Saturday, 30 May 2015

Engineering academy given the go-ahead in Chelmsley Wood

AMBITIOUS plans to build an academy - which will train hundreds of teenagers for a career in engineering - have been given the go-ahead.
Councillors have agreed that the WMG Academy will be build on land adjacent to Kingshurst Brook, in Chelmsley Wood.
It is hoped that the facility will give 14 to 19-year-olds the skills which are in such desperate demand at companies such as Jaguar Land Rover.
Now that the planning committee have granted approval, work on the three storey building is expected to begin within a matter of months, with the first students enrolling in September next year.

  • For a full report remember to read next month's edition of Other Side of Solihull.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Feature: Kingshurst classes offer another view of local area

SNAP HAPPY: Kingshurst Parade after dark

WHEN you think of photos of council estates then the same five or six things spring to mind.
There are those pictures of foreboding tower blocks, shot from below and preferably against an iron grey sky. Walls splashed with graffiti or bits of crisp packet blowing around the sort of waste ground that you usually see in Crimewatch reconstructions.
These images of inner city living are everywhere. They appear in the pages of national newspapers every time that journalists in well-heeled parts of London want to demonstrate just how desperately depressing it is for people growing up in places like North Solihull.
It’s no surprise that the recent TV documentary, People Like Us, had lots of lingering shots of high rise blocks – even though the majority of people in Chelmsley Wood actually live at ground level.
The trouble with these pictures is that they’re a rather selective view of council estates. Those who live there know that there’s a lot more to their lives than lonely looking washing lines or gloomy underpasses. And fortunately some photographers have found rather more creative ways to capture the communities of North Solihull.
One such man is Tony Cornish, who has ventured out at all hours of the day and night to photograph his local area.
Last autumn, the self-taught snapper started to take classes at the Arts Space, on Kingshurst Parade, offering up tips to others on how to take images that really stand out.
One thing is for sure, you have to be patient and get plenty of practice if you want to get the shots that you’d be proud to hang on your kitchen wall.
Over the course of the past few months, Tony has shown us just some of the pictures that he
has taken – many of them just a few miles from the street where the photography classes are held.
There are photos of a red sun sinking over Babbs Mill Lake, a moon hung in the sky over Chelmsley Wood and the M6 motorway at night, cars passing by in trails of white light.
What is quite clear is that getting yourself in the right place at the right time (even if that time is 5am) is part of the secret.
Leaving the house before dawn or wading out into freezing streams is all part of the process. Not to mention braving the stares of surly looking teenagers who wonder what business you have walking around with a long lens and tripod.
“I have been out by myself on canal towpaths at 11 o’clock at night and wish I hadn’t been,” Tony
confesses on one occasion. “But the shots I’ve managed to get have been incredible.”
Another week he explains how several elements have to come together to get the perfect picture.
“You can go out at Babbs Mill and take a photo of the lake. But then you start to think ‘what time is the sun going to be between those two trees’. And then you might go and take that picture a hundred times and one day, just as you get there, a swan is swimming past at just the right time…”
For those who take fright at the thought of getting up before sunrise, there are lots of other ways you can make a photo stand out. Getting down on the floor or scrambling up on a bench can change the perspective of a picture.
There are lots of tricks in a photographer’s arsenal. Slow exposure photos can make a street heaving with shoppers look empty or turn a stream of traffic into something slightly psychedelic. You can create some amazing effects without even touching Photoshop.
One night last year the class went out into Kingshurst to attempt to take “light trail” shots. While the rush of red and white headlights was rather less dramatic than the ones Tony had taken from the motorway bridge, our amateur efforts showed that it didn’t take much to turn an ordinary looking street into something rather different.
And there wasn’t a scrap of graffiti in sight…

  • Kingshurst Arts Space run photography classes on Thursday evenings, starting at 6.30pm. To find out more about the venue and other activities that take place there, go to https://kingshurstartspace.wordpresscom/
  • Saturday, 23 May 2015

    Police appeal following Chelmsley Wood stabbing

    POLICE have said a young man who was stabbed several times in a Chelmsley Wood alleyway is "lucky to be alive."
    The 22-year-old was attacked by a large group in the cut-through, just off Crabtree Drive.
    He was rushed to hospital with knife wounds and spent several days in intensive care.
    Officers have now appealed for anyone with information about the attack, which happened on April 25, to come forward.
    Det Con Neil Wilson, from Force CID, is investigating the brutal assault.
    "[The victim] suffered multiple serious stab and slash wounds and needed significant medical treatment following the attack last month.
    "We know that there was a large group of young men, some on bikes, who surrounded the victim in the area of Crabtree Drive and Glovers Croft before attacking him and fleeing as he lay injured on the ground."
    The attack happened following an earlier confrontation between the group and the young man.
    Anyone who knows who is responsible should contact the Violent Crime Team at Chelmsley Wood on 101 or speak to Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

    Friday, 22 May 2015

    Greenbelt site is safe, parish council insists

    NO THREAT: The parish council has poured cold water on
    claims that Marston Green's "horse field" is under threat.

