Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Community centre thanks locals after attempted break-in

A CHELMSLEY Wood community centre has thanked residents who raised the alarm after thieves tried to break into the premises last Friday (July 20).
The Three Trees, in Hedingham Grove, had been targeted by people who were apparently wearing "Scream"-style horror masks.
Although the would-be burglars failed to get into the building, which has only recently undergone a major refurbishment, it remains to be seen if they caused damage to the roof.
In a message put up outside the centre this week, the Three Trees paid tribute to local people who had dialled 999.
"Hopefully [the culprits] won't be back, there is nothing of value here anyway, everything is second-hand/donated.
"The cost is always the damage that gets done, which we will have to pay for ourselves as we're not supported by the council or government and raise our own funds."
If you have any information about the attempted break-in, please call Solihull Police on 101.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Playground - "We are definitely not closing"


MERIDEN Adventure Playground is still working hard to ensure that services continue after council funding comes to an end in the autumn.
The committee are co-ordinating efforts to apply for grants from various organisations and are busy training parent volunteers to help to man the facility over the summer holiday and thereafter.
Revenue from Solihull Council will stop at the end of September, by which point the team will need to have arrangements in place to continue alone.
In a statement on their Facebook page, the playground said that while they were not yet "out of the woods", the situation looked a lot more positive than earlier in the year.
"We are busy writing funding applications and raising money locally to ensure we can carry on.
"This all takes time and so whilst we can say we are definitely not closing, we will be living hand to mouth for quite a while. This may mean reducing opening times now and again, but we are hoping not – this all depends on which applications are successful."
Talks are also taking place with council officers to secure a lease of the playground at a peppercorn rent. It is understood the lease will take effect from April, with the local authority set to cover the utility bills between now and then.
If you can help, please contact the playground via their Facebook page.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Smith's Wood man charged following "cleaning fluid" attack

A SMITH'S Wood man has been charged with common assault following an incident outside a borough pub earlier this week.
A drinker had allegedly been doused with liquid in the vicinity of The Chalice, in Dickens Heath, last Tuesday evening (July 18).
The substance in question is believed to have been an ammonia-based cleaning fluid. Police reported that the alleged victim had rushed to wash his face with water from a nearby dog bowl and was not injured.
The force today confirmed that Max Kelly, 23, had been charged in relation to the incident and will appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on August 16.

Awards for two of North Solihull's parks

BOTH Babbs Mill Local Nature Reserve and Meriden Park have retained their coveted Green Flag Awards.
The status, part of a nationwide campaign run by Keep Britain Tidy, is bestowed on green spaces which meet strict standards for cleanliness, community involvement and horticulture.
The two sites in North Solihull are among 15 in the wider borough which this year met the criteria to receive the Award.
Councillor Robert Hulland, cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration, said: "Our staff work incredibly hard to make Solihull’s parks and open spaces welcoming, safe and well-maintained for residents, and being recognised on an international level is a great achievement and one we are extremely proud of."
Elmdon Park and Tudor Grange Park were among the other 13 sites recognised.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Artists booked to play local festival


MORE than a dozen acts have now been confirmed for a local live music event.
Irish crooners Boyzlife, Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills and Lisa Maffia, formerly of the So Solid Crew, are among those who will be appearing at ShardFest.
The festival will be taking place at Norman Chamberlain Playing Fields on July 29-30.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Three-year project to enhance our green spaces

SOLIHULL Council has secured almost £2million to improve wildlife habitats across the borough, including several sites in North Solihull.
The local authority has been awarded more than £966,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, the majority of which will be match funded by the council alongside the Environment Agency.
The money will be pumped into preserving and improving 28 sites located within residential areas, including Alcott Wood, Chelmsley Wood, Smith's Wood, Yorks Wood, Meriden Lake, the Low Brook (at Kingshurst) and Cooks Lane.
Efforts to create reed beds, plant new trees and shrubs and convert grassland into meadows will be taking place over the course of the next three years.
Ian Courts, Deputy Leader of Solihull Council, said: "Many of the sites included in the programme are situated in the north of the borough and will therefore support the ongoing investment being made to homes, businesses and infrastructure in the area."
While some residents have welcomed the news, others have greeted the announcement with more scepticism - suggesting the improvements won't make amends for a number of controversial decisions to develop green spaces such as Babbs Mills.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Man meets the woman who saved his life 44 years ago

DEBT OF GRATITUDE: Andy Steggles meets Anne Morgan
Picture/Midlands Today

A MAN has had an emotional reunion with the woman who helped saved his life in North Solihull more than 40 years ago.
Andy Steggles was just three-years-old when he fell into Hatchford Brook and almost drowned.
It was only the intervention of two passers-by which saved his life on that fateful day in May 1973.
Earlier this year, Andy, now 47 and living in the United States, had made an appeal to trace the Good Samaritans.
To his delight he was put in touch with Anne Morgan [nee Barley], a Marston Green woman who had learned first-aid skills in the girl guides and had rushed to his aid.
Now he has travelled back to the UK and had the chance to meet up with Anne to express his heartfelt thanks. An item on Midlands Today this evening showed the pair meeting for the first time in decades.
"To say I owe you a debt of gratitude is the understatement of the century," said Andy, who had been resuscitated three times.
"To finally meet Anne and thank her...it's a big deal."
Anne, who had received an award from the Royal Humane Society for her actions, said: "I'm so pleased that he's doing so well. Over the years I've thought about him and wondered how he's getting on and what sort of life he's leading."
Andy, his wife Kelly and their two young children also joined Anne on a visit to the stretch of water where his life had been saved.
The businessman is still hoping to make contact with Peter Owen, a Chelmsley Wood man who also played a pivotal part in his rescue all those years ago.
You can watch the full report on BBC iPlayer, although please note that it will only be available until 7pm tomorrow evening.

Bus company makes further changes to the X70

A BUS operator has made fresh changes to its X70 service, admitting that a recent overhaul of the timetable had caused difficulties.
National Express had made alterations to the route last month, as part of a wider shake-up of the network in North Solihull and East Birmingham.
But complaints from passengers forced a rethink and last Sunday, a number of adjustments were made.
These include changes to the weekday timetable, which should make it easier for pupils at Coleshill School.
Some buses will also be given more time to reach their destination, following concerns that traffic in the Castle Bromwich and Bromford area was causing hold-ups during the busiest times of the day.
In a statement, National Express said: "We’re sorry we didn’t get the new X70 timetable right the first time and these changes should fix the issues raised and observed."
You can find the full timetable for the route - running between Chelmsley Wood Interchange and Birmingham city centre - on the website.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Free tree scheme takes root in Solihull


AN INITIATIVE to nurture traditional trees has been launched in Solihull.
The Arden Free Tree Scheme promotes the planting of various native species and aims to reduce carbon in the atmosphere - at a time when concerns about air pollution in urban areas are growing.
The project - being run by Solihull Council, in partnership with Birmingham Airport - is open to any individual or group who wishes to create a hedgerow or small woodland on their land.
Specimens provided will include Silver Birch, Rowan, Holly, Hazel, Hawthorn, Dogwood and Blackthorn.
Landowners who wish to apply should send a location map, plan and a list of desired species to the local authority.
Applications must be submitted by the end of August, with those who are successful to receive the greenery in time for the planting season (which runs from November to March).
Further information about the scheme is available here

Monday, 17 July 2017

All ale church's restoration project

WORK on installing the new set of bells at St Mary and St Margaret’s Church, Castle Bromwich, started today (Monday).
The new frame has been constructed at Taylor’s Bell Foundry, Loughborough, and fitting is now underway.
The rehanging - which will mean that there is a ring of eight bells in the tower for the first time - is expected to take five weeks and will be completed by mid-August.
The bellringers have also confirmed they have commissioned Birmingham-based Two Towers Ale to brew a golden summer ale to celebrate the restoration.

