It is a sad day for the staff working at those locations and our thoughts are with them.”
Phones 4u was set up by Midlands businessman John Caudwell in 1996 and had more than 700 outlets nationwide.
In recent years the company had started to struggle and the final blow came when the company’s final remaining suppliers ended their contracts a few weeks ago.

Police appeal after teenager assaulted aboard bus in Chelmsley Wood

A PENSIONER was arrested following an alleged sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl aboard a bus in Chelmsley Wood.
The 79-year-old had been questioned by police following the incident on the No 966, on Monday, September 15. He has since been bailed.
The driver of the double-decker service, which runs from Solihull to Erdington, was alerted to the assault of the teenager at around 5.55pm. Police boarded the bus minutes later at Chelmsley Road, near to Keepers Lodge.
Now officers are keen to trace any passengers who may have witnessed the assault and are yet to come forward, particularly a man who is understood to have asked the victim if she was okay.
If you can help with the investigation call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

  •  A report on BBC’s Inside Out programme last Monday revealed that less than five per cent of sexual assaults on buses are reported to the authorities and urged victims to come forward.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Origin of North Solihull



FORTY years since Chelmsley Wood became part of Solihull, we look back on how it happened and if anything has changed since.

I like to think the deal was done in the sort of shady drinking den that you see in British gangster flicks.
Two men with briefcases sit down at a table to “do business”. They’re there for a while and those sat around hold their breath. At last they strike a deal, shake hands, get up and walk away.
Unfortunately this is complete fiction. The agreement that saw Chelmsley Wood become part of Solihull was hammered out by civil servants.
The only drink on the table would have been tap water and if there were discrete black bags they would have contained papers about electoral boundaries rather than used bank notes.
Although in one way local politics does have something in common with the broken-up boozers of Guy Ritchie’s fantasies. And that’s the fact that no one speaks like a normal person.
On the mean streets of London people say things like “this is my manor”, while local government officials may remark “this is a metropolitan borough”.
To be precise, this is Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. But about the only time you’ll see the name in full is on the side of your wheelie bin. More likely you’ll refer to the organisation as Solihull Council. Or if you’re particularly hacked off about potholes probably just “the council” – said with the sort of disgust usually reserved for a sexually transmitted disease.
SMBC or “the council” was created 40 years ago. In fact it came into being on April Fool’s Day 1974 – except no-one saw the funny side. The massive reorganisation of local councils had put a lot of noses out of joint.
Towns, villages and suburbs were swapped between local authorities like Panini football stickers. Birmingham was perhaps the biggest bully in the playground. “Got, got, WANT…” yelled the second city, as it seized control of Sutton Coldfield.
In neighbouring Solihull, leafy avenues, sleepy villages and council estates had all been thrown together and told to get along. An area that stretched from Castle Bromwich in the north to Hockley Heath 14 miles away was suddenly represented by one organisation. An organisation that was going to find it hard to make sure everyone had a voice. Even agreeing on a name was difficult, with some pushing for the newly-created council to be christened Hemlingford (a suggestion rejected presumably because every time you say it, you sound like you're in sore need of a Halls soother).
So it wasn't the ideal start for borough councillors. Part of the problem was that population size or the relative wealth of areas were far more important factors than traditional ties when it came to carving up the West Midlands. You only have to look at the map of Solihull to see something is amiss.
The north of the borough sticks out if not like a sore thumb, then a crooked finger. It curls up past areas of Birmingham, like Sheldon, which are in fact far closer to Solihull town centre. Politics was put before the needs of local people.
It’s sad to say that 40 years since Solihull was created, some of the old divisions still remain. Does Kingshurst feel consulted? Would people in Smith’s Wood describe themselves as Silhillians? The answer is often no, although that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of good people on both sides of the A45 who are trying to change that. Many are trying to hammer home the message that the Coventry Road is just a dual carriageway and not the Israeli Separation Barrier.
The trouble is that it will take more than good will from residents. Transport authorities need to finally solve the problem of the pathetic public transport links from the north to south. The eight miles from Castle Brom to the town centre feels far longer when you’re forced to take a trip on the torturous No 71 bus.
Maybe more could be done to organise events that encourage communities to come together. I pay tribute to organisations like Solihull Music Service, who draw together students from schools across the borough, but there needs to be more examples of this.
The fact is that Solihull is here to stay, unless of course it's swallowed up into Greater Birmingham. But that, perhaps, is a story for another day.

