Sunday, 26 April 2015

Police appeal to find off-road bikers in Chelmsley Wood

POLICE have released CCTV images of several young men they want to speak to in connection with off-road racing around streets and open spaces in Chelmsley Wood.
The use of bikes and mini motos is an ongoing problem on many local estates, but the number of complaints tends to shoot up with the arrival of the lighter nights and warmer weather.
As reported on this blog last summer, police have previously faced problems catching the culprits and there has been frustration among many residents that more isn't being done to tackle the problem.
Police hope that the pictures released this week will help them to track down those who have been tearing around parks and along pavements in Chelmsley.
Patrols have also been stepped up in Kingshurst and earlier this month officers issued an official warning to an individual who was riding around the Babbs Mills area.
A Solihull Police spokesman said: "If off-road bikes are causing a nuisance in your neighbourhood and you have information about the use of these vehicles, where they're being ridden and who by, then please call 101."

Local people's concerns:
Claire Beresford said there was a problem with racing by the river, near Cambridge Drive, Marston Green. "My kids play there and the last couple of days there's been bikes up and down. Plus one of them had a young child riding a mini bike with him. Neither were wearing helmets."
Nicky Cane said she was tailgated by a group of lads on bikes as she drove down the Collector Road earlier this month. "They were that close that if I'd have had to of braked suddenly there would have been an almighty pile up and probably fatalities as some of the idiots didn't even have helmets on! God knows about the legality of the bikes but all I do know is that they absolutely don't care for anyone's safety!"

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Election: Alison Gavin Interview

ELECTION: Green Party
candidate Alison Gavin
As part of our General Election coverage, Other Side of Solihull has sent questions to the six individuals battling it out to be the next MP for Meriden. Their answers will be posted here. Today we hear from Green Party candidate Alison Gavin.

The impact of HS2 will be considerable for the people of North Solihull. Do you believe the scheme should go ahead and if so what steps can be taken to mitigate the disruption?
The Green Party and I are not in favour of HS2.  It is not needed, it would widen the north-south economic divide, severely damage our environment and cost an arm and a leg.  Green Councillor Chris Williams went to Parliament to speak up for mitigation on noise, moving the line another 100 metres eastwards and turning a proposed embankment past Chelmsley Wood into a viaduct.

There is still a gap in living standards, employment levels and health between North and South Solihull, what do you believe can be done to address this inequality?
Regeneration began in earnest before the recession but progress has been halting since then. Austerity measures have not helped the region, so it is important that we support an anti-austerity approach. The communities and local councillors in the North of the borough are working hard to ensure that the community is supported. I think that, in the medium to long term we need to ensure that multi-agency working helps to bridge the gap.

Two of the main concerns for people in the north of the borough are the lack of affordable housing and loss of green space - if elected as MP for Meriden how would you address what are sometimes conflicting problems?
Green space is being decimated in North Solihull.  Smith’s Wood for example has less green space than any other ward in Solihull. North Solihull was built to high density but with green space to compensate.  There needs to be a moratorium on loss of further green space here now.  On housing, Greens would scrap the right to buy – it has more than run its course now – and would certainly not introduce right to buy of housing association properties as the Conservatives propose.  There are hundreds of thousands of empty homes across the country but the law does not allow enough powers to local councils to take tough action.  I would push for more powers to be devolved to local authorities.  I would also push for house building on brownfield sites such as Powergen headquarters in Shirley and a redevelopment of Chelmsley Wood town centre to include housing.

GROWING SUPPORT: The Greens are now the second
largest party, and official opposition, on Solihull Council.
 When the Greens started to win support locally there was a lot of disillusionment surrounding the North Solihull Regeneration project. How do you feel the party has improved this situation?
The Council does now better understand people’s concerns thanks to the persistence of our Councillors.  This doesn’t mean absolutely everything is better but some lessons have been learned so certain mistakes won't be repeated.  When the regeneration started the budgets were huge and the regeneration scheme promised the earth.  People are now over the fact the “nirvana promised” is not around the corner but through us constantly focussing on the need for action on village centres and new schools, we have seen a big improvement there.  Some of the problems such as the Longley Walk “muddy” mound are being resolved.  However, some still remain such as the lack of action on parking areas off Tamar Drive and Green Party Councillors are pushing for change.

