Saturday, 30 January 2016

Team GB gymnast opens School Games in Chelmsley Wood

A TEAM GB gymnast was a special guest at the CSW School Games, which took place at a number of local venues earlier this week.
Mimi Cesar, who previously competed for her country at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, performed a ribbon-twirling routine at the competition's "opening ceremony."
This week's event, which was organised by Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire Sport, involved students from schools across all three local authorities.
Events were staged at North Solihull Sports Centre, the CTC Kingshurst Academy and John Henry Newman Catholic College, with children vying for medals in events including fencing, table tennis, rowing, hockey and swimming.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Kingshurst campaign group calls for action against off-road bikes

RESIDENTS have called for the council to take extra steps to stop off-road bikers driving onto local parkland.
The campaign group Action for Babbs Mill has launched an online petition, urging the local authorities to make it harder for the boy racers to access the area around Babbs Mill Lake.
Locals claim that many riders are following a route which stretches from Shard End through North Solihull, all the way out to Coleshill. The park and adjoining nature reserve are a particularly popular "racetrack."
Sarah Evans, chair of the group, said: "Throughout the years Babbs Mill and the surrounding areas have suffered from the nuisance of off-road vehicles ruining the grass verges, parts of the nature reserve and potentially damaging the natural environment.
"This year we have had no let up and the park and the residents are now suffering from this nuisance.
"The residents of all affected areas need to see something done to curb the usage of these off road vehicles on the roads and in the parks."
Locals are also being urged to play their part by reporting bikes to West Midlands Police or Crimestoppers.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Police appeal follow machete attack near Fordbridge

POLICE are continuing to appeal for witnesses after a middle-aged man was attacked with a machete during the rush hour.
The attack - which left the victim with serious injuries - happened on Tile Cross Road, near Fordbridge, on Monday of this week (January 25).
According to eyewitnesses, the attacker had produced the blade at a bus stop near the junction with Cooks Lane.
Police and ambulance services were called to the scene at around 8.10am and the 50-year-old, who was said to be covered in blood, was taken to hospital.
A 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and bailed pending further inquiries, but officers are continuing to urge people to come forward with information about the apparently "targeted" attack.
Det Sgt Sam Price, from West Midlands Police's violent crime team, said: "We continue to actively seek a man who is suspected of carrying out the attack and we need people to come forward with extra information.
"We strongly believe that local people know who did this and that someone will have information that could prove vital to our investigation.
"I am appealing to people to do the right thing and call me."

Housing Minister visits Chelmsley Wood

FACT FINDING: John Halton from the North Solihull Partnership,
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, Meriden MP Caroline Spelman
and Ben Wright from Bellway Homes

HOUSING Minister Brandon Lewis has paid a visit to a local community centre to find out how the North Solihull Regeneration could help shape similar redevelopments of UK council estates.
Mr Lewis was welcomed to Chelmund's Cross by his parliamentary colleague, Meriden MP Caroline Spelman.
The visit came after the Government announced plans to plough £140million into rebuilding so-called "sink estates" around the UK.
The redevelopment programme will be overseen by former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, who previously supervised plans to redevelop the Liverpool and London Docks in the 1980s.
While these schemes are likely to influence the latest plans, Mrs Spelman believes that the transformation of some of the most deprived areas of her constituency could also serve as a blueprint.
“Fifteen years ago Solihull Council embarked upon an ambitious project to regenerate the north of the borough," she said.
"This provided local people with new amenities, focused regeneration around community hubs such as Chelmund's Cross and provided employment opportunities.
"I believe that the Government’s estates regeneration team can learn a lot from the approach we have taken to regeneration here in Solihull, and advised the minister that first and foremost, regeneration is something to be done with local communities, not to them if they are to succeed in the long term."
Mr Lewis has said that the plans will go a long way towards reducing anti-social behaviour and poverty around the country, although the idea has not won universal backing.
Critics argue that £140million divided between 100 estates is nowhere near enough money, while others claim that the Conservative Party's own right-to-buy policy may ironically prove a major obstacle.
A spokesman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said: "The Government certainly needs to put in place guarantees to ensure that existing tenants and owners, as well as affordable housing providers, are not adversely affected."

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Join the Big Garden Birdwatch in Castle Brom

FEATHERED FRIENDS: The Great Spotted Woodpecker is
sometimes seen in the gardens of North Solihull.