Off-road bikers back out in North Solihull

POLICE have confirmed that they received several reports of illegal racing in North Solihull over the weekend.
PCSO Christopher Stowe, from the Smith's Wood neighbourhood team, said that off-road bikes had been sighted on the estate itself, as well as in Kingshurst and Castle Bromwich wards.
If you have any information about the riders involved in the latest offences please call officers on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Commissioner warns there is "no quick fix" for knife crime

THE West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has described a recent spate of fatal stabbings - one of which took place in Chelmsley Wood - as "very concerning."
David Jamieson, who had previously served as a Labour councillor for Kingshurst & Fordbridge, acknowledged that there had been a spike in violent incidents across the region.
The death of 65-year-old Philip Rolph, who suffered knife wounds in Alder Drive earlier in the month, was one of five similar incidents to take place in the space of three weeks.
Four other men had died in separate attacks in the Birmingham area and Mr Jamieson (pictured, right) said that all efforts must be taken to put a stop to the recent trend.
In a statement earlier this week, he said: "The police will continue to do all they can to prevent violence and bring perpetrators to justice.
"Tough action, whilst necessary and correct won't stop the rise in violent crime on its own.
"There are no quick fixes and this is not an issue that we can simply arrest our way out of.
"It will only be through concerted efforts to give our young people opportunities and to educate them on the dangers of violence that we will create lasting change."

Friday, 14 July 2017

Dad has to deliver his daughter in a Collector Road lay-by

A DAD had to deliver his baby daughter by the side of the Collector Road after it became apparent that his pregnant partner wouldn't make it to the maternity unit in time.
Steve Sandford, from Chelmsley Wood, pulled into a lay-by alongside the dual carriageway after Joanne Winters' waters broke on the way to Good Hope Hospital.
The 45-year-old builder was talked through the birth by a 999 operator and paramedics arrived at the scene to find that Joanne, 39, was already cradling baby Chloe.
Speaking to the BBC, Steve said: "I pulled over and then the woman [on the phone] said you need to check if you can see the baby's head. I could see some hair so I started to panic and sweat.
"I said 'give it one big push Jo' and she pushed and the baby came out in my hands. I had tears in my eyes, I couldn't speak."
The couple's elder daughter, 16 month-year-old Charlotte, had also been in the car at the time of the incident, which happened on June 27.
Ambulance crews later took mother and child to hospital to recover from the early arrival.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Art project gives the public paws for thought

STUDENTS from a Smith's Wood school have designed one of the eye-catching bears which form part of a new art trail around Birmingham and Solihull.
The Big Sleuth invites families to travel the region to track down more than 200 ceramic statues (100 of the larger characters are straight from the imagination of local artists, with the smaller "cubs" having been crafted by schoolchildren).
Each one has its own unique design, with Forest Oak School having worked on one of five fur-midable figures installed at Birmingham Airport.
The pupils' particular creation has been dubbed the Mindfulness Bear (pictured, right).
It has a vivid patchwork coat and takes inspiration from a form of meditation which has become increasingly popular in recent years.
The public event, which will run until September 17, will be raising money for Birmingham Children's Hospital - the larger bears will be auctioned off in the autumn.
It follows the success of The Big Hoot, which took place two years ago and saw scores of owl statues appear around the region.
This time organisers chose to unleash an army of colourful bears, having argued that the animal is popular with all ages.
Louise McCathie, the director of fundraising at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “We’re so excited that The Big Sleuth is finally here, we have been planning the bears' arrival since the owls left and we can’t bear-lieve it’s finally here!”
You can find out more about the trail at The Big Sleuth's official website. There is also a map available to download, which will allow people to track down the individual statues more easily, and a phone app through which people can complete a series of activities.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Pub organises event in soldier's memory


A CHARITY event organised as a tribute to a Castle Bromwich soldier, who gave his life in the line of duty, will be taking place this weekend.
The fundraiser will be held in memory of Joe Murphy, an 18-year-old serviceman who was killed while serving in Afghanistan eight years ago.
It is set to take place at The Farthings pub on July 15, starting from 2pm. There will be a barbecue, bouncy castle and raffle.
Saturday promises to be a busy day locally. Aside from the Joe Murphy event, Chelmund's Day will be taking place over in Chelmsley Wood, while Smith's Wood Parish Council will be holding their own family fun day at the Community Gym (11am-4pm).

Monday, 10 July 2017

Tennis celebration at the CTC


IF you've been glued to events at Wimbledon this week then why not pick up a racket yourself and head down to North Solihull?
The CTC Sports Hub, in Kingshurst, is hoping to tempt people to their Summertime Slam event, being held at the Cooks Lane courts this Sunday (July 16).
There will be a number of contests taking place on the day, with prizes for those who prove to be the local equivalent of Andy Murray or Johanna Konta.
Matches will be played between 12noon-2pm and in a tip of the hat to SW19's famous dress code, competitors are encouraged to wear as much white as possible.
Afterwards those in attendance will be invited to watch BBC coverage of the men's Wimbledon final at the pavilion.
British fans will of course hope that a certain Scotsman will be playing to defend his title, although even if the reigning champion falls short of the final weekend there will still be strawberries and cream and non-alcoholic Pimms to look forward to.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Police name grandfather killed in Chelmsley Wood

POLICE have confirmed that a woman has been charged with the murder of a 65-year-old in Chelmsley Wood.
The man, who had reportedly suffered stab wounds and was found in the Alder Drive area, was today named as Philip Rolph.
The father and grandfather, a chef who lived locally, had been discovered in a vehicle in the early hours of Friday morning (July 7). Despite the best efforts of paramedics, he died a short while later.
In a statement, Mr Rolph's family described him as "kind, loving and generous" and said that he "loved his life and his work."
Georgina Henshaw, 35, of Alder Drive, has been charged with murder and remanded in custody.
She will appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court tomorrow (Monday).