A version of this article originally appeared in @Hybrid_Mag

Plans for Smith's Wood takeaway divide local opinion

COUNCILLORS have been urged to throw out proposals to open a new takeaway in Smith’s Wood.
Paul’s Stores, in Rathlin Croft, has applied for planning permission to turn part of the existing convenience store into a hot food outlet.
The plans have divided local opinion, with more than 50 residents leaving comments on Solihull Council’s website.
Many are concerned that the takeaway, which would open until 10pm weeknights and 10.30pm on Saturdays, will lead to littering, parking problems and anti social behaviour in a mostly residential area.
Ian Davison wrote: “The litter in the area is already too much and this will make it worse. No amount of bins will solve the problem.”
Evelyn Hitchman added: “It will bring more traffic to our busy side roads and encourage groups of people to congregate late at night, which can be very unnerving to some of our residents.”
However, others are firmly in favour of the plans and argue that a takeaway would be convenient for families who have to rely on public transport.
Tracy Cater said: “I think it is a brilliant idea. It will be very convenient for those in the area that do not have car.”
Solihull Council’s planning officers have recommended that the application be refused, drawing comparisons with a similar scheme in Wheatcroft Drive, Chelmsley Wood, which was dismissed in February last year.
Among the local authority’s main objection is that opening a takeway so close to Solihull College’s Woodlands Campus would undermine attempts to encourage young people to eat more healthily.
Councillors will consider the application at their meeting on Wednesday evening (October 1).

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The circus comes to Castle Bromwich

DAREDEVILS: These fearless motorcyclists are among
the star attractions.

ROLL up, roll up...Uncle Sam's American Circus has pitched up in Castle Bromwich.
The troupe will be treating locals to a star-spangled spectacle, featuring jugglers, trapeze artists and a team of daredevil motorcyclists.
The big top is based in Water Orton Road and you can buy tickets from the box office (open daily from 9.30am-8pm). For more details visit www.americancircus.co.uk

Performance times:

  • Friday, September 26th - 5.00 and 7.30pm.
  • Saturday, September 27th - 1.30, 4.00 and 6.30pm.
  • Sunday, September 28th - 2.00 and 4.00pm.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Community rallies round after arsonists target Chelmsley Wood playground

ARSON: The charred remains of structures in Meriden Park's
Adventure Playground
YOUNG volunteers will help carry out repairs at Meriden Park’s Adventure Playground, after the facility was targeting by arsonists for the third time this month.
The community has rallied round after yobs set wooden shelters alight on Monday (September 22). A pit used for cooking activities was also damaged by the flames.
While the volunteers who run the playground were dismayed to discover the latest incident, they have vowed they won’t be beaten.
A team of helpers will be hard at work on Saturday, removing the charred timbers and putting the site back to working order.
There have also been many messages of support after the playground posted photos of the damage on their Facebook page.
Becky Causer wrote: “I can’t even find the words to describe how angry I feel seeing that some no hoper has ruined someone’s hard work on this project. It is a brilliant place and I have major respect for it.”
Stephen Franklin added: “I may live in Coventry, but I work in Chelmsley Wood and have a lot of time for the area.
“I think it would be a good idea to get people together to get this playground rebuilt and show how great the community is in standing together against things like this.”
Equipment was previously set ablaze on September 5 and 9, while this blog reported back in May about an arson attack on the playground’s tree house.
Following Monday’s incident, CCTV footage has been passed to Solihull Police and officers have said they will step up patrols in the area.
If you have any information about the arson attack, call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Smith's Wood road sets up Solihull's first Street Association