PLAY your part in the world's largest wildlife survey at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens this Sunday (January 31).
The venue is encouraging people to come along and complete the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.
The annual event is an opportunity to count as many species of bird as you can in the space of an hour.
Visitors can also put their questions to the experts and make their own birdfeeder to take home. 
Drop in any time between 11am-3pm. Admission is £2 per person with a complimentary cup of tea or coffee included.
To find out more about this year's Big Garden Birdwatch visit the RSPB's website.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Praise for Kingshurst community hub

A BOROUGH councillor has paid tribute to the work of a team of volunteers in Kingshurst.
Councillor Debbie Evans said that Seeds of Hope did sterling work organising activities for local residents.
On Christmas Day, the group organised a lunch for more than 60 people at St Barnabas Church and a regular dinner event is held on the first Friday of every month.
If you would like to volunteer at Seeds of Hope or find out more about any of their events call Jean Johnson on 0121 788 3399 or 07903018591 or visit the website.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Smith's Wood park project divides opinion

THE creation of a new "urban park" in Smith's Wood has divided opinion among local residents.
The Woodlands Green Park was created on a tract of open space between Chester Road and Windward Way.
The North Solihull Partnership said that the £90,000 development - which includes children's play equipment, improved pathways and more greenery - had transformed an overgrown and underused piece of land into an "attractive green space."
Councillor Tony Dicicco, cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said the project demonstrated the local authority's commitment to "making the most" out of green space.
The park was created in parallel with a new housing development a short distance away. The 27-home scheme, christened Mountford Rise, is set to be completed later this year.
However, some residents see the park project as a less than satisfactory substitute for the land which was taken for new homes.
This policy of requiring developers to pay for improvements of certain areas in exchange for allowing the release of other sites for housing has been utilised several times during the North Solihull Regeneration, although the "quality over quantity" principle continues to divide local people
Ricky Grinnell was among the residents who believe that the authorities are attempting to "con" local residents.
"Let's get it right , it was done because they used a larger area of land for housing around the corner," he wrote on Facebook.
However Kelly Frail was more supportive of the effort.
"They can't do right for doing wrong! Some people are never happy and moan about everything," she said.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Far-right group plan march near Marston Green

HUNDREDS of people are expected to turn-out for a silent march near Marston Green, organised by a far-right group.
Pegida UK - which is led by Tommy Robinson, previously known for his involvement in the English Defence League (EDL) - will be walking from Birmingham International railway station to the nearby Birmingham Business Park.
The demonstration, which has attracted criticism from local political leaders, is set to take place on February 6.
Chief Supt Alex Murray, of Solihull Police, said that there would be a highly-visible police presence during the march and that additional officers would be on stand-by in the event of trouble breaking out.
 "As a force we are vastly experienced in accommodating and preparing for such events having run operations around similar protests in Birmingham, Dudley, Solihull and Walsall – the most recent of which have passed off without incident," he said this week.
"It is not clear how many people will take part but we are continually monitoring the intelligence picture to understand the scale of the event."
Pegida UK is the British chapter of the German-based Pegida organisation, founded in 2014. The group's demonstrations chiefly call for tougher immigration law and measures to tackle the "Islamification" of western countries.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chelmsley Wood chef gives a lesson in healthy eating

A MICHELIN-starred chef from Chelmsley Wood returned to his old school today to give current pupils some pointers on cutting their sugar intake.
Glynn Purnell has kept close ties with Bishop Wilson School, where he was a pupil over 30 years' ago, and returned to the classroom once again as part of a public health campaign to tackle childhood obesity.
During the special lesson he showed Year 4 pupils some easy-to-make, healthy-to-eat snacks.
"My cooking is all about good ingredients cooked well – and I want people to know that a dish can be full of flavour and delicious while still being very healthy," said the father-of-three.
"I hope I can inspire the youngsters at my old school and across the region to choose healthier foods and to realise there are lots of delicious things to eat that aren’t full of sugar."
Headteacher Jon Kirk said he was delighted to welcome Glynn back.
"We all know that children can eat too much sugar so it’s great that this campaign offers helpful tips for parents and all of us on how to cut down."
According to NHS estimates, the average four to ten-year-old is eating 22kg of sugar a year (that's the equivalent of 5,500 sugar cubes.)

