Monday, 30 November 2015

Terrific response to Christmas Food Appeal

GENEROUS GESTURE: This beautifully
wrapped hamper was handed in to Marston
Green Library's drop-off point.
LOCAL people are being asked to support North Solihull's Christmas Food Appeal.
The collection is being co-ordinated by Solihull Council's neighbourhood services team, with special hampers being put together for elderly residents.
There has already been extraordinary support for the appeal, which is understood to have reached tens of thousands of people on social media.
Kerrie Grandison, who is overseeing the initiative, said the scale of the response in the past week had made her proud of the community.
If you can spare a few items of food or would like to donate a complete hamper then there are several
drop-off points around the local area. These include:
Barretts Butchers, Station Road, Marston Green (Mon to Sat, 9am-5pm)
Onward Club, Helmswood Drive, Chelmsley Wood (Mon to Sat, 10am-8pm)
Fordbridge Centre, Nineacres Drive (Mon to Sat, 10am-4pm)
DIAL, 67 Kingshurst Parade (Mon to Fri, 10am-4pm).

  • The hampers will be made up ready to deliver to local pensioners on December 14.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Incidents of illegal camps on the rise in Solihull

THERE has been an increase in the number of incidents of travellers setting up illegal camps in Solihull.
In the space of 12 months, Solihull Police received 103 calls in relation to 13 incidents of caravans moving onto parks and open spaces.
In the north of the borough, there were incidents at Babbs Mill Park and Millennium Wood, Marston Green over the course of the summer.
A spokesman for the Safer Solihull Partnership said: “It is not just council land that is used, with reports of travellers on private car parks, private land and farmland.
“This type of anti-social behaviour is a huge drain on resources with days and sometimes weeks and months spent managing the problem.”
In July, the authorities finalised a new action plan which aims to speed up the removal of unauthorised encampments.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Chelmsley's Christmas lights switch-on

CHELMSLEY Wood's Christmas lights will be switched on tomorrow (Saturday).
Father Christmas will be dropping in and families are invited to join in with carols around the grand piano.
"Search for Santa" will be taking place in the town centre from 12noon-3.30pm. The light switch-on will be at 3.45pm.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Casting an eye over Chelmsley Wood's history

Other Side of Solihull takes a look through a new book, which aims to tell the story of Chelmsley Wood through the memories of its residents.

ONE problem with official histories is that they never tell the whole story…
If for instance you type Chelmsley Wood into Google, you will find some rather bland descriptions about a “relatively new” council estate, built as an overspill for Birmingham in the 1960s.
Population density, crime rate and the opening times for Asda are all a couple of clicks away. But what Wikipedia, the Birmingham Mail and Solihull Council’s potted guide won’t mention is the ‘Bogey on the Stick’.
Credit then to this new book for featuring the famous sculpture – perhaps the closest thing that Chelmsley had to a mascot before its removal a few years ago – on its front cover.
A bit of background to begin with. The book has been produced as part of a project co-ordinated by the Three Trees Centre and bankrolled by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The aim over the past couple of years has been to collect and record the memories of local people, including some of the area’s original residents.
It’s remarkable to think that many of the twenty-somethings who made their home on the estate in the 1960s are now drawing a pension and their recollections of the early years are among the most interesting passages of the book.
Sheila Lloyd, who still lives in her original self-build home in Dunster Road, said: “It seems silly now, but this house cost us £4,000 all those years ago. But it was an awful lot of money because we only earned £12 a week.”
Another long-standing resident Ronnie Cashmore has fond memories of a Royal visit.
“They opened up for Her Majesty to come and have a look at this new estate,” he said, in reference to the Queen’s official visit in 1971.
“There was mud everywhere the eye could see because they were still building. When Her Majesty came over they spent quite a lot of money, I believe, actually spraying the mud green, so it looked as if there were grassy areas.”
The book goes some way towards addressing the negative press that “the Wood” has attracted over the years. The community spirit apparent in many of the photos is a world away from the multitude of unkind jibes you will find on social media.
“My overall impression of moving into Chelmsley Wood – absolutely wonderful,” said Stan Hayling. “It was a three bedroom house with a garden. It was all brand new, it was like winning the Lottery.”
But being a book produced by the local community there is also a candour here which you wouldn’t get if the authors had been, for argument’s sake, the council or Solihull Community Housing.
Look out for references to the farcical handling of efforts to rename the old Craig Croft shopping parade and some of the other controversies that have arisen as a result of the North Solihull Regeneration.
There is also a rather rueful look at the mysterious disappearance of almost all of Chelmsley’s pubs (a gallery of photos provides details of the ultimate fate of The Prince Hal, The Trusty Servant and The Southern Cross).
  • From Then ‘Til Now: The Story of Chelmsley Wood is available from the Three Trees Centre for £3.50. You can find out more about the project at