RESIDENTS in a Smith's Wood street have formed a group to foster a greater sense of community in their cul-de-sac.
Around a dozen residents from Vauxhall Crescent have volunteered to run Solihull's first ever Street Association, organising a series of events for local people.
The initiative was launched on Saturday, September 13, with around 50 locals turning out for a neighbourhood BBQ.
Around half of those who attended the get-together admitted that they had no friends in the road, something that the Street Association team are keen to remedy.
The associations are the brainchild of Birmingham couple Martin and Gina Graham, in response to concerns about the dwindling contact between neighbours.
A recent survey highlighted the growing sense of isolation in many suburbs and estates, with more than half of those questioned admitting they didn't know their neighbours' first names.
Despite the lack of interaction in many parts of the country, the Grahams say their scheme has been well received, with the majority of the street associations being set up in the West Midlands.
Councillor Diana Holl-Allen, cabinet member for community and partnerships, hopes that more communities will be encouraged to follow the example of Vauxhall Crescent.
To find out more about forming a Street Association visit www.streetassociations.org and request a free starter pack, or alternatively call 0121 427 3300.

Chelmsley Wood man arrested after huge haul of heroin is discovered

A CHELMSLEY Wood man was one of several suspected drugs smugglers arrested earlier this month, after Border Force officials discovered a plot to bring millions of pounds worth of heroin into the UK.
Five men were arrested after the huge haul of drugs was uncovered in Felixstowe, Suffolk. The 46 kilo cache had been concealed in a container of industrial machinery, which had arrived at the docks from Pakistan.
The 52-year-old man, who has not been named by the authorities, was arrested on suspicion of importing a Class A drug.  A 56-year-old, from Inverness and three men, aged 21, 52 and 55, from Hinckley, Leicestershire, were detained on the same charge.
All five men were interviewed by the National Crime Agency and have been released on bail pending further inquiries.
Phillip Holliday, Border Force regional director, said that intercepting the heroin had been a great result for the agency.
“The purity of the drugs is still being tested and a precise value of the haul is therefore yet to be established, but it will certainly run to millions of pounds.
“Working with our colleagues at the NCA we are determined to do all we can to stop drug traffickers. Those convicted of drug importation offences face considerable prison sentences.”

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Teenager stabbed in Chelmsley Wood

A TEENAGER has been taken to hospital after being stabbed in Chelmsley Wood last night (Friday).
Police were called to Alder Drive around 9pm and discovered the 19-year-old, who had suffered “puncture wounds”.
It’s understood that he had been attacked in nearby Greenlands Road a short time earlier.
This morning, officers confirmed the injuries were not life threatening and the teenager remained in a stable condition in hospital.
Detectives from West Midlands Police are investigating the incident and urged anyone with information to contact CID on 101.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Jobs' Fair in Chelmsley Wood

A JOBS’ Fair will be taking place in Chelmsley Wood town centre next week.
The event will help those looking for work to find suitable positions, ahead of the busy Christmas recruitment period.
As well as finding out about the temporary and permanent roles on offer, residents will have the chance to meet employers from a range of industries.
Councillor Ian Courts, cabinet member for economic development, urged people to attend and take a look at some of the available vacancies.
“Seasonal job opportunities can provide invaluable work experience, which employers like to see from candidates,” he said. “You never know, they could turn into full-time positions.”
The jobs’ fair will be held on Monday, September 8 at The Loft, Chelmsley Wood Library. It runs from 9.30am-1.30pm.
For more information visit www.solihullforsuccess.co.uk

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Web glitch sees Castle Bromwich street christened the most expensive in the region.

"MILLIONAIRE'S ROW": Crawshaws Road was wrongly
identified as the most expensive street in the West Midlands.

RESIDENTS in a Castle Bromwich cul-de-sac were as surprised as everyone else when their street was named the most sought after address in all the West Midlands.
Earlier this week, it was claimed that the mostly terrace houses in Crawshaws Road were changing hands for £3.6million.
This would have made them the most expensive homes outside of the South East, on a par with properties in the poshest parts of London.
Unfortunately, the road’s new found status as Solihull’s answer to South Kensington was short-lived.
A few hours later, the Zoopla website – who compiled the 2014 Property Rich List – admitted that they’d got their sums wrong.
A mistake in the formula, which was used to calculate property prices for thousands of streets across the region, meant that houses in Crawshaws Road were estimated at thirty times their real value.
The average asking price is in actual fact £125,000 – a rather more realistic price-tag for first time buyers.
Owning up to the error, a Zoopla spokesman said: “We have now updated [the figures] to reflect a more accurate average property value for that street.
“Consequently this street has not made it on to our Rich List.”
Luckily those living in the road, a stone's throw from the M6 motorway, saw the funny side of Zoopla’s blooper.
Tracy Hogan, who paid £140,000 for her three-bedroom house a decade ago, joked that residents could get gates fitted “to keep the riff raff out.”