Planning officers anxious about business park plan

SOLIHULL’S planning committee has been advised to throw out plans to expand Birmingham Business Park.
Proposals had been put forward to create four industrial buildings, a service yard and around 180 car parking spaces.
Those residents living in nearby Blackfirs Lane and Coleshill Heath Road had already raised concerns about the noise and disturbance that would arise.
While not all of their arguments were accepted by council officials, there were sufficient concerns for them to recommend that councillors reject the application.
A report published last month suggested that there were particular questions about lack of public transport links to the site, as well as adding to traffic jams and queuing in an already congested area.
A formal decision on the plans had been expected back in February and again earlier in the month, but in both cases the item was dropped from the council agenda at relatively short notice.
It remains to be seen if the developers are likely to modify the plans to address the issues identified by officers.
The application is the latest of several which have fed into concerns about over-development in Marston Green and the impact that successive schemes are having on the village’s infrastructure.
A separate plan to build 68 homes off Chelmsley Lane has now been submitted to the planning department and is expected to go to committee later this year.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Murder probe launched following man's death in Chelmsley Wood

POLICE have confirmed that the death of a pensioner in Chelmsley Wood is the subject of a murder investigation.
A 65-year-old man had suffered stab wounds and been discovered in a car in Alder Drive in the early hours of Friday morning.
Emergency services were called to the scene at around 1am, but despite the best efforts of paramedics, the man died a short time later.
While his identity has not been released by officers, it is understood he lived locally.
A 35-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in police custody.
Det Chief Insp Edwards Foster, from Force CID, said: "The victim was able to raise the alarm but sadly died a short while later.
"We are now appealing for anyone who was in the area in the early hours of this morning to contact us so that we can establish what has led to this incident."
Detectives cordoned off local roads following the death and residents have reported seeing forensics officers combing the scene.
If you have any information call the force on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Swords, stories and song at Chelmund's Day


ONE of the most popular events in the local calendar is fast approaching.
Chelmund’s Day – the annual celebration of a certain Anglo Saxon warrior – will be taking place on July 15.
Visitors to Bishop Wilson School can look forward to historical re-enactments and live music.
There will also be stalls, stories, craft activities and a range of refreshments to look forward to.
The free event will be taking place from 11am- 3pm. For more information visit the website.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

MP praises youth turnout during Chelmsley Wood visit

FACING THE AUDIENCE: The Any Questions? panel in North Solihull

POLITICIANS won’t dare to ignore young people in future, veteran MP Diane Abbott has told an audience in Chelmsley Wood.
The Shadow Home Secretary, appearing on Radio 4’s Any Questions?, hailed the surge in the number of 18 to 34-year-olds who voted in the General Election.
The long-running political panel show was broadcast from the WMG Academy for Young Engineers exactly 12 months on from the EU referendum.
Apart from Ms Abbott, the panel was made up of the Conservatives’ Andy Street, recently elected West Midlands’ Mayor, the musician and activist Jamie MacColl and Darren Grimes, deputy editor of the website BrexitCentral.
Given the venue, it was fitting that many of the questions related to issues which will have a direct impact on young people.
There was a scattering of teenagers and quite a sizeable number of people under 30 in the audience, although when chairman Jonathan Dimbleby took his seat he joked that he had just nudged up the average age of those gathered.
After discussing the rights and wrongs of tuition fees and what effect Britain’s departure from the EU might have on the nation’s young people, the panel considered why an age group which has tended to be disengaged from politics recently turned out to vote in force.
“Labour got 40 per cent of the vote and nobody expected us to do that and that was largely because of the increased numbers of young people that came out,” said Ms Abbott, who is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest political allies.
“Obviously [I think this was] terrific, I’m glad they voted for Labour – although they might not necessarily do so in the future – but I will say this, the fact that young people came out in such numbers in 2017...means that politicians won’t be able to take them for granted again.”
Mr Street acknowledged that social media had played a big part in the shifting electoral landscape.
“Every industry has been changed by this, why should politics be any different,” said the former John Lewis boss. “Online is going to become the dominant means of communication.”
Mr MacColl, a member of the band Bombay Bicycle Club, suggested that last summer’s referendum result was a “defining” moment for young people and politics and he expected the turn-out to continue to rise.
“Young people are a legitimate constituency and every party is going to have to offer something in their policy platform now [which] is going to be very significant.”

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Castle Brom has chance to talk about flight path plans


A PUBLIC meeting will be held in Castle Bromwich to discuss proposed changes to flight paths at Birmingham Airport.
The roadshow is one of several taking place across the region to give residents the chance to comment on the plans.
The changes form part of a national programme to modernise airspace.
Locally this will mean aircraft taking off in different directions from those at present.
David Winstanley, the airport’s chief operating officer, said: “These consultations give an opportunity for dialogue, characterised by an open and honest approach...
“We really encourage local communities to attend.”
The Castle Bromwich event will be taking place at Arden Hall on Monday, July 17 (from 6-8pm).

Monday, 3 July 2017

Calls for sprinklers in North Solihull tower blocks

SAFETY CHECKS: Firefighters in Smith's
Wood last week.
A CHELMSLEY Wood councillor has said many local residents living in high-rise flats want to see sprinkler systems installed in the wake of the Grenfell fire tragedy.
Last month, Solihull Council’s cabinet was briefed on the steps that have been taken to safeguard local people following on from the incident in West London, in which scores of people died. In the aftermath of the fire in the early hours of June 14, West Midlands Fire Service carried out safety checks at the borough’s blocks of flats.
Within hours, messages were circulating on social media to reassure tenants that all systems were up-to-date.
Fiona Hughes, chief executive of Solihull Community Housing (SCH), insisted there was a “strong” culture of health and safety within the organisation and everything possible would be done to make sure a similar incident didn’t happen in Solihull.
Coun James Burn (Green, Chelmsley Wood) welcomed the authorities’ quick response, but said that many tenants remained anxious.
“Half of these flats are in my ward and obviously we have some very jittery residents who would like some things considered,” he told the meeting.
“One thing residents have asked a lot is when they’ll have sprinklers... it’s obviously the law for new sites, but there’s no law to retro-fit.”
Concerns have escalated following two separate fires at apartment blocks in North Solihull.
Back in January there was a “severe blaze” at Oxford Grove, Chelmsley Wood, while only last month a fire broke out on the roof of nearby Chestnut House.
Aside from the question about installing sprinklers, Coun Burn said there was also some concern about access for fire engines – noting that some of the borough’s 37 high-rise buildings were located at the end of narrow cul-de-sacs.
“There were 40 fire engines in London and there are some areas where we couldn’t get that.”
Coun Ken Meeson (Con, Dorridge & Hockley Heath) said: “With regard to sprinklers, there is an
issue about the retro-fit of sprinkler systems in older buildings.
“I’m not an expert on that at all and it’s very easy to say every building of that nature should have sprinkler systems but we mustn’t have a knee-jerk reaction. We must make sure that by putting [them in] that it doesn’t make the situation worse.”