Monday, 18 January 2016

Police aren't fooled by roaming road sign

officers posted on Twitter
POLICE are investigating the strange case of a road sign which seemed to move around a mile down the road.
Officers were alerted last week to the appearance of the 40mph sign in Chelmsley Wood.
The motorist who called to let them know was confused because they understood that the stretch of road where it had materialised was in fact a 30mph zone.
The eagle-eyed driver's instincts were quite correct and it appears that a fellow motorist pilfered the sign from a stretch of the Chester Road  - out towards the NEC - and installed it at the new location.
Officers suspect that the culprit may have been caught breaking the limit in a pre-Christmas crackdown on speeding and, having since received a ticket in the post, has made a desperate attempt to excuse their actions by claiming that there was an incorrect sign already in place at the time of their offence.
Police have said they are investigating the incident and, posting on Twitter, warned that by trying to avoid three points on their licence, the culprit could instead face a far more serious punishment - possibly even a custodial sentence.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Housing team take action over drugs offences at Chelmsley Wood home

A CHELMSLEY Wood address has been served with a "closure order" after evidence emerged of drug offences at the premises.
Police had discovered illegal substances and drug-related paraphernalia when they raided 21 Mansfield House shortly before Christmas.
The discovery prompted Solihull Council to seek a closure order, which prevents anyone from entering the property for three months.
Tenant Jake Herbert, 20, failed to appear at Birmingham Magistrates last week, when the order was granted.
Fiona Hughes, from Solihull Community Housing, said: "This case illustrates how seriously we will respond to any form of drug related activity in our properties.
"We will continue to work closely with the police to tackle drugs in our communities and offenders should be under no illusions that swift action will be taken in all cases of this nature and in many cases this will result in losing the property."

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Mayor helps mark 40 years of Chelmsley Wood church

MILESTONE: Mayor of Solihull, Glenis Slater, is presented with the history
book by Bishop David Charmbury
THE Mayor of Solihull has helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of a Chelmsley Wood church.
The congregation at the Church of Latter Day Saints, in Clopton Crescent, invited Coun Glenis Slater to an event to mark the milestone.
She was presented with a special book which charted the church's early history (much of the original building work was actually completed by the first worshippers.)
During the event, the Mayor met Bishop David Charmbury, who has resumed his duties following a carjacking ordeal last summer.
The clergyman had been placed in an induced coma following the incident and said last month that he was focusing on completing his physical recovery.
The robber, Harley Davidson Heyes, has been jailed for six years.
Mr Charmbury said he was delighted to welcome the Mayor to the special occasion.
"We have a wonderful facility here in Chelmsley Wood for members to meet and worship in," he said.
"Current members benefit every Sunday from the faith, determination and success of members from 40 years ago who planned, part financed and even helped to build the meetinghouse."

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Editor's Q&A - What are all those squiggly lines in your notebook?

The latest part in our occasional series covering common questions about local journalism.

About the only way that a journalist can impress an eight-year-old is to show them a page of shorthand notes. Never mind that the jumble of symbols is a blow-by-blow account of plans to scrap green waste collections, being able to turn them into sentences and back again is a kind of magic trick.
Adults are rather less awed. Retired secretaries may go a bit misty-eyed, remembering their own days of taking dictation, but I think a lot of other people are suspicious about how you will stitch the swirling script together when you get back to the office. 
"Are you going to be able to read all of that back?" is probably the most common question you get from a councillor after a five-hour meeting. The honest answer is "yes", a slight pause, "most of it."
The fact is, shorthand isn't perfect. You will sometimes sit staring at one of the outlines (a posh word for an individual scribble) and wonder what in god's name you wrote down. Is that rave, reeve, rev?Notepads can bubble and crease in the rain, and pens run dry when a local resident is in the middle of a particularly colourful comment about where he'd like to stick the bus stop that has been wrongfully erected outside his house.
But despite all that, it's still the best possible way for journalists to take down what people are telling them as quickly as possible. Why not use a dictaphone? Simply put, a reporter on a busy local paper wouldn't have the time to spool back through a lengthy recording to pick out all the facts they need. Not to mention the fact that there are places where the device would be useless (a noisy street protest) or not allowed at all (whip out a recorder in court and you could find yourself in the dock yourself.)
Despite this, there has recently been something of a debate about whether shorthand - which has been a mandatory part of the NCTJ's journalism exams for decades - is quite as essential these days. The argument goes that TV and magazine hacks have been getting by without the funny little hieroglyphics for some time and that the digital revolution taking place in newsrooms nationwide means that not every newspaper journo will still be expected to sit at the back of the magistrates twice a week.
There is perhaps something in the first point. Certainly those working in the world of 5,000 word spreads are rather removed from the "seven stories by lunchtime" culture of the local paper.
But as for the second part, I do worry that there's a danger of people being taught to tweet or liveblog instead of learning the old-fashioned newspaper skills. Yes social media and community content is important, but the more reporters there are without the necessary training to cover a marathon session at the council house or take down reams of notes of a 95-year-old's war veteran's memories then the poorer the quality of local journalism.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