    RUMOURS of plans to build houses on greenbelt land near Marston Green have been categorically denied by parish councillors.
    In recent weeks residents have been dismayed by reports that the wedge of land next to the burial ground, near Millennium Wood, was set to be developed.
    It is thought that some had gone as far as to start a petition demanding that the area remain unspoiled.
    After receiving a flurry of enquiries from concerned locals, Bickenhill Parish Council has now issued a statement in an attempt to kill off the story.
    A spokesman said: “The parish council can confirm that no planning application for this land has been submitted. There was a request by the landowners to have this land removed from the greenbelt, this was refused by Solihull MBC in 2012.”
    The council added that the site, known locally as the horse field, is not one of those earmarked for new homes over the next 15 years.
    Some believe that the frenzy of speculation is evidence of just how worried residents are about further development of open spaces – particularly on the outskirts of the village.
    Their concern comes after several successful applications for new housing developments; a particularly fierce but ultimately futile battle was fought to prevent the creation of a new estate at Moat House Farm.

    Tuesday, 19 May 2015

    Stolen car crashes into Chelmsley Wood home

    DEBRIS: The scene of the crash. Credit - West
    Midlands Fire Service
    A STOLEN car careered into a couple's Chelmsley Wood home in the early hours of Monday morning.
    The Peugeot 206 ploughed into the porch of the Helmswood Drive address at just after 4.30am.
    The couple sleeping upstairs were woken by a large bang which they likened to a lorry unloading.
    They looked down from the landing to see piles of bricks and timber, although they were more worried by the smell of gas and got out through the back of the property.
    It later became apparent that the force of the impact had severed a gas main.
    Crews from Sheldon Fire Station were called out to assess the damage, with police and council officers also attending the scene.
    West Midlands Police confirmed the car had been stolen from nearby Holly Lodge Walk shortly before the crash. Officers are now hunting the thief, who is understood to have fled immediately after the collision. Anyone with information should call police on 101.

    Sunday, 17 May 2015

    Kingshurst councillor reveals raft of complaints about local surgery

    A COUNCILLOR has said she has received more than 100 complaints about the performance of Kingshurst and Fordbridge Medical Practice, the Birmingham Mail reports.

    Saturday, 16 May 2015

    Police hunt shotgun robbers who targeted Chelmsley Wood home.

    ARMED GANG: CCTV footage shows the men smashing their way into the
    Bosworth Drive home.
    POLICE are appealing for help to find three men who smashed their way into a Chelmsley Wood home and threatened a woman with a shotgun.
    The terrifying robbery took place at an address in Bosworth Drive on February 5 this year.
    Around 11pm, the gang broke through the patio doors and barged into the home brandishing the firearm.
    They threatened the 37-year-old victim at gunpoint and escaped with a handbag across the rear gardens.
    Det Con Mark Delaney said it had been a "frightening and distressing" ordeal for the woman, who had been alone in the house at the time.
    "Our initial enquiries suggest that perhaps this was a case of mistaken identity as the offenders seemed to be searching for something and eventually left with just the woman’s bag.
    "Thankfully no one was hurt and the firearm was not discharged, with the men fleeing with just the bag containing a few pounds."
    The men are described as being in their 20s. One was wearing a baseball cap, another a white woolly hat.
    Two of the men had light grey/white clothes and a third was wearing a light grey ‘body warmer’ style jacket. The man carrying the gun was black, while his two accomplices were white men.
    Anyone with any information is asked to contact Solihull CID on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