  • SCH has prepared a FAQ about fire safety to answer some of residents' most common questions. Click here for more information.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Trio honoured by the Queen

RECOGNITION: Ellen Delaney
UNSUNG heroes have been recognised for their efforts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Ellen Delaney, a playworker at the Meriden Adventure Playground, was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the Fordbridge community.
Aside from the many hours she spends helping out at the Chelmsley Wood playground, she is also involved in the MAD House youth club and Community Action Fordbridge.
Speaking after receiving the news, Ellen said: “I am really pleased that Her Majesty has heard of our project and chosen to recognise us with this honour.
“It’s not just about me, this is for all of us who are standing up for children and young people and their needs and rights – and for families too.”
Simon Rix, senior playworker at Meriden Adventure Playground, said: “Ellen’s honour reflects on all the parents, young people and community members who have contributed to that.”
Also among those honoured is Janet Down, the long-standing chief executive of local charity Solihull Life Opportunities (SoLO). She will now look forward to a trip to Buckingham Palace to collect an MBE.
Janet has been with the organisation, which provides support for those with learning disabilities, for the past 17 years. During her tenure, the charity boss, who previously worked for Mencap, has overseen a number of new initiatives.
Not so many years ago, SoLO was facing significant financial pressures, but despite the challenges it has gone on to open a new base in Streetsbrook Road - complementing the existing HQ in Walnut Close, Chelmsley Wood.
In a statement SoLO paid tribute to Janet’s “deep commitment” to the cause.
Amanda Mordey, the principal of Forest Oak Special School, in Smith’s Wood, was awarded an OBE for services to special educational needs and disability.
The head also oversees Merstone School, in Shirley, with both sites having been ranked as outstanding by Ofsted.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Council outlines plans for Kingshurst Parade

PARADE UPGRADE: The shopping precinct was developed in the 1960s but
Solihull Council has acknowledged it has grown increasingly dilapidated.

RADICAL plans to redevelop Kingshurst Parade are finally moving forward, although questions remain about how the work will be funded and when it is likely to start.
Last month, Solihull Council outlined a £21million project to replace the ageing shopping precinct, which has become more and more run-down and been hit by dwindling visitor numbers.
Plans to rebuild the Parade have been under discussion for several years, but a series of delays have left local residents increasingly frustrated.
There was further concern last year, when it was suggested that one of the options under consideration would be a more modest plan to refurbish the existing site.
After seeking the views of hundreds of people, the council conceded that the clear majority were in favour of the Parade being completely demolished and replaced with a new development, which the local authority claim will be fit for purpose for the next 50 years.
The scheme which has now been drawn up would include a new medical centre, the creation of a community hub – including a library and offices – 2,000 square metres of retail space and residential units.
Councillor Debbie Evans (UKIP, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) said the redevelopment was “long
overdue”, but argued unanswered questions were still causing anxiety in the local area.
“There is a lot of rumour and innuendo going about, in particular [from] the shopkeepers and I daren’t go shopping on Kingshurst Parade at the moment because I’m hauled into every shop that’s going.
“They are concerned having looked at the rough outline that they will not be housed in the village centre. Now, I need to reassure those shopkeepers that everyone who has been loyal to Kingshurst... will get a place.”
Coun James Burn (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said: “It is really good to get this report to reassure the community that things are moving forward.
“I’m really pleased as well that the community have been listened to...they’ve said overall they
would like complete demolition and that’s what’s being proposed.”
Councillor Ken Hawkins,  the cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration at the time of the meeting, described the development as “a good investment for the north of the borough”.
“Detailed work is being done to look at the plans and costs and see if we can bring them down,” he said, acknowledging the current shortfall in funding.
A public consultation exercise will begin next month, with more detailed plans set to go back to cabinet in November.

Background: The creation of a new village centre in Kingshurst has always formed part of the Regeneration scheme, but the development has been hampered by delays.
Those residents who have seen work completed on similar projects in Chelmsley Wood and Smith's Wood have grown increasingly frustrated as the timetable for the Parade's own face lift has repeatedly slipped back.
Solihull Council conceded last year that it had been forced to abandon a number of previous proposals amid concerns they would not be commercially viable.
A sense that patience had run out among local people was very much felt at an election hustings which took place last month.
During the debate a number of residents criticised the delays, with David Cole, of Kingshurst Parish Council, suggesting that the Parade had seen its best days a decade ago. At this another member of the audience was heard to mutter "more like 50 years ago."
While the plans which were brought to cabinet a couple of weeks ago are more of a statement of intent than a detailed proposal, the council is keen to show that the project is still going ahead...

Friday, 30 June 2017

Family fun at the Grace Academy

BANDING TOGETHER: The 147th Birmingham Brownies make friendship
bracelets to sell at the fun day.  Left to right, Maddi Hakeem, Beth Millman,
Maddison Woolgrove and Stevie O'Neil.

GRACE Academy’s annual family fun day is to be held tomorrow (Saturday).
An inflatable obstacle course, donkey rides, food stalls and craft activities will be among the highlights.
Entry is free, but student leaders are aiming to raise money towards the purchase of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), which will be available for use by the local community.
The event will be taking place at the Chelmsley Wood school from 12noon-3pm.

Riot of colour in Chelmsley Wood

BLOOMING LOVELY: The wildflower meadow opposite Asda.

WHAT a difference a few months makes!
Earlier this year, Other Side of Solihull reported on a series of sites that had been sown with wildflower seeds.
Now the Lowbrook open space and a patch of land in Bosworth Drive/Winchester Drive have been transformed into colourful meadows.
Helped along by the recent warm weather, the poppies and cornflowers were in full bloom by Midsummer’s Day.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Period drama comes to Castle Brom

NO EXHAUSTING AUSTEN: The story was adapted
for stage by Jessica Swale.
MORE than 200 years since Jane Austen authored Sense and Sensibility, the story of two young women is still a powerful draw.
Now Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre will be taking a stage adaptation of the 19th century novel on a tour of the region.
Ahead of its arrival at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Other Side of Solihull spoke to director James Knapp.
“It’s a story of love and that’s obviously still something that we can all relate to,” says James, when we ask about the enduring appeal of Austen’s original romance.
“Whether it’s falling in love or getting your heart broken, there will be a character in this which different members of the audience will be able to identify with.
“It’s rather like Shakespeare, there are reasons that stories such as this stand the test of time.”
James has been involved with the Crescent for seven years and while he originally had the actor’s ambition of “seeing his name in lights”, he was increasingly drawn to directing.
He speaks with great enthusiasm about seeing a cast come together during the rehearsal period.
“It’s an amateur production in the finest sense of the word, in that people are doing this for pleasure,” he says.
“Although it is a relatively tight turnaround for a show like this, it doesn’t feel like it because of how much work people have put in.”
The show started with a three-night run at the Crescent studio and is now ready for a mini-tour. James explains how a number of “beautiful gardens” – including the Castle Bromwich estate – were chosen for performances.
Outdoor theatre obviously has a long tradition, although performing in the open air does present
its own challenges.
“You never can depend on the British weather,” laughs James. “Even in high summer, you don’t know what will happen.
“It could be blistering sunshine or totally overcast; the show might have to be called off in the event of a complete downpour.
“But there’s two ways you can respond to that, either you worry about it or you embrace it as part of doing a tour like this!”
Sense and Sensibility will be performed at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens on July 1-2. Tickets are £10, available in advance. Visit the theatre's website for further details.