North Solihull not a priority for traffic wardens

FAR fewer parking tickets are being issued in North Solihull compared to other parts of the borough.
The latest figures show that while traffic wardens issued some 10,000 tickets over an eight month period, less time is being spent patrolling areas such as Castle Bromwich and Chelmsley Wood than many other neighbourhoods.
Around two per cent of the penalties issued between April and November last year were handed to motorists on the North Solihull "beat".
Predictably Solihull town centre is where the most resources are concentrated, but a greater number of tickets are also being slapped on windscreens in Shirley and Knowle/Dorridge.
A report prepared for the attention of the first transport and highways committee meeting of 2016 also revealed that around a fifth of tickets issued across Solihull are subsequently cancelled on appeal.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Chelmsley Wood drug victim named

A TEENAGER who died after taking "contaminated" drugs during New Year's Eve celebrations last week has been named as Dylan Booth.
As reported over the weekend, the young man fell ill after apparently taking an unnamed Class A drug and subsequently died, in spite of efforts by hospital staff to save his life.
It's understood that Dylan was on one of his first nights out, having only recently turned 18.
One tribute left on social media read: "It’s truly heartbreaking to see one of my closest friends at school has been taken away at such a young age."
Four other clubbers had needed medical attention after taking the same "bad batch" of drugs, believed to have been distributed at The Rainbow nightclub, in Digbeth.
The venue has now posted on its Facebook page, offering its sympathies to Dylan's family and urging anyone with information to contact police.
"Everyone at The Rainbow venue is deeply saddened by this tragic news," said the statement.
"Our sincerest thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends at this time. We are assisting the West Midlands Police with their ongoing investigation."
Anyone who can help detectives with their inquiries should call 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Cardio classes to start in Chelmsley Wood

A NEW series of exercise classes - designed to help people recuperating from a heart attack - will be starting tomorrow (Tuesday).
The group sessions, which will take place at North Solihull Sports Centre, are also ideal for those who are recovering from cardio-surgery.
Solihull Active said the hour long classes would be geared towards individuals' needs and capabilities, with instructors on hand to offer support.
The weekly sessions will run every Tuesday from 11.30am-12.30pm, at a cost of £2.50 each
For further information please call 0121 704 8207 or visit Solihull Active's website.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Police fear "bad batch" of drugs is to blame for Chelmsley Wood teenager's death

A CHELMSLEY Wood teenager has died after apparently taking a contaminated drug while out celebrating the New Year.
The 18-year-old, who has not been formally identified, is understood to have taken a tablet during a night out at the Rainbow, in Digbeth.
The teenager was rushed to hospital on Friday (January 1) after falling ill, but despite the efforts of medical staff, police today confirmed that the young man had died.
Four other clubbers who had taken the same "bad batch" of pills have been allowed home after receiving hospital treatment.
Detectives are now trying to trace the people who supplied the drug at the Birmingham venue, which had been packed out with revellers celebrating the start of 2016.
They are keen to speak to three individuals who may have distributed an unnamed Class A substance. One man and a woman are described as mixed-race, while a second man was white and wearing a fluorescent jacket.
Anyone who was at the club on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day and has information that may help police with their inquiries should call Det Insp Greg Evans on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Bin collections to return to normal in North Solihull

RUBBISH collections are set to return to normal this month following changes to collections over the Christmas period.
There were no collections on New Year's Day, with any remaining waste not removed then set to be collected next Friday (January 8). Replacement collections have also been organised for those who missed out as a result of Christmas Day or the Boxing Day Bank Holiday (December 28).
Solihull Council has reminded residents that it will be taking away any extra rubbish that has built up during the Christmas period up until the end of the week. This should be placed in bin bags, tied up and left next to your wheelie bin or purple sack.
The local authority will also be collecting real Christmas trees up until January 15. All decorations and pots should be removed and if the tree is over 6ft it should be broken in half.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Other Side of Solihull - What do you want to read?