Once the list was corrected, Church Lane, in Meriden, emerged as the most expensive road in the West Midlands; houses there go under the hammer for an average of £1.39m. The Top 10 was dominated by the Birmingham suburbs of Edgbaston and Sutton Coldfield, although at £316,603, Solihull has the highest average property price.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Plans to create armed forces memorial at Woodlands Cemetery

A BAND of volunteers are aiming to raise £13,000 to install a permanent memorial to the armed forces at a burial site near Chelmsley Wood.
Friends of Woodlands Cemetery are appealing for donations towards the granite monument, which will stand at 9ft tall and have engravings to represent each of the uniformed services.
Joan Lloyd, who chairs the charity, said that the 100th anniversary of the First World War was a pertinent time for the project.
“We want to create a peaceful place where people who have lost loved ones can go and sit quietly and reflect on their memories,” she said.
“This memorial would create a real focal point for people to come and remember and pay their respects to those who have served their country.”
The plan is to place the granite marker in the memorial garden which the group created in 2011.
Donations can be sent to the Friends of Woodlands Cemetery Fund, c/o Woodlands Cemetery, Birmingham Road, B46 1DP.
You can also pledge money at www.totalgiving.co.uk – simple click ‘Donate Now’ and search for the Friends of Woodland Cemetery.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

800 people sign petition against Babbs Mill housing plan

A FRESH attempt has been made to stop controversial plans to strip part of a picturesque park of its “local nature reserve” status.
Around 800 residents have signed a petition against the proposals, which will pave the way for dozens of homes to be built on Babbs Mill Park.
In total, almost two hectares will be removed from the nature reserve and up to 70 houses built there between now and 2018.
There has been widespread criticism since the wedge of land, off Foxglove Crescent, was first earmarked for housing in Solihull's Draft Local Plan.
The latest attempt to prevent the development is being lead by Councillor Debbie Evans (UKIP, Kingshurst & Fordbridge).
She has repeatedly clashed with her former Tory colleagues over the issue and believes it is vital that the “well-used site” is preserved.
Councillor Ian Courts, cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, has argued that only a small part of the 24 hectare parkland will be built on and that the remaining land will have its LNR status re-declared.
“The independent inspector who examined the draft local plan concluded that the loss of less than two hectares would not seriously erode its nature conservation value,” he said.
Babbs Mill was created in 1977 to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and achieved the prestigious Green Flag Award a few years ago.
Solihull Council’s own website describes the site as a “haven for wildlife”, supporting creatures including bats, owls and wildfowl.

OUTCRY: Labour MP Gloria De Piero (centre) took
part in a protest at the site in 2012

Timeline:
January 2012: Land at Babbs Mill is identified as one of 20 sites around Solihull where new houses will be built over the next 15 years. Residents accuse the council of trying to take away precious green space in the north of the borough.
May 2012: Labour MP Gloria De Piero joins residents for an outdoor protest at the site. Local man Philip Richards, among those who turn out for the demonstration, fears that houses will be “packed in like sardines”.
Summer 2012: In reaction to the public outcry, Solihull Council agrees to reduce the number of homes earmarked for Babbs Mill to 70, but resists calls to scrap the development altogether.
August 2012: Natural England, the public body which conserves and enhances the environment, warns the local authority that the area of land earmarked for housing would have to be stripped of LNR status before any building could take place.
January 2013: David Jamieson, Solihull’s then Labour leader, tells a public inquiry that residents are “incandescent with anger” about the overdevelopment of the area.
August 2014: The row is renewed, with Coun Evans claiming that local opinion has been disregarded.

