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 – 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

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 
I'm happy to answer any questions, although there's a few more details about the blog and why I set it up here.