Council goes to court following drugs discovery in Chelmsley Wood

COUNCIL bosses went to court last week to secure a closure order at a Chelmsley Wood home.
Police had searched the Alder Drive address on November 13 and the tenant, Tyrone Borland, was found to be in possession of a Class A drug.
Related paraphernalia found at the property suggested he was dealing from the house.
Two years ago, a dozen cannabis plants were discovered at Borland's home and he was warned at the time that any further incidents would lead to Solihull Community Housing taking legal action.
The discovery earlier this month prompted the authority to proceed to court and the closure order, which will last three months, was granted by Birmingham Magistrates.
The housing department has confirmed it will now apply to take possession of the property.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

New health centre to open in Chelmsley Wood next week

A STATE-of-the-art doctor’s surgery and community hub will be opening its doors in Chelmsley Wood at the end of this month.
The new-look Croft Medical Centre – part of the Chelmund’s Cross Village Centre – is set to welcome its first patients on November 30.
The two-storey facility, which will also bring a dentist’s practice and pharmacy under one roof, has
been described as a major investment in the local area by Meriden MP Caroline Spelman.
During the construction phase, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was invited to visit the site and briefed about how the new centre would operate.
Practice manager Veronica Parkes said: “The team have been involved in the design and development of the new building from day one. We really hope patients will enjoy the new building.”

Monday, 23 November 2015

Man seriously hurt following late-night attack in Castle Brom

A MAN remains in a critical condition after being attacked and left unconscious in a Castle Bromwich car park over the weekend.
The 41-year-old was discovered lying behind Arden Hall, in Water Orton Road, late on Saturday (November 21). The victim had sustained serious head injuries in the attack.
Paramedics were called to the scene at around 11.30pm and the man was taken to hospital for treatment.
Officers are trawling CCTV in an attempt to identify the assailant and are keen to speak to anyone who saw what happened.
Det Insp Caroline Corfield said: "It is understood a large number of people were at a private event at the cricket club and there will be witnesses to what took place.
"We would like to speak to anyone who attended the event and in particular anyone who is a witness to events leading to the victim’s injuries, or who has any other information which would assist the investigation."
Call detectives on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Police appeal following attempted robbery in Marston Green

POLICE have issued CCTV images of an attempted armed robbery in Marston Green.
On September 30, a masked man had barged into the One Stop store, in Station Road, clutching a house brick.
He had ordered the cashier to hand over cash from the till, but instead the quick-thinking assistant had pushed the panic alarm and the would-be robber fled the scene empty handed.
It's believed he escaped as a passenger in a dark-coloured Ford Ka.
Police said their suspect was a white man, dressed in dark clothing. He was wearing a grey hood and had a scarf wrapped around his face. The incident happened around 10pm.
Eyewitnesses are urged to call Sergeant Christopher Burt on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Oaks and Shires event at Babbs Mill

WORKING HOOF AND NAIL: Tan Tan has been helping
manage the woodland in North Solihull this week.
Photo/Landscape Solihull

STORM-force winds earlier this week were responsible for a fair bit of "woodland management."
But conservationists can't just rely on autumn gusts to keep overhanging branches in check and heavy horses still play an important part in clearing timber.
Weighing up to a tonne, the sturdy beasts of burden can move wood equivalent in weight to a double-decker bus in the space of a single day.
They're still called upon today because of the problems of using modern machinery on boggy ground or in locations where trees grow especially densely.
Today local people can visit Babbs Mill/Yorks Wood and find out more about the part that the animals play in managing woodland.
There will also be traditional crafts such as willow weaving, children's activities and hot and cold refreshments.
The event runs until 3pm this afternoon (Saturday). Public access via the Babbs Mill car park, off Fordbridge Road.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