Application to turn Castle Bromwich building into 150-place nursery

PROPOSALS: Plans have been submitted for The Coach
House, in Castle Bromwich - which currently lies empty

PLANS have been announced to convert a historic building into a nursery, which would cater for 150 youngsters.
The application to open the childcare facility at the 18th century Coach House, part of Castle Bromwich Hall Estate, was submitted to Solihull Council last month.
An outdoor play area and 31 car parking spaces would be created at the site, which sits in the middle of the village’s conservation area.
In a statement submitted along with the application, the applicants said that any changes would be sympathetic to the red brick building, which was Grade II-listed in the 1980s.
However, some residents have expressed concerns that opening the nursery in Old Birmingham Road, a short cul-de-sac, could create traffic problems in the area.
The applicant has attempted to allay these fears in a travel plan, saying that parents and the 41 members-of-staff would be encouraged to use public transport where possible.
The application follows the redevelopment of the adjacent Castle Bromwich Hall almost three years ago – the manor house was restored and opened as a hotel after being empty for a number of years.
The plans are likely to be considered by councillors later this year.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Kingshurst grandmother committed suicide an inquest rules



A Kingshurst woman who feared she would be forced to leave her home killed herself, a coroner has ruled.
An inquest heard that Stephanie Bottrill (pictured) had been worried how she would cope with the increased cost of the controversial ‘bedroom tax’.
Early on the morning of May 4 last year, the 52-year-old had climbed a safety barrier and walked onto the M6 motorway. She died from multiple injuries after being struck by a lorry.
The tragedy made national headlines after it emerged she had left a suicide note, blaming the Government’s housing policy.
The day before her death the mum-of-two had visited her GP, Bindu Nair, and told him she could not cope with the stress. 
She was apparently worried that she would have to choose between remaining in Meriden Drive, and paying more money, or leaving the council house where she had lived for 20 years.
But it was also revealed that the former postal worker had battled depression for decades and had previously taken an overdose in 2005.
Speaking following today's verdict at Birmingham and Solihull Coroners, her brother, Kevin Owens, said it was wrong to suggest that her housing worries were to blame for her death.
“Much has been written about ‘bedroom tax’ pushing her - it wasn’t, because prior to that she’d attempted suicide before and that hadn’t been reported before. 
“It might have been the catalyst to push her but was it just an excuse she was looking for? - That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Solihull Council said that Ms Bottrill had been told she could apply for a grant, which would have allowed her to remain at the three-bedroom terrace, but she had chosen not to.
The local authority also denied that she had been hurried into making a decision.
A spokeswoman said: “It was never a situation where she would have been asked to make a decision in half an hour.”

Bedroom Tax: The so-called 'bedroom tax', or spare room subsidy, caused huge controversy when it was introduced in April 2013. Under the more stringent rules, people who live in council properties with empty rooms have to pay more. The Government said this would encourage people to move to smaller homes and free up valuable housing space for families. However, the policy has been strongly criticised by many Solihull councillors.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream

A bus too far? - First in an occasional series where I talk about events worth attending in the south of the borough. It'll also draw attention to my ongoing campaign for better public transport links - directions at the end for those who don't drive.

DARK FAIRIES: Oberon (Matt Fitzgerald) issues orders to
Puck (Steve Eagles)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Solihull Society of Arts, The Edge Theatre
Ooh er, Puck’s gone a bit punk rock.
In this adaptation, Shakespeare’s “shrewd and knavish” sprite swaggers around the stage like Billy Idol – he’s even got the bright blonde hair and trenchcoat.
From the moment he appears on the balcony above the audience, it’s a performance that makes perfect sense.
After all, this is the story of young lovers running off to the woods and falling under the influence of some mysterious flower.
When you’ve got the sex and drugs, why wouldn’t you top it off with a bit of rock ‘n’ roll!
The musical influence continues a theme for the society, who have previously introduced us to a Kurt Cobain-inspired Hamlet and a version of Romeo and Juliet which riffed on the works of David Bowie.
The simple set – hung with just a handful of dangling bulbs – means that almost all of your attention is on the characters. And what a colourful bunch they are (figuratively speaking, as the fairies in particular favour rather darker outfits).
In fact in the programme Oberon and co are referred to as “shadows”, which somewhat sets the tone for a more sinister, sexually-charged set of beings. Delicate little things with wings these are most definitely not.
It’s almost unfair to say who steals the show. Puck (Steve Eagles) may be the headline act, but the fey fellow’s run very close by Chris Cooper’s brilliantly Brummie Bottom.
All-in-all, directors Thom Faulkner and Bethany Hughes have delivered a first rate take on one of the Bard’s best-loved comedies.
I only hope they can be persuaded to make this “a trilogy of four parts” having shown so categorically that small societies can do the great plays justice.