Latest edition of our online newspaper is out now


THE latest edition of our online newspaper is out now.
You can read the publication on Issuu and remember to send us your stories or suggestions for next month's edition.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Authorities investigate fly-tipping in Chelmsley Wood

SOLIHULL Community Housing (SCH) believes it has identified the person responsible for dumping a huge pile of rubbish in a Chelmsley Wood street.
Earlier today, the organisation appealed for information about the waste which had been strewn along the roadside in Conway Road.
A photo showed timber, furniture and other items heaped up on the verge and pavement.
Following the online appeal, SCH said it had received a number of responses and information about the alleged culprit.
Fly-tipping is a criminal offence which typically results in a fine for those convicted. A custodial sentence can also be imposed in cases involving an individual, although a prison term is usually reserved for the most serious offences - for instance, the dumping of material which could pose a hazard to the public.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Cannabis plants worth tens of thousands seized

POLICE have launched an investigation after a fire at a Chelmsley Wood property led to the discovery of a significant cannabis factory.
Firefighters were called to a terraced house in Nevada Way last Saturday afternoon (June 17).
When crews entered the property to tackle the blaze on the first floor, they realised that the home was being used to cultivate drugs.
It is understood that the incident may have been sparked by the equipment being used; the electrics which drugs gangs rig up for light and heating are a notorious fire hazard.
West Midlands Police said that no arrests had been made but 62 plants - with a street value of more than £60,000 - had been removed from the house and inquiries are ongoing.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Street parade will launch Marston Green gala

MARSTON Green Scout Group will be staging their annual gala tomorrow (Saturday).
There will be a parade through the streets, with the procession making its way to St Leonard's Church for the grand opening.
Visitors can look forward to traditional stalls, games, a tombola and prize draws.
The street parade gets underway at 12.30pm, with the gala opening at 1pm. Please note that a number of village roads will be closed for an hour from 12.15pm.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Colourful character spotted in Chelmsley Wood


RESIDENTS in Chelmsley Wood have been surprised  to see a rather exotic visitor strutting around the estate.
The West Midlands-based Pets & Animals Lost & Found have said they had received a number of reports in relation to a stray peahen over the course of the past month.
One resident said the brightly-coloured bird had been in her grandmother's garden since Saturday.
Both the RSPCA and Solihull Council have been contacted, but are understood to have advised that they cannot remove the errant pet because it does not appear to be injured.
Most species of peafowl originate from Asia and the birds were probably first brought to Britain by the Romans. Their lurid plumage makes them a popular choice of pet, but they can be aggressive and the male bird has a particularly loud call.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Disruption to local roads during sewer works

A COUPLE of local roads will close later this month while sewer installation works are carried out.
Both Holly Lodge Walk, in Fordbridge (June 26-July 2) and Piccadilly Close, Chelmsley Wood (June 26-July 16) will be affected.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Solihull cabinet member suspended following "hanging" tweet

CONTROVERSY: The comment which has
led to Coun Hawkins' suspension.
A FORMER Mayor of Solihull faces an investigation following a formal complaint about a tweet which he posted following the Grenfell fire tragedy.
Councillor Ken Hawkins had responded to a photo shared by a Guardian journalist, which showed residents upset by the authorities' handling of the crisis gathered at Kensington Town Hall.
The retired police officer had tweeted "Lets get ourselves a hangin" and accused the media of stirring up tensions following the blaze, in which 79 people have been confirmed dead or are missing presumed dead.
Today, Solihull Council confirmed that, following a formal complaint, Coun Hawkins had been suspended from his duties as the cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration with immediate effect.
Leader of Solihull Council, Bob Sleigh, said: "In light of the complaint related to Coun Hawkins' comments on social media, an investigation will now take place led by the council's monitoring officer in line with the council's standards procedure."
In the meantime, Coun Sleigh will himself be taking responsibility for his colleague's portfolio.
Prior to posting the tweet, Coun Hawkins had visited high-rise buildings in Chelmsley Wood in an effort to reassure residents about fire safety standards.
He has since deleted the post which prompted the backlash and today shared an apology.
"I fully appreciate that my tweet on Friday, which related to protests outside and inside the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea council offices, may have caused offence and I unreservedly apologise for that.
"In no way whatsoever was the short message directed at the unfortunate victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and I am distraught that some people have interpreted it in this way."
While some had taken to Twitter calling on Coun Hawkins to stand down, former councillor John Bramham defended his ex-colleague.
"It might have been unwise of him to put that out into the public domain, but it certainly doesn't reflect who Ken is or what he's about."
  • During a meeting of Solihull's cabinet last week, councillors discussed the local response following events in London. A full report will be in this month's edition of Other Side of Solihull.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Nominations open for Solihull Civic Awards

RECOGNITION: Last year's winners with Coun Mike Robinson, then
Mayor of Solihull

TIME is running out to nominate unsung heroes for this year’s Solihull Civic Honour Awards.
The annual event recognises people who have played a key role in their community. Categories include: Creative Arts, Community Involvement, Sport and Making a Difference for Young People:
All entries must be received by July 16. You can download the nomination form here.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

New look for village lychgate

REVAMPED: The lychgate in the middle of the village
Photo/Bickenhill & Marston Green Parish Council

ONE of Marston Green's best-known landmarks has been renovated.
Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council said the roof of the lychgate - which stands in the Garden of Memory - has now been replaced.
The structure is believed to have been erected shortly after the end of the Second World War.
Last autumn, moss was removed and the timber underneath was found to have gone rotten.
After some discussion about the options available, councillors had agreed to get quotes for the work.
Updating residents on Facebook earlier this week, a parish council spokesman said that the lychgate had stood for many decades and - despite the fact that it had sometimes attracted anti-social behaviour - the organisation was keen to retain it.
"At the moment, the wood appears in an unfinished state, but over a period of time the timber will weather and look more natural," they added.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Engineering a solution to a long-standing problem

AN EVENT to encourage more young women to enter traditionally male-dominated industries will be held in Chelmsley Wood next week.
The WMG Academy will be hosting the tea party to raise awareness of possible career choices in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Those who attend will be able to try their hand at skills including 3D printing and car modelling and meet people who are employed in these fields.
The number of women who work in the so-called STEM sectors is still small, with figures from 2015 suggesting that only 12 per cent of the UK workforce is female.
That said, concerted efforts to close the gender gap do appear to be having an effect, with a big part of the job tackling the misconceptions that have been allowed to build up over time.
Assistant Principal Farhat Parveen said: "There is a skills gap in this country and we want to encourage girls and young women to think seriously about a career in engineering and technology.
"It’s not all about dirty overalls - engineers work in music, TV, beauty and space exploration. They also help save the environment, track wild animals, design lifesaving medical equipment and ensure our water is safe to drink.
"There are some fantastic opportunities – it’s just about finding the one that suits your interests."
The event, open to girls of all ages, will take place on Thursday (June 22), from 5.00-6.30pm. You can register here.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Housing chiefs reassure North Solihull's high-rise residents