North Solihull's restaurant ratings revealed

OVER a dozen food outlets in North Solihull were told they needed to make major improvements during their last hygiene inspection.
A total of 16 premises locally received the dubious honour of a “one star rating” from food safety inspectors.
A couple of chip shops, a curry house and several convenience stores were among the businesses who received the ranking.
One takeaway in Chelmsley Wood performed even worse and is among just four outlets – from the hundreds inspected in Solihull – that currently has no stars at all. This means that urgent improvements need to be made to the hygiene standards.
It is worth noting that those businesses criticised for their cleanliness are far outnumbered by those who scored a perfect rating from inspectors.
Over 100 premises in the north of the borough were awarded with the coveted five star rating (15 in Castle Bromwich, 40 in Marston Green, 12 in Kingshurst, 16 in Smith’s Wood and 23 in Chelmsley Wood.)
This group included a number of the area’s most popular eateries – including Big Johns, in Cooks Lane, and the Kismet Indian Restaurant, on the Bradford Road.
The rating system is run by Solihull Council in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency and every business is judged by a strict set of food hygiene criteria.
The council said customers were increasingly paying attention to the number of stars that a company had received, and there was an onus on proprietors to work for a good rating.
Councillor Karen Grinsell, cabinet member for communities and partnerships, said: “Businesses should be rewarded for their efforts to maintain the best hygiene conditions in their restaurants.
“More and more people say they are checking the food hygiene rating of businesses before they go out to eat, which is great as it means people are rewarding businesses who strive to hit the requirements.”
Businesses are not required to display their rating, although the scores are readily available online at

Monday, 16 November 2015

"Unfair" studies cast North Solihull in a poor light

FAIR COMPARISON? - New analysis questions the tendency to compare
North Solihull with villages such as Knowle (pictured, above).

CONSTANTLY comparing North Solihull to suburbs several miles away gives a misleading impression of the area, it has been claimed.
Simeon Bright, a community organiser based in Chelmsley Wood, has warned that drawing direct parallels with semi-rural communities such as Knowle or Balsall Common has served to damage the area’s standing.
In a blog post last month, he argued that it made far more sense to use neighbouring districts of
Birmingham as a reference point when trying to assess issues such as unemployment.
Part of the problem is that because such as Chelmsley Wood and Kingshurst are part of Solihull
Council, it is far more common for studies to look at the areas in relation to the other wards in the borough – even though some of them are over 10 miles away.
In an attempt to readdress the balance, Mr Bright decided to see how one area of North Solihull, namely Fordbridge, compared to the nearby estates of Kitts Green and Garretts Green (which are in Birmingham).
This analysis produced a number of surprising results, including:
• The number of adults gaining formal qualifications is growing faster in Fordbridge than the neighbouring areas of Birmingham.
• Residents are generally healthier than those in Kitts Green and Garretts Green.
• Fordbridge beats the Birmingham average for the number of people in full-time work.
It is important to bear in mind that in many key areas, the neighbourhood is still trailing the national average, but the analysis suggests that in future local authorities should look across borders when assessing the challenges which face areas.
“It isn’t really fair to compare areas of Solihull that are demographically distinct and geographically distant,” said Mr Bright.
“A side-effect of this is that North Solihull is constantly regarded as the poorer cousin of the South, when actually, in context there are many positives compared with similar areas in neighbouring Birmingham.
“Constantly comparing North to South will do nothing to shake off the unfair reputation the area holds.”