Some people have accused Green Party policies of being unrealistic or financially unviable. What would your response be to this?
The Green Party’s manifesto has been fully costed and drawn up on the back of research by academics over the past two years.  Some of the very long term policies are long term ambitions and not in the manifesto as we know they can't be achieved in the next 5 years.

Finally, why should people in Meriden vote Green on May 7
Our local councillors work very hard to preserve the green space and improve the quality of life of all residents- especially those who are vulnerable. We need more Green councillors locally so that more of this work can be done. Nationally, the Green Party are the only party who have made a serious commitment to social justice, the more Green MPs we have the more we can narrow the gap between the rich and poor by enhancing the quality of life of all constituents.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Election: Caroline Spelman Interview

ELECTION: Conservative
candidate Caroline Spelman
As part of our General Election coverage, Other Side of Solihull has sent questions to the six individuals battling it out to be the next MP for Meriden. Their answers will be posted here. First-up is Conservative candidate Caroline Spelman. 

The impact of HS2 will be considerable for the people of North Solihull. Do you believe the scheme should go ahead and if so what steps can be taken to mitigate the disruption?
I have worked hard to move the line away from the Chelmsley Wood estate so that it no longer takes land from the Bluebell recreation ground. Moving forward, I am working to reduce noise pollution by calling for a 'cut-and-cover' tunnel to be built. I have also fought tirelessly for improved compensation and mitigation for those affected along the HS2 route. It is important to remember that the new station will bring jobs and opportunities for the people of North Solihull; I am working to get it fully integrated with existing housing and infrastructure projects so residents get the full benefit of this 21st century development.

There is still a gap in living standards, employment levels and health between North and South Solihull, what do you believe can be done to address this inequality?
I am determined to reduce the inequality in health, education and economy across the
borough. I have worked regularly with local GPs to tackle the difference in life expectancy and I have helped to secure funding for two new GP surgeries in North Solihull. Importantly, we are seeing attainment levels rise in the schools in North Solihull due to focused investment. We have seen unemployment halve since 2010 across all categories of worker, including young people and the long-term unemployed.

Two of the main concerns for people in the north of the borough are the lack of affordable housing and loss of green space - if re-elected as MP for Meriden how would you address what are sometimes conflicting problems? 
Conservatives in local and national government have invested in North Solihull and this area is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Solihull Council has built almost 1000 homes in North Solihull since 2008, many of which are affordable or social housing. The Conservative commitment to prioritise brownfield over greenfield sites has protected green space and much of the new housing has been built on disused industrial land. North Solihull remains green and growing, and is an exciting area to raise a family or base a business.

You have now represented Meriden for 18 years, what would you say your proudest achievements have been in this time?
Without doubt the single biggest achievement is the regeneration of the Chelmsley Wood estate; the refurbishment of the tower blocks by overhauling their heating system with a new source of renewable energy including solar panels and better insulation has brought down energy costs for residents, reducing their living costs.
DEVELOPMENT: Mrs Spelman says she is proud of the North
Solihull Regeneration, recently welcoming Health Secretary
Jeremy Hunt to the Chelmund's Cross site.

Conservative policies such as the bedroom tax and welfare reform have been fiercely criticised by some. What would you say to residents affected by these changes?
The Government has given Solihull Council £295,000 a year for discretionary payments to help residents with the spare room subsidy and there are only a handful of residents who have not engaged with the process which enables them to continue living in their present accommodation.

Finally, why should people in Meriden vote Conservative on May 7?
I urge people to vote Conservative on May 7 to complete the economic recovery from the mess we inherited only 5 years ago. Our long term economic plan has brought many jobs to this area and has created many opportunities, especially for young people to get a good start in life. We are committed to increasing spending on health to maintain and improve our NHS, and the Conservatives’ commitment to education in the borough means every child has the opportunity to go to a good school. Having served the constituency for 18 years, I offer a strong voice and unbeatable experience to help us face the future together.