Destination: Edge Theatre, Alderbrook School
Fastest Route (from Castle Bromwich centre): The quickest one-bus route would be to walk to Smith's Wood and catch the No 966 to Solihull Station. From there, walk another 15 minutes to Blossomfield Road. Total journey time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Any way back? Yes, buses do continue to run into the evening.
Verdict: Fair bit of walking, but taking a bus to Solihull town centre and then catching another down to the school wouldn't be simple either.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Want to write for Other Side of Solihull?

Enjoy writing? Got something to say about North Solihull? Then maybe you'd like to post a thing or two on this blog.
Ever since I set up this site earlier this year I have been keen to get more people on board. More people means different opinions and stories I won't have heard about myself, which I think will only improve the content. 
So I'm throwing open the door to submissions. Whether that's from college students or councillors, local businesses or just residents with something to say. 
The fact is, when people speak up about something they feel strongly about, it carries a lot of weight. Take the case earlier this week of a teacher from the CTC (my old school, as it happens), who was banned for life following allegations of violence. 
Within hours, hundreds of former pupils had taken to Facebook to defend the teacher in question and by the end of the day their campaign was being reported by various news outlets. I think this goes to show the power of social media. The internet is no longer where journalists put their stories, it's also where they get their stories!
So if you'd like to get involved, please do email me at theothersolihullofsolihull@gmail.com 
I'm happy to answer any questions, although there's a few more details about the blog and why I set it up here.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Cow rescued from river near Castle Bromwich

PULL THE UDDER ONE: Firefighters rescue the cow from
the river near the M6 motorway. Credit/WMFS
A HEAVILY-pregnant cow had to be pulled from a local river by firefighters this afternoon.
Crews were called in to moo-ve the animal, after it stumbled into the waters of the River Tame, near Castle Bromwich.
A specialist sling was fitted round the cow, which weighed a hefty half a tonne. Around 20 men and women were needed to haul it to the bank.
A West Midlands Fire Service spokesman said that crews from Sheldon, Sutton Coldfield, Highgate and a technical rescue unit from Bickenhill attended, following a call at around 4.15pm.
Both the animal and its unborn calf were uninjured following the ordeal.

Students speak out after teacher is banned for life

HUNDREDS of students have leapt to the defence of a teacher who has been banned from the classroom for life.
Jason McDermott, who taught for more than a decade at the CTC Kingshurst Academy, was found guilty of unacceptable conduct by the National Council of Teaching and Leadership.
The 45-year-old former soldier was accused of punching or jabbing pupils on three separate occasions and in another incident it is alleged he had grabbed a student’s hair.
The disciplinary panel had heard the incidents happened between September 2012 and March 2013. Mr McDermott was suspended by the CTC shortly afterwards and subsequently resigned.
Explaining the panel’s decision to impose a lifetime ban from teaching, Paul Heathcote said: “The public interest considerations outweigh the interests of ­Mr McDermott, particularly as his behaviour involved recurring violence against students of a potentially criminal nature.
“Mr McDermott accepts that what he did was wrong and that he regrets his actions.”
But within hours of the decision appearing on local news sites, scores of ex-students have spoken out in support of the teacher – who taught the school’s BTEC course in Uniformed Services.
Eighteen-year-old Paige Griffiths set up a Facebook page – Support for Jason McDermott – which has received more than 1000 likes since this morning. Ex-students and their parents were among those to leave messages.
Sean Boyd posted: “One of the few teachers who seemed to respect the pupils, treated us as equals. Over 10 years ago he taught me and I can still remember positive lessons learnt from him!”
Jenni Dunn said he “had always shown pupils how to respect others”, while Chris Willetts described him as “a great teacher and lovely bloke.”
In a statement, Mr McDermott had said that physicality between staff and students had always been part of the relationship on the course - which prepares teenagers for careers in the army or emergency services - and this included “boisterous play” between himself and students.
It's unclear if the teacher will choose to appeal against the ban, which prevents him from returning to work in schools, sixth forms or youth services.