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Girl rushed to hospital following Chelmsley Wood collision

A TEENAGE girl was seriously injured after being struck by a car in Chelmsley Wood yesterday afternoon (Saturday).
The collision happened on the A452 Chester Road at around 4.50pm.  A rapid response vehicle and an ambulance attended the scene.
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: "Crews arrived to find a teenage girl that had suffered serious head injuries in the incident. Emergency treatment was carried out at the scene by medics."
The 14-year-old was transferred by ambulance to Birmingham Children's Hospital for emergency treatment. Police confirmed today that she remains in the critical care unit and officers have appealed for witnesses.
PC Stuart Pryor said: "I would like to hear from anyone who has not already spoken to a police officer to contact us so that we can establish how this young girl came about her injuries."
The driver of the silver Ford Fiesta has been spoken to and is co-operating fully with the investigation.
Eyewitnesses can contact the collision investigation unit on 101.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

New Christmas display unveiled in Marston Green

CHRISTMAS lights have been installed in Marston Green, following calls from residents for a more vibrant display in the village.
Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council said it had listened to local people's comments and that eight lamp posts along Station Road had been hung with lights.
These will complement the tree that is traditionally placed at the centre of the village and are seen as the first phase of a new project.
The parish council admitted that decorations were quite expensive and it would look to follow the example of other areas of Solihull, where local businesses have been encouraged to sponsor lights.
This will hopefully pave the way for a display which covers a wider area being unveiled in 2016.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Chelmsley Wood woman receives Civic Honour

LOCAL HEROES: This year's award winners with the Mayor of Solihull

A WOMAN who has served the local community for more than 30 years has received a Solihull Civic Honour.
Patricia Hayes was recognised for her tireless efforts at ChelmsleyWood Baptist Church, receiving the Community Involvement Award.
She has been involved in all aspects of the venue’s activities, from helping out with the local kids’ clubs to co-ordinating lunches and community events.
The Civic Honours are organised annually by Solihull Council and honour those who have distinguished themselves in local life.
A council spokesman said: “Pat is a shining example of a selfless volunteer, always with the community’s interests at heart.”
This year’s ceremony took place at Solihull Civic Suite on October 21. Other winners included Karen Carney, who plays for the England women’s football team, and teenage ballroom dancing champion Rebecca Scott.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Chelmsley Wood man's ink-credible gesture

Finlay White, from Chelmsley Wood
A CHELMSLEY Wood man has thought of a rather original way of saying "thank you" to the NHS staff who had cared for his mum while she was being treated for leukaemia.
Finlay White was so grateful to the team at Heartlands Hospital's Ward 19 that he had the unit's logo tattooed on his forearm.
The 28-year-old said: "When my mum was moved to Ward 19 after being in an induced coma, she couldn’t walk, could barely talk and struggled to even press a buzzer.
"The amazing staff on the ward helped build my mum back up. They even made me feel at home while I slept there."
The team cared for Mrs White for five months and following the intensive course of treatment, her son was keen to do something "a bit different".
He hopes the tattoo will raise awareness for the department, which specialises in treating all forms of blood cancer.
The unit has its own charity fund, which raises money for the benefit of patients, and Finlay has encouraged people to sponsor his own unique bit of body art.
More than £700 has already been pledged by supporters online. You can find Finlay's Justgiving page here.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Crime continues to be concentrated around Chelmsley town centre

THE area around Chelmsley Wood town centre has a crime rate almost twice that of anywhere else in Solihull, a new report has revealed.
Figures show that 1,699 offences were recorded in the area over a 12 month period – slightly down on the previous year, but still a significantly higher number than in any other of the borough’s priority areas.
A high proportion of incidents are centred at the town’s shopping centre, the numbers somewhat skewed by the sheer number of shoplifting offences at Asda and neighbouring stores.
However, even when these retail crimes are taken out of the equation, a significant number of reports of offences are still being logged on neighbouring estates.
The report offers a detailed overview of crime across the borough and was prepared by the Safer Solihull Partnership.
It acknowledges that there is still work to be done to address the disproportionate number of incidents taking place in a relatively small area.
It said: “Although the Chelmsley Town Partnership Plus area has seen reductions in total recorded crime, this remains a location where the partnership need to focus their attention in order to… continue to reduce the gap of inequality in volume of crime between this area and other key locations within the borough.”
The findings come at a time when police budgets are under increasing pressure.
Chelmsley Wood Police Station lost its front office facilities almost 12 months ago and former Kingshurst councillor David Jamieson, now the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has warned of a further strain on finances to come.
“The Government need to consider how much money police forces require to keep people safe rather than administer arbitrary cuts,” he said.
The statistics also reveal:
• Rates of criminal damage are higher in Chelmsley Wood than any other part of Solihull – with 14
attacks on buses reported in the Moorend Avenue area.
• 16 per cent of crimes in the Chelmsley Town Partnership Plus area are classed as domestic violence offences.
• 15 per cent of burglaries reported in Solihull are carried out within this zone.
Councillor Chris Williams (Green,Chelmsley Wood) said: “Chelmsley Wood has a busy shopping centre and so naturally has more potential for crime and much is committed by people from outside Chelmsley Wood.
“But that’s not the only area or crime. We do have real problems with off road motorbikes being used
antisocially that the police don’t seem to be able to get a grip on.
“With the severe Government cuts to the police we are losing yet more police officers, which is definitely going to mean a crime rate higher than it would otherwise be.”