Tomorrow: We speak to Green Party candidate Alison Gavin.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Mayor meets new patron of Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

TEAMWORK: Anne Kendrick (front), with gardeners Stephen Webb and
Gordon Sammons, the present chair of trustees Simon Cleaver, chair of the
gardens committee David Howell and Solihull's Mayor, Coun Kate Wild.

A WOMAN who played a vital role in restoring Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens to its former glory has been made a patron of the site.
Anne Kendrick was one of the original trustees of the project to reclaim the ten-acre tract of land, which had been neglected for decades.
Thirty years after the hall gardens' trust was formed, Anne's role in restoring one of the borough's hidden gems was recognised by the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Kate Wild.
The Mayor dropped in at the attraction last Friday (April 17) to celebrate National Open Gardens Day.
Coun Wild said: “It is lovely to be in these gorgeous gardens on such a beautiful day – the hard work by all those who volunteer to keep them looking immaculate and true to their heritage is evident.
“It is an honour to be here with Mrs Kenrick, who has been so instrumental in keeping the gardens going right from the beginning of the restoration process, over 30 years ago.”
During her visit, the Mayor also met with the team who help tend the borders and beds of the site and members-of-the-public who had taken advantage of the one-off free admission.

  • Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens is currently running monthly taster sessions for people who might like to volunteer. The next one is this Friday (April 24) from 10am-12noon. You can register to take part here.

1982: The gardens are "rediscovered". After decades of neglect they are derelict, overgrown and have been repeatedly targeted by vandals. But the basic structure has survived and is much as it would have been in the early 18th century.
1985: The trust is set up to take the lead on the restoration work. Mrs Kendrick is the first chairman.
1988: The gardens open to the public for the first time. Within a decade, the main restoration will be completed, taking the site to how it would have looked between 1680-1740.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Time running out to register to vote

IF you want to vote in the parliamentary and council elections next month, tomorrow (Monday, April 20) is your last chance to register.
The deadline is midnight and if you haven't registered by then, you will have missed your chance to have your say at the ballot box.
You can find out how to register at the Solihull Council website.
  • Other Side of Solihull has published full details of both the candidates standing in the General Election and those who will be contesting the council seats where you live.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Friday, 17 April 2015

Travellers served notice in Marston Green

POPULAR SPOT: Millennium Wood, Marston Green.
TRAVELLERS who have pitched up at a local nature reserve were this afternoon served notice by the authorities.
The caravans arrived at Millennium Wood, Marston Green yesterday evening (Thursday).
Earlier today, Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council confirmed that Solihull Council has taken out a court order, requiring the group to leave the site.
If they fail to move off the land, the authorities will take enforcement action.
Solihull Police, who have attended the scene, have requested residents do not approach the travellers.

Update (19.04.15): The parish council has confirmed that the travellers left the land at around 11am today. The area will be assessed for damage and a clean up operation is underway.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Carjacker targets 67-year-old in Kingshurst

A PENSIONER was left badly shaken after being targeted by a cowardly car-jacker in the Kingshurst area.
The 67-year-old was flagged down by the crook in Kingshurst Way on Monday morning (April 13). When she got out of her car, the young man snatched her keys and shoved her to the ground. He then jumped in her Ford Fiesta and sped off.
The victim injured her leg in the fall and was taken to hospital by emergency services, who arrived on the scene within minutes.
Sgt Peter Wall, from Solihull Police, said: "This was a terrifying ordeal for the lady who could easily have been more seriously hurt.
"Thankfully she will make a full recovery, but we need to trace the man responsible to prevent this happening again."
Police are appealing for witnesses to the robbery, which took place at around 10am. The suspect is described as a mixed race man, around 5ft 9in, with facial stubble. He was wearing a grey hooded top during the carjacking.
The Fiesta - yet to be recovered by officers -  is silver (registration number BF60 VBT).
Anyone you saw what happened or who has any information should call Solihull Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, in confidence, on 0800 113 5000.