    Thursday, 14 May 2015

    Solihull Council considers fortnightly bin collections

    SHAKE-UP: An ongoing review of waste and recycling
    services could see a move to fortnightly bin collections
    HOUSEHOLD bins could be emptied fortnightly in Solihull, as the council considers further changes to its waste and recycling service.
    Currently the local authority collects general rubbish on a weekly basis, but in a recent report the council says it may consider reducing the service to every other week in future.
    This option – which has proven controversial when introduced to other parts of the country – is one of several being discussed by the council as a way to increase recycling.
    One possible model would see the collection of materials such as bottles, cans and paper, fall on alternate weeks to the standard black wheelie bin.
    Council officers believe that previous changes, designed to make recycling more straightforward, may make it easier for residents to cope without a weekly service.
    A council report said: “If a comprehensive recycling service is provided, many residents find that they do not fill their rubbish bin weekly and can cope easily with less frequent collections of rubbish.”
    Although the authority concedes that another advantage of the fortnightly collections is that they cost less.
    The council notes that any change could not happen within the next couple of years; Solihull previously pledged to continue weekly collections until 2018, one of the conditions attached to a £2.9million grant from central government.
    The council has also said a public consultation would be held ahead of any proposed change to a fortnightly collection.
    In a foreword to the report, Councillor Robert Hulland, the cabinet member in charge of bin collections, said: “To continue to improve our performance we will need the continued support of our residents and their feedback on our service.”
    The issue over fortnightly collections has been the subject of heated debate for several years, with former Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles trying to bring pressure on councils who have already scrapped the weekly service.
    In 2012, he said: “Weekly bin collections are one of the most visible front-line services and there is no plausible reason why councils should not deliver them to hard-working residents.”

    • From the latest edition of Other Side of Solihull, click here for the complete issue.

    Wednesday, 13 May 2015

    Plans for community ambulance station in Marston Green.

    PLANS have been unveiled to create a community ambulance station in Marston Green.
    West Midlands Ambulance Service has drawn up proposals to create a base for paramedics at Pinewood Business Park in Coleshill Road.
    Under plans, a paramedic and rapid response vehicle will be stationed at the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    There will also be parking space at the station for a second vehicle.
    The application, submitted to Solihull Council last month, is part of the ambulance service’s new strategy for responding to 999 calls.
    The Make Ready initiative, first announced two years ago, caused widespread controversy and led to concerns that response times would increase.
    As part of the project, the ambulance stations that traditionally served the borough – based at Chelmsley Wood and Hermitage Road, Solihull – were sold off.
    The maintenance of the fleet was centralised to a new hub at Erdington, where crews would collect their vehicles and travel to the new community stations, from where they would respond to emergencies.
    Within months of the system being implemented in 2013, the ambulance service was forced to make “tweaks” to the set-up and reinstated twocrewed ambulances at locations including Shirley and Olton.
    Now a new community station will open at Marston Green, helping to improve the service in the north of the borough.
    A WMAS spokesman said: “This is designed to improve the speed of response to patients in the area.
    “If approved, work on the building would start with the intention of it being up and running within eight weeks.”
    The planning committee is expected to consider the application later this year.

    From Issue 2 of Other Side of Solihull. Click here for the complete newspaper

    Other Side of Solihull: Issue 2

    THE second edition of our digital paper is now available.
    We held the deadline a week to ensure that the latest issue has all the results and reaction to last week's dramatic election results.
    You can find the paper on Issuu and don't forget you can join our subscribers list and we'll email you each monthly edition as it is published. Email

    Sunday, 10 May 2015

    WWII plane passes over Castle Bromwich

    DID you wonder what that drone of an engine was earlier this afternoon?
    The answer was an iconic aircraft which had been called in to do a fly-past at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens.
    The venue had arranged for the Dakota transport plane to pass overhead as part of a special event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
    The plane was used extensively by the RAF during the Second World War and many converted models remain in active use today.

    Friday, 8 May 2015

    Council Elections: The Results in Solihull

    LABOUR has been left with one solitary member on Solihull Council after yet another of its leaders lost his seat.
    Councillor Alan Nash had fought hard to hold on in Kingshurst & Fordbridge, but was narrowly defeated by UKIP’s Rob Hall.
    The loss leaves Mr Nash’s wife Flo as the party’s sole representative on the borough council and capped a bruising night for local campaigners.
    However, another married couple with seats on the council have had a rather better 24 hours. Conservative members Bob and Gail Sleigh won comfortable majorities in Bickenhill and Castle Bromwich respectively.
    While activists had been concerned last year that UKIP was threatening these traditional Tory strongholds, this time the eurosceptic party failed to mount a serious challenge – its share of the vote seemingly squeezed by an exceptionally high turn-out.
    It was a good day generally for Solihull’s Conservative administration, who made several gains south of the A45 and increased their total number of councillors to 32.
    The Green Party remain the official opposition and will be pleased with the ease at which they held on to their seats in Chelmsley Wood and Smith’s Wood, although supporters may be disappointed that they failed to make further gains in the south of the borough.
    The party also lost a sitting councillor for the first time in Solihull - Jean Hamilton was unable to see off the Tory challenge in Elmdon.
    It was the Liberal Democrats however who suffered the greatest punishment at the ballot box.
    The party had not fielded a single candidate in North Solihull, instead putting all its efforts into the wards where it has previously had strong support.
    This strategy was not enough to save the party from humiliating defeats in the former enclaves of Olton and Lyndon.
    These losses have left the Lib Dems with just six councillors; only five years ago they had more than three times this number and with Labour support had actually managed to wrest control of the council from the Tories.