WITH the start of a new year, Other Side of Solihull would like to hear from local people about the sort of stories that you would like us to cover.
Part of the reason for setting up this blog in 2014 and launching our monthly e-newspaper last spring was because of the ongoing problem of areas in the north of the borough having lost their traditional media outlets. Local newspapers have reduced distribution rounds and coverage of these areas online has often been patchy.  
The advantage of blogs and social media is that you don't need vast resources to get information published. The disadvantage is that the balance and research involved in old-fashioned news gathering doesn't always translate to hyperlocal content. In setting up this site, we are trying to take the best of both worlds.
But it's always useful to know the sort of stories and information that is most helpful to residents. Do you prefer details on local events or updates on council decisions? Are hard news stories (crime, planning applications etc) or human interest articles more likely to catch your eye?
As always we welcome all suggestions, story ideas and general feedback. Leave a comment below or email

Friday, 1 January 2016

Beat the burglar this winter

A few years ago, Other Side of Solihull editor David Irwin was invited to join police officers on burglary patrol in Castle Bromwich. As the dark nights return, we look at what steps you can take to keep your home secure.

IT'S cold when the father-of-three gets out of bed. This isn’t entirely surprising, it’s December after all and overnight temperatures tend to fall to their lowest just before dawn.
But when the man goes downstairs, he soon realises something is wrong. There is a draught blowing through his home and he can hear the distant rumble of the motorway. He soon finds out why.
In one of the rooms a window has disappeared. It’s not that the glass has been smashed, it has literally vanished. A computer, a wristwatch and a jacket with a wallet inside are also gone. The Castle Bromwich man has just become the latest local victim of burglars.
The scenario I’ve just described isn’t taken from some police public awareness campaign. It was a real-life break-in which happened on the Parkfields estate four years ago.
I know, because police had taken me inside the semi-detached home and shown me the space where the window used to me.
The officers explained that the beading had been painstakingly picked from the frame, allowing burglars to slide out the pane of glass.
It’s an “old school” tactic and, for those who know what they’re doing, creates little noise; the family had all been sleeping upstairs and not one of them woke up.
The father, who was among the street’s longest-standing residents, graciously agreed to speak to me about what had clearly been a very upsetting 24 hours.
“My family were worried,” he told me. “I just feel angry and ask why some scum thinks that they can steal other people’s possessions.
“The things that were stolen we’ve had to work hard to buy. I don’t want to feel like I have to make my home a fortress.”
Whenever I’ve spoken to senior police officers in the past, they almost always name burglary as
one of their top priorities. In all likelihood they remember meeting victims during their days as a constable and the sense of powerlessness, of violation, that arises from the offence.
Break-ins happen throughout the year, although Solihull Police will tend to mount special awareness campaigns once the clocks go back; the long nights bring with them an increase in burglary offences.
The patrol I joined in 2011 was part of Operation Slade – an initiative which specifically targeted this type of crime.
I spent the evening with Sergeant Peter Wall, who explained that the force were using a relatively new tactic known as “cocooning.”
This practice involves visiting families near to where a burglary has taken place, offering reassurance and advice. The aim being to prevent a spate of similar break-ins being perpetrated in the same neighbourhood.
Our patrol took us around Green Lane, Water Orton Road and the various side streets, on the look-out for any suspicious activity. The beginnings of a frost and the glitter of Christmas tree decorations made for an attractive scene, but attracting what?
During the drive, Sergeant Wall said that burglary could be one of the most “heinous” crimes that officers had to deal with, citing a then recent example of an elderly woman in Chelmsley Wood, tricked by two men posing as officials from “the water board”.
A number of times he pressed the point that a few simple measures may reduce the risk of someone being targeted.
“When people go out in the evening they should think about leaving some lights on. Anything that is going to put a little bit more doubt in a burglar’s mind, anything that may make them think twice about trying to break-in, could make all the difference.”
Operation Slade was to all intents and purposes a success and a report presented to Solihull Council the following year cited a number of significant arrests as a result.
Unfortunately burglary is a perennial problem and each year authorities must tackle the issue anew. Recent statistics suggest there are an average of two break-ins every day in the borough and a disproportionate number continue to be committed north of the A45.
This year officers are taking to Twitter in an effort to raise awareness. If you check #Solidarknights, you should be able to find updates about some of the initiatives taking place around the borough.