Monday, 13 April 2015

General Election: Who's standing in North Solihull?

THE final list of candidates has been confirmed for next month's parliamentary elections.
Six people (four men and two women) are fighting to become the next MP for Meriden - the constituency which includes North Solihull.
Traditionally seen as a safe seat, a lot of the media attention will be focused over the border on the ultra-marginal Solihull.
All the same, the rise of the smaller parties has washed away a lot of the older certainties and there's no doubt that campaigners will be out in force in the days and weeks to come. 
The candidates are:
Caroline Spelman (Conservative): The sitting MP since 1997, she increased her majority to over 16,000 at the last election. She was subsequently appointed Environment Secretary, one of only four women in David Cameron's first cabinet. She remained in the post until a reshuffle in 2012, which saw her return to the backbenches. A mum-of-three who lives in Dorridge, she had a background in agriculture prior to entering politics.
Tom McNeil (Labour): Tom was confirmed as Labour's candidate in December 2013. He is a practising lawyer, specialising in European and competition law and provides free legal advice to a number of charities and environmental organisations. At 29-years-old, Bromsgrove-born Tom is the youngest candidate contesting Meriden.  
Ade Adeyemo (Lib Dem): Ade has lived in Solihull for almost 20 years. He is a chartered civil engineer and risk management professional. He was announced as the Liberal Democrat candidate earlier this year, having previously been named as chair of the party's Solihull and Meriden branch. A keen rugby fan, he previously played for Birmingham & Solihull RFC.
Alison Gavin (Green): In January, the Greens confirmed that teacher Alison would be their candidate for Meriden. She has lived in the constituency for eight years (in both Bentley Heath and Chelmsley Wood) and taught at Oaklands School, in Smith's Wood. 
Mick Gee (UKIP): The former bomb disposal expert did tours in the likes of Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. Leaving the Army in 2008, the father-of-two now works for Jaguar Land Rover in Wolverhampton. He is a keen motorcyclist in his spare time, having raced in the UK and Isle of Man.
Chris Booth (An Independence from Europe): Chris, a chartered surveyor, is standing for a eurosceptic party founded by former UKIP MEP Mike Nattrass.
The General Election takes place on May 7. You have until April 20 to register to vote.

Six questions for six candidates:
With less than a month until polling day, Other Side of Solihull will be looking to put questions to all six candidates campaigning for your vote. This week we will be emailing everyone standing, asking for their response to six questions. Three of these will be the same for every individual; dealing with some of the issues of particular importance to the people of North Solihull. Two others will allow the candidates to respond on the strengths and weaknesses of their individual parties. And the last question will give the would-be MPs a final chance to put their argument about why you should vote for them on May 7. Every set of answers we receive back will be posted on this blog in the order they are returned. 

Chelmsley Wood store makes special delivery.

POORLY children received an egg-stra special treat when over 200 Easter eggs were delivered to a local hospital by the Chelmsley Wood branch of ASDA.
Denise Danks, the supermarket's community life champion, visited young patients at Heartlands Hospital with the chocolate treats - the entire lot had been donated by staff and customers.
“I was very grateful to be given the opportunity to meet patients... and bring a smile to their faces,” said Denise.
“All three of my children have been treated on the children’s unit at Heartlands so it was a poignant moment for me going back to the hospital.”

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Chelmsley Wood man sentenced after harassing woman from inside prison