    Gerry Blake (UKIP) - 1214
    Michael Longfield (Lab) - 1061
    Gary Macnaughton (Green) - 397
    Bob Sleigh (Con) - 3185

    Castle Bromwich:
    Alan Jacques (Lab) - 1407
    Glen Lawrence (UKIP) - 1233
    Eleanor Perfect (Green) - 264
    Gail Sleigh (Con) - 3286

    Chelmsley Wood
    Sally Bell (Con) - 548
    Emma Chidler (Lab) - 806
    Karl Macnaughton (Green) - 2904

    Kingshurst & Fordbridge:
    David Davies (Green) - 293
    Rob Hall (UKIP) - 1548
    Alan Nash (Lab) - 1332
    Paul Thomas (Con) - 1176

    Smith's Wood:
    David Cole (Lab) - 1018
    Graham Juniper (Con) - 613
    Mark Wilson (Green) - 2576

    General Election: The Results in Solihull

    DELIGHT: Caroline Spelman and her team gather for the count at North
    Solihull Sports Centre

    CAROLINE Spelman was this morning returned as Conservative MP for Meriden, winning an emphatic victory over Labour.
    The former cabinet minister captured more than 50 per cent of the vote in the constituency which encompasses North Solihull, increasing her majority to more than 18,000.
    Labour’s Tom McNeil had fought a vigorous grassroots campaign but was unable to gain ground on his Tory opponent; the party’s share of the vote was actually down on 2010.
    The Lib Dems were pushed into fourth place by a UKIP surge, barely winning one vote out of every 20 and coming close to losing their deposit
    Taking the podium at North Solihull Sports Centre, Mrs Spelman said: “I am delighted and humbled by the faith that the people of Meriden have put in me to serve a fifth term.
    “Thank you so much to the whole team who made all the difference to the result tonight.”
    Speaking to Other Side of Solihull in the run-up to polling day, she vowed that a Tory government would work to “complete the economic recovery”.
    In the neighbouring constituency of Solihull, the Lib Dems were dealt a crushing defeat, with Lorely Burt losing the seat that she sensationally snatched from the Conservatives ten years ago.
    Defending a wafer-thin majority of just 175, a tearful Mrs Burt saw her share of the vote collapse and left the stage without a word. In the end, Tory candidate Julian Knight  had eased to victory in one of his party’s top target seats.
    This morning’s result means that the borough’s two constituencies will be represented by the same party for the first time in a decade and speaking from the count, Mrs Spelman has already signalled that she will work to build stronger links between the different communities of Solihull.
    But greater change could be on the way. With the Conservatives returned to government, controversial plans to redraw the electoral map are likely to resurface.
    The proposals – which could see the existing Meriden constituency radically altered – were previously vetoed, but an overall majority would now give David Cameron the authority to press ahead with the changes.


    Caroline Spelman (Con) - 28,791
    Tom McNeil (Lab) - 9996
    Mick Gee (UKIP) - 8908
    Ade Adeyemo (Lib Dem) -2638
    Alison Gavin (Green) - 2170
    Chris Booth (An Independence From Europe) - 100
    Turn out: 64.41 per cent

    Julian Knight (Con) - 26,956
    Lorely Burt (Lib Dem) - 14,054,
    Howard Allen (Green) - 1632
    Phil Henrick (UKIP) - 6361
    Nigel Knowles (Lab) - 5693
    Mike Nattrass (An Independence From Europe) 50
    Matthew Ward (Democratic Party) 33
    Turn out: 70.9 per cent

    Wednesday, 6 May 2015

    Local campaigner urges people to have their say in General Election

    TWENTY-eight-year-old Elizabeth Adams grew up in North Solihull and is this year standing as the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate in Stratford-upon-Avon. She kindly found time in the middle of a busy election campaign to write this piece for Other Side of Solihull about the importance of people getting involved in politics.