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Solihull Council confirms gritting arrangements

COLD SNAP: The Chester Road, Castle Bromwich in the winter of 2010/11

THE Castle Bromwich councillor who heads-up Solihull Council’s transport and highways department has said he is confident that the authority is “fully prepared” for the winter.
Councillor Ted Richards confirmed today that 4,500 tonnes of road salt had been stockpiled in readiness for bad weather.
Gritting crews will be on stand-by 24/7 between now and March, with plans in place to keep nine main routes through the borough moving.
A particularly mild winter last year meant that crews were little tested, although the council will be mindful of the problems that more severe weather can cause.
In 2010-11, many parts of the country were caught completely off guard by heavy snowfall and plummeting temperatures – which led to a chronic salt shortage. The Met Office would later confirm that it had been the coldest December since records began.
Ever since then local authorities, including Solihull, have ensured they are ready for the worst.
Councillor Richards said: “We are confident we have enough [salt] to see us through the next few months.
“During recent winters our staff have done a superb job gritting our roads and keeping our salt supply plentiful – I have no doubts that they will yet again rise to the challenge this time around.”

Inside the Salt Barn:

The first thing that springs to mind when you stare up at the salt piles is that you definitely wouldn’t want this stuff sprinkled on your chips.
It’s coarse and brown, more like sick bucket sand than the fine white flakes that you’d have on your dinner.
But of course, the salt stored at Solihull’s depot (pictured right) isn’t intended for emergency seasoning, rather it’s the secret to keeping local roads clear in the event of ice and snow.
During my time in local newspapers I paid several visits to Moat Lane, where the borough council co-ordinates its response to wintry weather.
The salt is important, but just as vital is knowing when to use it. For this councils rely on up-to-the-minute forecasts to predict if they'll need to head out to treat the roads.
The problem is that gritting is one of those services where councillors can’t please everyone. 4,500 tonnes might be the equivalent in weight to 900 African elephants, but there are over 1,000km of road in Solihull - with the natural priority being main arterial routes.
This inevitably poses a problem in somewhere like North Solihull, with so many winding side streets.
The key for the council - who are perhaps aware they'll always come in for some criticism during a spell of wintry weather - is to make sure that once you're onto the main roads the conditions are as safe as possible,

Monday, 9 November 2015

Major roadworks hit by further delays.

ROADWORKS which have caused chaos on one of the main routes into North Solihull have been hit by further delays.
Birmingham City Council admitted last week that the £11million scheme to widen the Chester Road is to continue until Christmas, and that some elements might not be completed until 2016.
Drivers who have been contending with jams for over a year were left seething by the news that the project’s completion date has been pushed back for a third time.
When contractors started work on the site in June last year, the council had said the project would be finished by the following July. They then revised their estimate to October and, with that now behind us, it has been confirmed that the schedule has been put back yet again.
The latest admission that some of the work may drag on into the New Year will mean that the project has lasted over six months longer than originally suggested.
And it follows farcical scenes last Thursday, when a road was resurfaced overnight only for the tarmac not to have dried in time for the morning rush hour – resulting in hour-long tailbacks.
The No 71 bus, one of the main services through Chelmsley town centre, was among a number of routes affected by the congestion.
Many road-users have taken to social media to condemn the way the authorities have handled the situation.
Simon Hague said: “The Spitfire Island roadworks are an absolute joke, taking far too long and days go by with seemingly nothing happening.”
Another irate motorist tweeted the council direct, asking if the scheme would be completed “before the turn of the next ice age.”
A council spokesman pledged that the “bulk of the work” would be finished before the festive break, blaming the repeated delays on complications moving utilities.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