FLAT FIRE: An incident in Chelmsley Wood
last month was swiftly dealt with by the
Fire Service. Photo/WMFS.
SOLIHULL Community Housing (SCH) has said the Fire Service has today carried out safety checks at all of its high-rise buildings, after a dozen people were confirmed dead in a tower block blaze in London.
The organisation also confirmed there would be no change to its "stay put" policy, which encourages residents to stay inside their flat in the event of a fire breaking out elsewhere in the building.
This advice is common across the UK, but has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the tragic incident in the capital.
So far, 12 people have been confirmed dead and almost 70 have been hospitalised after flames tore through Grenfell Tower, Kensington, in the early hours of this morning.
In a statement, a SCH spokesman said: "While the full reasons behind this dreadful incident have yet to be fully established, it is important that we remind you of our fire safety message.
"Our advice to high rise residents in the event of a fire remains to stay in your flat, unless told to leave by the emergency services. If the fire is in your own flat leave and shut the front door.
"Our fire doors have one-hour fire resistance. The stairwells have two hours’ fire resistance. Most UK high rises do not have fire alarms as each flat is designed to contain a fire within its own walls.
"The fire witnessed in London last night was extremely rare. While last night’s fire is bound to be of concern for anyone living in a high rise, please rest assured that your personal well-being and safety is something we treat with the utmost importance."
There are more than 30 high-rise blocks in the borough, all of which were built in the 1960s and 70s and are located in North Solihull.
Several of these have been demolished in recent years as part of the ongoing Regeneration project.
Girton House, in Smith's Wood, had actually been used by West Midlands Fire Service for a training exercise in 2012, prior to being pulled down.

Top Radio 4 show to come from Chelmsley Wood


A SPECIAL edition of one of Britain's longest-running radio shows is to be broadcast from Chelmsley Wood.
Next Friday's instalment of Any Questions? is to come live from the WMG Academy and marks the first anniversary of the EU referendum.
In a debate chaired by regular host Jonathan Dimbleby (pictured), senior politicians and experts will consider the future course of the UK, 12 months on from the vote.
Kate Tague, WMG Academy’s executive principal, said: "We are particularly pleased to have been chosen for this edition.
"There will be a focus on what Brexit will look like for the current generation of young people and it’s very fitting for an academy like ours which is helping to prepare that next generation of UK citizens for the real world."
Any Questions? is broadcast every Friday evening; it has been on air for almost 70 years and a fixture of the Radio 4 schedule since 1970. The last edition to come from Solihull was broadcast from Arden Academy, in Knowle, five years ago.
Anyone over 14 can apply to be in the audience and for this episode the BBC is particularly keen to get young people to attend and put their questions to the panel.
To apply for seats, email c.lewis@wmgacademy.org.uk with your contact details and the number of tickets you would like.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Firefighters hail lucky escape after tumble dryer fire

A FIRE which started when a tumble dryer caught alight could have destroyed a house in Marston Green.
Crews from Sheldon Fire Station were called to tackle a blaze at the Wells Walk address on Sunday (June 11).
A photo posted on their Twitter feed shows the blackened remains of the kitchen appliance, which erupted in flames at just before 1pm.
A spokesman for West Midlands Fire Service said that their speedy arrival may have saved the terraced property.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Community art gallery in Chelmsley this summer


ARTISTS are being invited to exhibit their work at a "pop-up" gallery which will be running in Chelmsley Wood town centre over the summer months.
The community-focused exhibition, which is being co-ordinated by the B37 Art Project, will be taking place in July and August.
Anyone who would like to take part should email a selection of their work [up to six examples] to contact@b37project.org. Please submit before Friday (June 16).

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Tea and cake at Meriden Adventure Playground


MERIDEN Adventure Playground will be inviting its supporters to enjoy a cuppa and a slice of cake next weekend.
The organisers say that the event will be an opportunity to say "a huge thank you" to the volunteers who have given their time to the facility and helped raise funds to keep it open.
It will coincide with the Great Get Together - a series of gatherings organised to mark the first anniversary of Jo Cox's murder.
The Labour MP had been attacked and killed on June 16 last year, while on her way to a constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire. The Get Together has been spearheaded by a foundation set up in Mrs Cox's memory, who have said the events will help promote a sense of togetherness in communities around the UK.
The playground's tea and cake event will be held on Saturday (June 17), starting at 11.30am.

  • Another event will be held at the nearby Three Trees Centre on Friday (from 11am-1pm), with Meriden MP Caroline Spelman inviting organisations including The Haven Breast Cancer Charity and Gro-Organic to speak about their work.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Chelmsley Wood street closed following "gun sighting"

POLICE swooped on a Chelmsley Wood street yesterday (Friday) amid reports that a gun had been spotted.
Officers descended on Coralin Close at just before 1pm and blocked off the road to examine the surrounding area.
In a statement, West Midlands Police said that they had been called to the scene after eyewitnesses had seen "a red car acting suspiciously".
A vehicle was searched but the force confirmed that no arrests were made.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Spelman's majority secure despite shock losses

CONSERVATIVE candidate Caroline Spelman has been re-elected as the MP for Meriden, once again securing a significant majority.
The former cabinet minister, who was standing for the sixth time, polled over 19,000 votes more than Labour's Tom McNeil.
Speaking after the result was declared at North Solihull Sports Centre, Mrs Spelman said: "I am deeply touched and honoured by the support I have received amongst my constituents.
"I will use every ounce of my strength [and] experience in the service of Meriden constituency in the new Parliament."
Mr McNeil, who took to Twitter to thanks his supporters, did manage to increase the Labour vote from two years ago, adding around 5,000 votes, but was unable to close the gap on his Tory rival.
It appears that both parties benefited from the collapse of UKIP, with their candidate Les Kaye losing his deposit.
Alison Gavin (Green) and Antony Rogers (Lib Dems) also failed to reach the five per cent mark, as the vote swung overwhelmingly behind the two main parties. Indeed, between them the Tories and Labour attracted more than four out of five of the ballot papers cast.
Despite victory for Mrs Spelman and her Parliamentary colleague Julian Knight, who won in neighbouring Solihull, it was a bruising night for the Tories.
Having gone into the election campaign confident of an increased majority, a dramatic reversal in the opinion polls actually meant gains for Labour and the loss of the Conservatives' overall majority.
The West Midlands had been expected to be a key battleground, with the Tories throwing resources at claiming marginals such as Edgbaston, Northfield and Wolverhampton South West.
In the end only two seats turned blue and these victories were offset by a shock Labour win in Warwick & Leamington.

