Saturday, 31 January 2015

Grand opening of Chelmsley Wood's new Enterprise Centre

BIZ BUZZ: The enterprise centre was launched
last Thursday evening.
CHELMSLEY Wood's brand-new Enterprise Centre had its official launch last week.
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman and Melody Hossaini - a former candidate on BBC's The Apprentice - joined local business owners for the grand unveiling.
The ground floor of the £2m facility has seminar rooms and hot-desking areas, while upstairs there is office space available for local businesses (be they start-up companies, sole traders or larger firms,)
The purpose-built premises, part of the Chelmund's Cross development, is at the heart of Solihull Council's plans to promote business growth in the local area.
While the borough has traditionally been the engine of the West Midlands economy, growth was brought to a shuddering halt by the recession.
This led to the the local authority drawing up plans to nurture new businesses and encourage job creation, with an action plan announced several years ago.
One of the main challenges identified was the gulf between the number of businesses being set up in North and South Solihull.
According to the 2011 Census, only eight per cent of the working population in Chelmsley Wood are self-employed. By comparison, a far greater proportion of people are working for themselves south of the A45 (in areas like Knowle and Dorridge, as many as one in five.)
It is hoped that the Enterprise Centre will help readdress the balance and the council has set a target of having the site 70 per cent occupied by next year.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Green Party announce their candidate for Meriden

GREEN SURGE: Alison Gavin, a local teacher, will
contest Meriden for the Green Party.
PUSHING for decent public services will be a top priority for the Green Party’s candidate in Meriden.
It was announced this week that Alison Gavin would go up against Caroline Spelman in the constituency that includes North Solihull.
The teacher – who has lived in the area for eight years and previously taught at Oaklands School, in Smith’s Wood – said that the Greens were the only party offering a genuine alternative.
“We need a restructure of public services that works for the common good of all people, not just the interests of big corporations where profit is their number one motive,” said Ms Gavin.
“At the moment we have Labour and UKIP too similar to the Con-Lib coalition to be able to make any difference.”
Councillor Howard Allen, who will stand for the party in neighbouring Solihull, described Ms Gavin as a “first rate candidate” and said that her commitment to fairness would resonate with voters.
While the Greens finished sixth in the constituency at the last General Election, they argue that they are now the official opposition to Conservative incumbent Mrs Spelman.
In 2010, the Greens had a single council seat, but have added five more since – wiping out Labour in Chelmsley Wood and Smith’s Wood wards.
Activists locally will also be buoyed by news that their national polling is now at a 20-year high and membership has soared to over 40,000. The surge in support is believed to have been driven by broadcasters' original intention to exclude the party from the pre-election TV debates.

HOW THEY LINE UP: 100 days before polling day,
all the major parties have now announced their candidate for Meriden.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Concentration camp survivor to speak at CTC Kingshurst

A MAN who survived the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp will be speaking at the CTC Kingshurst Academy next week.
Dr Martin Stern (pictured above) was just five-years-old when German soldiers arrived to arrest him at his nursery school in Amsterdam. The schoolboy's "crime" was that his father was a Jew.
He was taken, along with his one-year-old sister, to Theresienstadt - half way between a ghetto and fortress.
Tens of thousands lost their lives in the camp; many were murdered outright, others died as a result of malnutrition or disease.
"It was disgustingly overcrowded," said Dr Stern, during a previous visit to Solihull. "It stank to high heaven, and we couldn't wash properly. I probably wore the same clothes all the time I was there.
"There were fleas, bed bugs, mice...And towards the end of my time in that place, there was a typhus outbreak. It killed a lot of people, those who had not already died of starvation."
At the camp, Martin and his baby sister were cared for by a kindly woman, Catharina Casoeto de Jong, who had been incarcerated for marrying a Jewish market trader.
Mercifully the children were never called to be  transported to Auschwitz - a worse camp still, where more than a million people perished.
In 1945, with Hitler's forces retreating across Europe, Martin awoke to discover the Red Army had liberated Theresienstadt. Of the 15,000 children who had been sent to the camp, the siblings were among the handful who had survived.
Dr Stern would go on to study at Oxford University and become an eminent immunologist in England. In recent years he has toured the country, talking to schoolchildren about his ordeal.
He has given several such talks at the CTC in recent years and will be returning for Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday (January 27),
The free talk will be taking place from 6-8pm. You can find out more here or call 0121 329 8300 to reserve seats.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

When Winston visited Castle Bromwich...

WAR EFFORT: Winston Churchill visits Castle
Bromwich in 1941. Picture/Imperial War Museum

TODAY'S newspapers are full of photos of Winston Churchill - who died exactly 50 years ago.
One image overlooked by the national press, which will be of particular interest to local readers, is this shot taken in 1941.
It shows the wartime Prime Minister during a visit to the Castle Bromwich Aerodrome.
He is pictured talking to Alex Henshaw, who was the site's chief test pilot for Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers built at the adjoining factory.
Mr Henshaw would go on to write a book about his role and following his death in 2007, McCarthy and Stone decided to name a new retirement complex in Chester Road after the well-known figure.