A CHELMSLEY Wood man who terrorised a young woman he hadn't even met from INSIDE prison has received a five year jail sentence.
Carlos Boente, 33, was already serving time for harassment at HMP Birmingham when he began to phone and text the 19-year-old, whose number he had got from a cellmate.
Boente (pictured right) originally asked the victim to change his Facebook password on his behalf and while the teenager did not know who was contacting her, she agreed to do so as a favour.
From this point on, Boente sent thousands of texts to the woman and called her constantly, telling her he had no family and nobody visited him in prison.
Feeling sorry for him, the woman continued to correspond with him but his communications soon took a sinister turn when he began to ask where she was and if she did not reply, he would leave abusive and threatening messages.
Left exhausted by the endless texts and calls, the victim finally contacted police when he told her he had friends on the outside watching her, sending her a picture of her front door.
Det Con Vanessa Lewis said: “Even when the victim was giving a statement to us about Boente’s behaviour, we witnessed him constantly calling her, shouting down the phone and being abusive.
“Despite knowing we were investigating him, Boente showed no signs of stopping his disturbing conduct. On March 24 [last year], shortly after we blocked his letters and landline contact from the prison, three men entered the home of the woman’s aunt and uncle looking for a safe.”
Boente’s Facebook status two days later – boasting that he sent his “soldiers” to the property – indicated he was behind the burglary.
On June 4, Boente was charged with two counts of threats to kill, one count of harassment, one count of conspiracy to burgle and three counts of possessing a mobile phone while in prison.
He denied all the charges against him, apart from two counts of possessing a mobile phone.
Earlier this year he was cleared of the threats to kill charges but found guilty of the other offences, and sentenced to a total of five years in prison.
Det Con Lewis said: “It is clear that Boente – who operated four Facebook accounts through five different phones from behind bars – thinks he is above the law and unfortunately, does not see prison as a barrier to his bizarre behaviour.
“The woman concerned in this case and her family lived in fear for months. The stress caused by Boente’s actions resulted in family members giving up their jobs and selling their homes, while the victim felt she had lost all control of her life.”

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Local Elections: Candidates confirmed for North Solihull

COUNTDOWN: There will be some closely-fought battles for council seats
in North Solihull

AN ATTEMPT by the Tories and Labour to stop the march of the "smaller" parties in North Solihull will be at the centre of next month's local election campaign.
With the Greens and UKIP holding seven out of nine seats between them in the three regeneration wards and the Conservative vote being squeezed in the previous stronghold of Castle Bromwich, the traditional parties of government have had a dismal time at the ballot box in recent years.
With less than a month to go before Solihull goes to the polls, candidates have now been confirmed for the council election, providing further detail about the closely-fought local battles that residents can expect.
In contrast to 12 months ago, the Greens will this year have to defend seats in wards where they now hold a monopoly.
In Chelmsley Wood, the group's leader Karl Macnaughton will be standing for re-election, while Mark Wilson has been selected by the party in Smith's Wood (Alison Walters, who swept to victory in 2011, will not seek a second term.)
For Labour, snatching back either seat would be sweet revenge for a number of humiliating defeats.
In Smith's Wood, the party has pinned its hopes on David Cole, chairman of Kingshurst Parish Council, while in Chelmsley they have selected local mum Emma Chidler as their candidate.
It will not be an all out offensive for the party however, with work to be done to defend long-standing councillor Alan Nash.
AS IT STANDS: The current make-up of Solihull Council
If he is defeated in Kingshurst & Fordbridge, his wife Flo will be left as the solitary Labour member on Solihull Council.
In this ward, the keenest challenge is likely to come not from the Greens, but UKIP - who caused a major upset 12 months ago. Debbie Evans' success over Labour's then leader David Jamieson handed the eurosceptic party their first seat in Solihull. They will hope that candidate Rob Hall will be able to score a similar victory.
The Conservatives are also under pressure from UKIP in a number of wards. While Marston Green man Bob Sleigh looks unlikely to face a serious challenge in Bickenhill, his wife Gail may face a tougher fight in Castle Brom. Last year the Tories held on, but their comfortable majority was dramatically reduced by the UKIP challenger.
The Liberal Democrats this year contest just nine of Solihull's 17 wards and are not fielding any candidates in the north of the borough.
The BNP, who once had a councillor in Chelmsley Wood, will not contest a single seat.
  • This year's election takes place on Thursday, May 7. Residents have until April 20 to register to vote.