Result:
Alison Gavin (Green) -  1,416
Les Kaye (UKIP) -  2,016
Tom McNeil (Lab) -  14,675
Antony Rogers (Lib Dem) - 2,663
Caroline Spelman (Con) - 33,873

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Opinion: Voting matters - even in safe seats

“THEY’RE all the same” and “It doesn’t change anything” are two of the most common reasons that people give for not voting.
Except that definitely isn’t true this time round. In fact, the two main parties have not gone into a General Election campaign on such different platforms for 30 years.
And that’s just Labour and the Tories. In Meriden you can also choose to cast your vote for the Lib Dems, Greens or UKIP.
The West Midlands is of course a key battleground in what could be one of the most pivotal polls of modern times.
It's no coincidence that Theresa May rounded off her campaign at this constituency's own National Motorcycle Museum, flanked by members of her cabinet. And 24 hours earlier Jeremy Corbyn had addressed a mass rally just down the road in Birmingham, calling on Clean Bandit and the comedian Steve Coogan to address the cheering crowds.
Meriden is of course considered a safe seat and the real focus of activists in recent weeks has been in more marginal seats such as Edgbaston - one of the prize jewels from Labour's 1997 landslide - and Birmingham Yardley.
Perhaps this is part of the reason for apathy among many of our readers. While turn-out across the entire constituency was a relatively respectable 64 per cent two years ago, the proportion of people eligible to vote in the north of the borough who actually did so was rather lower.
This is cause for concern because it is specifically areas where wages are being squeezed, jobs are less abundant and crime is slightly higher, that the decisions taken by parties at Westminster are likely to have even more impact on residents.
If you’re still convinced that what happens in Parliament is somehow separate from the lives of people in Chelmsley Wood or Kingshurst then take a look through our most recent issue.
Whether it’s changes to public transport policy, rising cases of domestic violence or arguments over education funding, there is a direct consequence here, in our community, to the decisions made there.
As a publication, Other Side of Solihull takes pride in being non-party political. We believe that all those who stand and serve have a right to be heard and every argument held up to scrutiny.
On this basis we have no intention of following the example of the national press and telling you which box to cross on today. We only ask you take the time to read the policies, think about what matters to you and get down to the polling station.
  • On the ballot paper: Alison Gavin (Green), Les Kaye (UKIP), Tom McNeil (Labour), Antony Rogers (Lib Dem) and Caroline Spelman (Conservative). Polling stations are open 7am-10pm. You must be registered to vote but you do not need to take your polling card with you.

Pensioner's 30 years at Chelmsley Wood charity

"THANK YOU": Long-serving volunteer Sylvia Hetherington
A PENSIONER who has been volunteering at Barnardo's for the past 30 years has received an award for her exceptional service.
Sylvia Hetherington, from Chelmsley Wood, received the special "thank you" from colleagues as the children's charity marked Volunteers' Week.
The 73-year-old had started helping out at her local branch, in Chelmsley town centre, to assist her search for a job. But even after she got into work, Sylvia carried on supporting the organisation and is still involved three decades later.
The mum-of-two, who said she very much enjoyed meeting new people, was delighted to be presented with an engraved wooden trophy in the shape of a 'B' last week.
"In the old days the women were often expected to stay at home and look after the children, so I suffered from a lack of work experience when I needed to start looking for a job," said Sylvia.
"The job centre suggested that volunteering would help so I joined Barnardo’s and found that it really boosted my self-confidence. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I decided to carry on supporting them even after I found part-time employment."
Javed Khan, the charity's chief executive, singled Sylvia out for praise in an article for the Huffington Post paying tribute to those who helped out.
He said: "These incredible volunteers are the lifeblood of Barnardo’s and I cannot thank them enough for their life-long loyalty to the charity. Without them, we would not be able to help the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children and young people each year."
The Barnardo’s store is open Monday-Saturday from 9am-5pm and Sundays from 10am-4pm. To find out about volunteering yourself call 0121 788 0737 or visit www.barnardos.org.uk

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Concern over strain on domestic violence services

INCIDENTS of domestic violence remain a cause for concern across North Solihull, a new report suggests.
Crime figures compiled for last year show that 1,173 offences were recorded across the borough, an increase of 15 per cent. In Chelmsley Wood there were 41 incidents in January to March – the highest number out of the 17 wards which make up Solihull.
During the same three-month period, there were 40 offences in Kingshurst & Fordbridge and 32 in Smith’s Wood.
The report, presented to Solihull Council last month, suggests that support services for victims have been stretched to breaking point.
As previously reported in Other Side of Solihull, an additional £640,000 has been released by the Government to help deal with the problem across the West Midlands.
But the document suggests this extra help may be offset by a redistribution of resources by the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Summarising the situation, the report claimed services were working “at full capacity” and that while staff were prioritising the most serious cases, demand still “heavily outweighed” the help available.
The difficulties facing the support network have been well-publicised both locally and nationwide. Last month it was reported that the number of cases reaching court across the region had in fact fallen last year – largely due to a lack of evidence or victims withdrawing support for charges.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “We know that not all survivors of domestic abuse want a criminal justice outcome.
“However, what these figures show is that, for those who do, there is still a very real culture of victim-blaming and fear that stops survivors from accessing justice.”
Other key findings from the Safer Solihull report included:
* There were a total of 13,626 offences reported across the borough in 2016/17.
* Castle Brom remains one of the hotspots for burglaries, with 38 break-ins in the final quarter.
* Chelmsley Wood saw the highest level of vehicle crime in the borough.

Monday, 5 June 2017

A buzz surrounds scout project in Marston Green

1ST Marston Green Scouts have helped create a wildflower patch to aid the local bee population.
Youngsters have sown an area at Millennium Wood in the hope it will attract the pollen-collecting insects - which have seen their numbers plummet nationwide.
The group sought permission for the project from Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council. Once this was secured, the plot was prepared over two evenings using seeds donated by environmental group Friends of the Earth.
Changes to farming techniques are held largely responsible for the decline in the bee population. According to the charity Bumblebee Conservation, two species have already become extinct in the UK and several other varieties are in trouble.

Fight to save playground continues


THE team who run Meriden Adventure Playground have said that the threat of closure has brought those who use the facility closer together.
Trustee Ali Wood argued that Solihull Council’s decision to cease funding from this autumn had served to galvanise parents and volunteers, many of whom have thrown themselves into the campaign to keep the site open.
“While it has been a difficult few months in many respects, it has also, conversely, made people realise how much they value this playground,” she said.
Last month, trustees attended the playground’s Annual General Meeting at the Bosworth Community Centre, Chelmsley Wood.
Those who attended were briefed about recent success stories, including the application for charitable status and the receipt of a National Playwork Award.
There were also updates about the ongoing efforts to secure alternative funding, with news that a raft of applications for grants had been submitted to various community funds and charitable bodies. The possibility of applying to parish councils in the local area for funds has also been discussed.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Parents speak out over school funding

FUNDING FIGHT: A demonstration took place in Mell Square last month.