Woman rescued from Smith's Wood fire

FIREFIGHTERS rescued a woman following a blaze at her Smith’s Wood home in the early hours of this morning (Saturday).
The resident had a lucky escape after being overcome by smoke at her Greenfinch Road property; neighbours had heard the smoke alarm and dialled 999.
Crews from West Midlands Fire Service’s technical rescue unit arrived at the address at just before 3am and braved the flames to rescue the unconscious woman.
Outside the property, paramedics administered oxygen, which helped to bring the woman round.
A West Midlands Ambulance spokesman said: “Upon assessment [she] was found to have suffered no burns from the fire and continued to respond well to treatment on scene, indicating no serious issues with her airways.”
She was taken to Heartlands Hospital by ambulance for further treatment. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Smith's Wood men jailed after cannabis factory is uncovered

BUSTED: Officers discovered the plants inside the small
flat.  Photo/West Midlands Police.

TWO local men have been jailed, after police discovered £72,000 worth of cannabis in a two-bedroom flat.
Daniel Carter, 22, and Jamie Elkin, 26, were convicted of producing the Class B drug and sentenced to 22 months in prison.
The pair, both of Starling Grove, Smith’s Wood, had been cultivating the crop inside the cramped property.
But the illegal enterprise was uncovered by officers from the Smith’s Wood and Castle Bromwich Neighbourhood Team last year.
Photos posted by the team earlier today showed a “jungle” of cannabis plants and the sophisticated equipment used to nurture them.
Carter and Elkin were sentenced by the courts last week and the plants have been incinerated at a special "waste to energy" plant, in line with force policy.

Cannabis Factories: It was revealed only this week that West Midlands Police seized 52,218 cannabis plants in the space of just 12 months and increasingly officers are uncovering factories designed to grow the drug on an industrial scale. While the set-up in Smith’s Wood was confined to a single property, some gangs use several addresses at a time. Often police deploy thermal imaging equipment to discover factories, as well as relying on more traditional methods of detection. A few years ago I accompanied a pair of PCSOs on a patrol of Smith’s Wood and they told me that the pungent smell of the drug could sometimes lead officers straight to an offender’s front door.
If you have information about possible drug offences in your area, contact your local neighbourhood team on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

UKIP select parliamentary candidate

A FORMER member of the Army’s bomb disposal unit has been chosen as UKIP’s parliamentary candidate for Meriden.
Mick Gee (pictured above) was selected by the party last year and will challenge Conservative incumbent Caroline Spelman for the seat which encompasses North Solihull.
In 2010, Mrs Spelman won her fourth consecutive election, increasing her majority to over 16,000.
UKIP’s candidate Barry Allcock lost his deposit after winning fewer than 1500 votes (2.6 per cent of the total).
Five years on the party is feeling rather more positive about its prospects, having won its first two MPs in high-profile by-elections and continuing to perform strongly in the opinion polls.
Locally, UKIP has secured its first Solihull councillor in Kingshurst & Fordbridge; Debbie Evans unseated the leader of the Labour group at last year’s local elections.
The party also came a close second in Castle Bromwich and the Conservatives are likely to be troubled by how near the eurosceptics came to capturing a traditional Tory stronghold.
Mr Gee said: “The forthcoming election promises to be the most unpredictable for many years. I am going to work very hard in Meriden to prove to the residents that I can successfully represent them in Parliament and fight for their concerns.”
The former serviceman spent 22 years in the Army, before leaving in 2008 to take a job at Jaguar Land Rover, in Wolverhampton.
The father-of-two’s election pledges include opposing proposals to build homes on part of Babbs Mill Nature Reserve and calling for a new community hub to be created at Kingshurst. He has also spoken out against the bedroom tax and the HS2 rail link.
  • Other Side of Solihull will be keeping readers up-to-date with all the latest elections news between now and May 7. Closer to polling day we will approach all the candidates standing in Meriden to ask them to outline why you should vote for them.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Trio arrested following car key burglary in Marston Green

THREE men, who allegedly used a cat flap to get inside a Marston Green home, have been arrested on suspicion of burglary.
The trio are believed to have reached through the flap to let themselves into the property, in Elmdon Lane.
An iPad was taken during the burglary, which happened in the early hours of this morning (January 13). The culprits also snatched the keys of a Peugeot parked outside and drove off in the vehicle.
But the suspects were stopped after police spotted the stolen car travelling on the motorway in Redditch.
Officers arrested a 22-year-old driver on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle and burglary. Two teenage passengers, aged 16 and 19, were detained on suspicion of burglary.
All three men are currently helping police with their enquiries.
If you have any information about the car key burglary, which happened around 2.20am, call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Chelmsley Wood veteran receives Russian bravery medal