    I'm writing this post because I want each and every one of you to get mad. You need to get angry. Some of you are already angry. One of my funniest stories from the campaign trail was five years ago in one of the high rises on Chelmsley as I was delivering leaflets. As soon as I pushed the leaflet through the door I heard the voice of a woman shout “P***IN VOTIN!” That lady was clearly angry, but probably at all the wrong things.
    The majority of people I talk to as a candidate are just fed up of it all. They are fed up with politics, they don’t understand policies, they don’t believe any politicians. “You’re all the same”. That phrase makes me mad. Because I’m not like most of the people on the TV. I grew up in Chelmsley, lived in one of those high rise flats for eight years and still have to manage on an ASDA wage, and no not a manager’s one. It’s not easy, I don’t really have enough time to ‘do’ politics. But it is worth it. Because if I don’t like what I’m hearing from everyone else, if I don’t think there’s anyone standing I can trust, then I’ll do it myself, and you should to.
    You don’t have to be a candidate, that is a big commitment, but just get involved. Because believe me, there aren’t very many people sitting in that big expensive building in London, making up the laws that are making your lives more difficult, that have any idea what life is like for people from the ‘Wood, or many places around the country like here.
    So get mad, get angry that they don’t know what they’re on about, get annoyed that it’s not fair and no one is listening, and then get INVOLVED. Especially if you are young. There is a reason the two main parties are now talking about scrapping housing benefits and unemployment benefits for young people. Who do you think they will target with spending cuts, the pensioners who always vote or the young people whose votes they don’t think they’d get anyway? If you don’t like the choices then be your own choice. Whatever you do, don’t just sit at home and waste one of the few bits of real power you have. If everyone voted, even safe seats might not be so safe anymore.

    Monday, 4 May 2015

    Fordbridge road named after well-known community champion

    RECOGNITION: Catherine McLaughlin and Winnie Collins
    visit the newly-named Collins Way, in Fordbridge.
    A NEW road has been named in honour of a man who was involved in local politics for more than half a century.
    Collins Way, in Fordbridge, recognises the remarkable contribution of Eric Collins; the first man from the north of the borough to be made Mayor of Solihull.
    Coun Collins started his political career shortly after the Second World War, first elected as a councillor in Birmingham.
    In 1969 he became a founding member of Chelmsley Wood Labour Party and later served on Solihull Council, being installed as Mayor in 1979.
    He twice held a seat on Fordbridge Town Council, finally stepping down in 2012. He passed away the following year.
    His widow Winnie was invited to the official naming of the road, which forms part of a new housing development. She said that her late husband would have been greatly honoured by the gesture.
    Catherine Mclaughlin, Chairman of Fordbridge Town Council, added: "It is a real pleasure to be able to commemorate Eric like this; he was an inspirational man who contributed greatly to this area.
    "When Solihull Council asked us if we had any suggestions for a new road name we jumped at the chance to put Eric’s name forward."

    Sunday, 3 May 2015

    Four-year-old girl badly hurt in Bosworth Drive collision

    TWO pedestrians, one of whom is a four-year-old girl, have been seriously injured in a Chelmsley Wood road crash.
    The pair were involved in a collision with a car in Bosworth Drive, shortly before 3.30pm today (Sunday).
    West Midlands Ambulance Service said the little girl had suffered a head injury and was airlifted to Birmingham Children's Hospital for further treatment.
    A second patient, a young woman in her 20s, fractured her lower left leg and was also treated for cuts to her head and right arm. She was taken to Heartlands Hospital.
    Two other children, thought to have been walking with the woman and child, were unhurt in the incident, as was the car driver.

    Police smash Chelmsley Wood crack house.

    A CHELMSLEY Wood man who turned his kitchen into a £17,000 heroin and cocaine cutting den has been jailed.
    Police stormed Gareth Lucas’ flat in Heathmere Drive last month, in response to concerns raised by local residents.
    Having smashed open the front door, officers found him with four ounces of heroin alongside weighing scales, a knife and small plastic ‘dealer bags’.
    During a search of the 23-year-old’s home, crack cocaine with a street value of around £6,000 was also discovered.
    Lucas (pictured right) claimed to be merely ‘minding’ the drugs for another man − a person he refused to name − but at Birmingham Crown Court last week he was jailed for three years and four months having admitted possessing drugs with intent to supply.
    Det Insp Darren Lee, said: "Our officers forced entry to the house and were inside in seconds…Lucas was caught red handed and there was no time for him to make any attempt to try and dispose of the drugs.
    "Lucas has a conviction for drug dealing in 2013 and community intelligence suggested he’d not learned his lesson from that and was dealing again.
    "Quite rightly people didn’t want to put up with drug dealing on their doorsteps and the associated crime it attracts…they confided in us and we’ve taken action by shutting down Lucas’ crack house and putting him back behind bars."