Bickenhill:  Gerry Blake (UKIP), Michael Longfield (Lab), Gary Macnaughton (Green), Bob Sleigh (Con).
Castle Bromwich: Alan Jacques (Lab), Glen Lawrence (UKIP), Eleanor Perfect (Green), Gail Sleigh (Con).
Chelmsley Wood: Sally Bell (Con), Emma Chidler (Lab), Karl Macnaughton (Green).
Kingshurst & Fordbridge: David Davies (Green), Rob Hall (UKIP), Alan Nash (Lab), Paul Thomas (Con)
Smith's Wood: David Cole (Lab), Graham Juniper (Con), Mark Wilson (Green)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Marston Green head retiring after 20 years

FOND FAREWELL: Headteacher Mary
Parfitt with the parish council's Frank Bunce

MARY Parfitt, headteacher of Marston Green Infant Academy, is retiring after 20 years at the school.
Last month, Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council visited to make a special presentation to Ms Parfitt, in recognition of her service to the local community.
Frank Bunce, the parish council's chairman, said: "Over the last 20 years more than 2000 local children have started their school life at the infant school.
"Mary has made the infant academy a very special place for local children to start their academic career and she will be leaving a legacy for many years to come."
A number of villagers, including several former pupils, have paid tribute to the popular headteacher on social media.
Donna Ward-Reynolds wrote: "She will be missed by many and the next head has a lot to live up to."

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Day of the Griffins has come

LANDMARK: One of the six griffins, photographed in 2011

AN EVENT is taking place this week to celebrate the restoration of a group of historic statues.
Six stone griffins have, for decades, stood guard over a walkway that once led to Yorks Wood Scouts Camp.
In the time since, a housing estate has grown up around them, but the imposing figures have remained a well-known local landmark.
Last year the Yorks Wood Residents' Association received a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to return the statues to their former glory (there had been concerns that the wind and rain had started to damage the stonework.)
To celebrate the successful restoration, the 'Day of the Griffins' event will be taking place tomorrow (Wednesday) from 11am-2pm. Visitors can enjoy games and refreshments.

Griffin History: Local legend has it that the griffins were originally a gift to Britain from the Tsar of Russia. While this has never been confirmed, it's a fact that the creatures once looked out over Birmingham from the roof of Lewis. When the department store was renovated, the statues were shifted from the city centre to Yorks Wood, a stone's throw from Kingshurst. They were originally positioned at the entrance to the Scouts Camp, which finally closed in 1972. A lot of the area was used for council houses, although some of the original wood survived and was later designated a nature reserve by Solihull Council. As for the griffins, they continue to fascinate passers-by in nearby Kendrick Avenue and Horne Way.

Monday, 6 April 2015

First events confirmed for this year's IMAGE Fest

A CULTURAL festival encompassing North Solihull - which was staged for the first time last year - is set to return.
Details have now been published online about some of the events which will be taking place when the second IMAGE Fest gets underway next month.
Among the activities confirmed so far include a community dinner to commemorate 70 years since the end of the Second World War. The VE Day-themed evening will be held at St Barnabas Church, Kingshurst on May 8.
Meanwhile, the Funbridge Games will once again be staged at Fordbridge Community Primary, on May 2.
There will also be a return for the Castle Bromwich Heritage Festival, in many ways the lynchpin of last year's programme.
Although this time the event - which celebrates the suburb's rich history -  will be shifted from the spring to September.
For more about this year's IMAGE Fest, visit the website.

  • Pictured left, a re-enactment in Castle Bromwich last year.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Walk-in centre available in Chelmsley Wood over Easter.

A TEMPORARY walk-in centre will be opening in Chelmsley Wood to relieve the pressure on local hospitals over the Easter break.
With doctors' surgeries closed over the Bank Holiday period, people will be able to seek non-emergency medical advice at the Primary Care Centre, in Crabtree Drive (pictured above).
The service will be available from Good Friday through to Easter Monday, 9am-6pm.
Dr Sue Harrower, a member of the Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "The temporary walk-in centre will give our patients greater choice over Easter and help reduce the demand on urgent care services, especially A&E."
Patients are reminded that people should only visit the casualty department with serious injuries and illnesses. Otherwise they are invited to use the walk-in centre, go to a pharmacy or call the NHS 111 helpline.