CAMPAIGN: James Hefford, from Chelmsley Wood, served
in the Arctic Convoys during the Second World War.
A PLUCKY pensioner who played a part in one of the toughest missions of the Second World War has been recognised for his bravery.
James Hefford, from Chelmsley Wood, is one of several Arctic Convoy veterans to have been presented with the Order of Ushakov – a Russian war medal.
Officials from the Russian Embassy recently visited the pensioner’s home to hand over the military honour and thank him for his efforts more than 70 years ago.
Now 91, Mr Hefford was a young navy gunner when he took part in the maritime campaign to carry fuel to the Soviet Union.
In order to get their precious cargo to Murmansk, the Allied ships had to find a way through severe storms, ice floes and German U-boats. Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously described the journey as “the worst on earth.”
In 2012, the Russians wrote to surviving veterans saying they wished to issue them with the Order of Ushakov, as a symbol of the country’s lasting gratitude.
The proposal was originally blocked by the Foreign Office, who argued that foreign medals could not be presented so long after the event.
Initially the government said that veterans would instead get a British honour and the Arctic Star was created specially for those who have served in the campaign.
But eventually officials agreed to make an exception to the rules and said the former servicemen would be allowed to receive the Russian honour as well.
Mr Hefford, a great-grandfather, said: “I feel humbled and honoured. But I’m also remembering the lads who never came back. They didn’t get a medal.”

Arctic Convoys:

  • The convoys carried supplies from Britain to Northern Russian, which was locked in battle with Nazi Germany.
  • Crews had to battle through winter blizzards and constant attacks by Germans, who attempted to torpedo ships and also launched repeated aerial assaults.
  • By May 1945, 104 merchant and 16 military vessels had been destroyed attempting the journey and around 3000 seamen perished in the freezing waters.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Increased opening hours for Marston Green Library

CHANGES: Under the current arrangements, Marston Green
Library only opens 17 hours a week, although this will rise to
20 from next Wednesday
MARSTON Green Library, which previously had its hours cut as part of a controversial cost-cutting drive, will now be opening for an extra half day a week.
In 2012, Solihull Council agreed that opening times would be reduced at the branch and nine others around the borough, saving £54,000 a year.
Several councillors appealed for the decision to be reversed, but the Tory administration argued that dwindling numbers of visitors had made the changes necessary.
Now almost two years after the reduced hours came into effect, there has been good news for residents in Marston Green.
Thanks to an innovative partnership with the council’s adult social care team, their local library is now set to open on Wednesday mornings, between 10am-1pm.
Visitors will be able to return, renew and borrow items using the self-service kiosks.
Printing and photocopying services will also be available and existing library card holders will be able to use the computers.
Councillor Joe Tildesley, cabinet member for education, skills and lifelong learning, said: “At a time when other councils in the country are closing libraries, it is fantastic to be able to enhance the service on offer to our residents, with three extra hours to access library services.”
The branch, in Land Lane, will continue to open Mondays and Thursdays (10am-1pm, 2-6pm), and Saturdays (10am-1pm). Wednesday opening will start a week tomorrow (January 14.)

A new leaf: The future of library services has been keenly debated by local authorities around the country. 324 libraries have closed nationwide since 2011 and a report last month warned that only a handful of facilities may remain in a decade’s time. In Solihull, councillors are yet to close a branch outright, but the cuts a few years ago were nonetheless controversial.
Officers have previously said that it was important to bring library services into the 21st century and the multimedia complex at Chelmsley Wood, unveiled in 2009, was seen by some as a blueprint for the future. Although others speculate that the emphasis on a few flagship facilities will ultimately pave the way for the closure of the smaller community libraries.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Castle Brom Lion appears in New Year Honours List

HONOUR: The British Empire Medal (BEM) was reintroduced
in 2012 to recognise community champions.
A WOMAN who has worked tirelessly alongside local charities and community groups has been recognised in the New Year Honours List.
Phil White has been awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of many years of volunteering.
The 67-year-old is a director of the Castle Bromwich Youth and Community Partnership and has been chairman of the Castle Bromwich Friends of Acorns - a group which raises funds for the well-known children's hospice - since 2008.
She is also a long-standing member of Castle Bromwich and District Lions.
Her work with the branch was thrown into the spotlight last year, as she helped to choose the charities that would benefit from a generous pensioner's £150,000 fortune.
The extraordinary chain of events was set in motion while Phil was helping to clear the cluttered home of her friend Edna Hales, who died in 2012.
While sorting through the Smith's Wood terrace, Phil found a will and testament - written eight years ago - which asked for the estate to be shared out among worthy causes.
The chance discovery of the crumpled note has seen substantial sums handed to charities including Diabetes UK, the Alzheimer's Society and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
Phil, whose husband Tony is also a member of the Lions, is set to visit Buckingham Palace later this year to receive the BEM.
She becomes the latest local resident to appear in the Honours List. Others recognised in recent years include Castle Bromwich councillor Ted Richards and Chelmsley Wood traffic warden Ann Conway, both of whom were awarded MBEs.