New edition of Other Side of Solihull out now

THE latest edition of Other Side of Solihull's digital newspaper is now available.
You can read the new issue here. And don't forget to email us with your ideas and stories for the final edition of 2015, which will be out in early December.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Details confirmed for Chelmsley Wood fireworks

REMEMBER, remember... that Chelmsley Wood Town Council's annual fireworks display is almost upon us.
The event will take place at the Berwicks Lane playing fields on Saturday (November 7).
Gates open at 6pm, with the display starting at 7pm.
And remember if you're planning to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night at home, you should always follow the fireworks code.
Martyn Scott, from West Midlands Ambulance Service, warned that dangerous behaviour can lead to life-changing injuries. Last year, paramedics were called to a number of incidents around the region.
"In most cases we know that they could have so easily been avoided by simply using common sense," said Mr Scott.
"It appears that people don’t realise they are holding an explosive device in their hands when they light a firework; it is always alarming when people are surprised that they get injured."

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Editor's FAQ (No 1) - Why don't you print any good news?

ONE thing I realised during my seven years working in local newspapers is that journalism remains something of a mystery to the public at large.
There are three or four questions that I can guarantee every weekly reporter in the country gets asked at least a couple of times a week. 
Personally I've always felt that the local press in particular should try and shed more of a light on its operations, because the better readers understand how their local title works, the more they feel it is their title.
With this in mind, I thought I'd start a semi-regular series of articles about the news-gathering process. Now admittedly the workings of a full-blooded newspaper and a local news blog are quite different, though many of the same principles apply. 
I'll start by answering one of the most common questions-cum-complaints of them all.

Why don't you print any good news?

Local journalists regularly get accused of having an unhealthy pre-occupation with bad news, filling papers with tales of robbery, road accidents and ill health. The argument goes that good news is pushed aside or ignored in favour of controversy.
This criticism was always particularly common in North Solihull, with many residents feeling that the local press tended to dwell on the difficulties facing the area to the exclusion of the good work being done.
So, is the criticism justified? In part perhaps. There are certainly local papers who lack either the resources or imagination to do much more than repackage police and ambulance service press releases. Only last week I saw one weekly which had dutifully packed three court stories and a road traffic accident on one page near the front. Also to blame are those regional dailies who run a few too many front pages about fatal crashes. Death - some news desks believe - trumps everything.
I was lucky to train under an editor who put genuine store in light and shade. He very much drilled into us reporters the importance of including a real mix of stories on every page. A row over back garden development would rub shoulders with a charity marathon run. The story of a charity being burgled could keep company with a Diamond Wedding anniversary.
The problem is of course that bad stories tend to invoke the strongest response and linger in the memory rather longer, which is why even the papers who try and strike a balance are often accused of wallowing in misery.
That said, just because news is bad doesn't mean it's not relevant. I have to confess that I've always been wary of so-called good news publications, which try to make a virtue out of only carrying positive stories. The problem is that they're no more an accurate record of the local area than the paper packed with police mug shots. This "all's well" standpoint can, at times, be dangerously misleading.
Take the various council-published magazines which proliferate across Britain. While they may contain plenty of useful information for residents, the fact is that they make everything from a multi-million pound cost cutting programme to a highly unpopular development sound entirely beyond reproach. Here you need the journalist to look beyond the press release to the figures hidden away in council agendas and scrutiny boards. This is not reporters pursuing bad news for the sake of it, rather an attempt to highlight consequences or concerns that local authorities are going to be less than keen to advertise.
Similarly there is a legitimate place for crime-reporting in any publication. Justice should be seen to be done at the courts, while public appeals can help to catch culprits and raise the awareness which helps others to avoid becoming victims.
It is perhaps in the end a question of why you are running a story as what it's actually about.