PARENTS in North Solihull are being urged to get behind a campaign which was set up amid concerns about a squeeze on school budgets.
The action-group Fair Funding for Solihull Schools has warned that growing pressures are forcing headteachers to make cuts to key services.
As it stands, borough schools are looking at an £11million reduction in their annual budget by 2019, which works out at around a £357 cut per pupil per year.
Mums and dads locally are pressing politicians to ensure that sufficient funding is made available and last month a demonstration to draw attention to the issue was held in Mell Square.
Jeni Mills, a parent-governor and member of the action-group, has said that the role local communities have to play in highlighting the challenges should not be underestimated.
Speaking to Other Side of Solihull, she said that the current situation was putting significant strain on services both locally and nationwide.
“Eighty per cent of school budgets go on staffing costs, so inevitably when cuts come it means that the number of teaching assistants, for instance, is likely to fall,” she said.
“Then there are obviously other very important services which will be put at risk, from sports coaching to music tuition. We feel very strongly that education is a right not a privilege. Schools should be properly funded because every child deserves the same opportunities and start in life.”
The funding crisis has caused concerns around country, with thousands of heads having written to parents to highlight the challenges they face and urging them to press Parliamentary candidates for answers during the General Election campaign.
The Government had previously outlined changes to the formula which determines how much money is made available, although some have argued the proposed reforms will create problems in themselves.
• If you’d like to get involved with Fair Funding for Solihull Schools, you can contact them via their Facebook group.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Candidates clash at Chelmsley Wood election debate

QUESTION TIME: Alison Gavin (Green), Les Kaye (UKIP), Tom McNeil
(Labour), Antony Rogers (Lib Dem) and Caroline Spelman (Conservative).

LOCAL residents whose area "has been badly left behind" have lost faith in politics, party candidates have been told.
In the final question of last night's General Election hustings, David Cole, from Kingshurst Parish Council, listed a series of grievances, including the building on Babbs Mill, an ailing doctor's surgery and cuts to policing.
"What are you going to say to residents to make them get out of bed to vote next Thursday," he asked the panel.
So ended an event which gave the public the chance to put their questions to the five men and women standing for election in Meriden.
Taking place at Chelmsley Wood's Three Trees Centre, the wide-ranging debate covered everything from schools funding to arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Mr Cole's question at the close of the evening brought the focus back to local issues.
Conservative Caroline Spelman, who earlier had been challenged by another member of the audience about what she had done for "ordinary working class people" during her 20 years as MP, said she had fought to secure vital investment as part of the North Solihull Regeneration.
"We have been creating more social housing on these estates. Just outside there is a new school building and if you walk out the door of this facility you will see see a new dementia care home going up. It's unfair to say nothing has been done to help this community."
Mrs Spelman, who opened by saying it had been a privilege to represent the constituency, faced tough questions from some members of the audience, but promised "to fight local people's corner."
Labour's Tom McNeil was scathing about the Tories' record in government and in one heated exchange branded the party "a pack of liars".
"The Conservatives say they wouldn't attack workers' rights. I don't trust them at all. They have cut our school budgets. They haven't funded our NHS. Why would we trust them to protect our workers' rights? They didn't even want the minimum wage when we brought that in!"
Both candidates faced questions about their respective leaders. When Mrs Spelman suggested that Theresa May was the most qualified person to negotiate with Europe, one audience member shouted out "you'd have to find her first."
Mr McNeil meanwhile was forced to deny that Labour's Jeremy Corbyn had supported the IRA.
The Lib Dems' candidate Antony Rogers - a local businessman - was critical of cuts to public services, arguing that the UK needed to decide what sort of society it wanted.
"I don't want to hear we're all in it together," he said, in an attack on Inheritance Tax giveaways. "Don't let them tell you that there is not enough money."
Alison Gavin, from the Greens, said her own politics had been shaped by having herself faced issues such as homelessness and ill health. She spoke about some of her party's key priorities including tackling climate change and opposing HS2.
"We are against high speed rail and always have been," she said. "Will ticket prices be affordable for local people? And there's no guarantee it will create more jobs."
UKIP's Les Kaye - who maintained his party could mount the best challenge against Mrs Spelman - suggested local people had been let down by the main parties, citing frustrations over the North Solihull Regeneration.
"They have built executive homes on Babbs Mill, but 8,000 people are still stuck on the housing waiting list," he said.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Six in custody following major disturbance in Chelmsley town centre

SIX people have been arrested after a large fight broke out in Chelmsley Wood town centre this evening.
Unverified reports suggest that dozens of people may have been involved in the disturbance near Pine Square.
One eyewitness claims that the original fight had broken out at KFC, before spilling out into the street.
Solihull Police confirmed they had been called out at around 7.45pm and footage from the scene shows riot vans and dog units in attendance.
One video posted online appears to show youths pinned to the ground and there are suggestions that at least one person was treated by paramedics at the scene.
Following the fracas, roads were blocked off and there was disruption to a number of local bus services.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Police step up patrols after elderly woman robbed in Kingshurst

THE shocking robbery of an elderly man in his own bedroom could be one of several crimes committed by the same offenders, police have said.
Earlier this week, Other Side of Solihull, reported that an 89-year-old had been threatened by three hooded men, who broke into his home in the early hours of Sunday (May 28).
The man, who is profoundly deaf, had a pillow held over his head by the trio, who fled with cash and jewellery.
Now police have revealed that the appalling incident in Arran Way could be linked to two other offences which have taken place in North Solihull in recent days.
When officers attended the original robbery they were flagged down by a second resident who revealed his own home had been burgled overnight. A spare car key and TV were stolen from the address.
And now there are reports of another elderly victim being targeted in Gilson Way, Kingshurst. The 87-year-old woman was putting her cats out last night (Wednesday) when two men knocked her to the ground, assaulted her and fled with jewellery and bank cards. The cowardly attack happened around 11pm.
Forensic investigators attended the scene today and detectives are conducting house-to-house enquiries. Local officers have also increased patrols in the area.
Det Sgt Carl Grinnell, from Solihull CID, said: "Thankfully the injuries sustained by these elderly victims were not more serious, but they have both clearly been left shaken by what happened.
"I  would appeal to anyone who has seen anything suspicious or who has any information that would help to identify the offenders to make contact."
Anyone with information can call officers on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

UPDATE (02/06/17): A 33-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of robbery and a 33-year-old man arrested for handling goods − both remain in custody. A 48-year-old man was also detained on suspicion of handling stolen goods and has been released pending further inquiries.

Fears remain ahead of this weekend's bus shake-up

BUS passengers fear that a dramatic shake-up of local services will cause problems for those in North Solihull who rely on routes to get to school and work.
There has been an outpouring of anger after National Express announced sweeping changes to the network in late April.
People have packed into public meetings in Chelmsley Wood, Kingshurst and Tile Cross and a number of petitions have been launched.
The operator has made a number of concessions following the backlash – most notably announcing a school service to take account of the fact that the No 94 will no longer travel down Cooks Lane.
However, locals are still pressing for further adjustments, amid concerns that “chaos” could ensue from June 4, when the new timetable will be rolled out.
Local resident Nicola Roberts has set up a dedicated Facebook group to protest against the changes.
Her original complaint related to a double-decker No 14 service which will start to use Tile Cross Road and Chapelhouse Road – she described the change as “an accident waiting to happen”.
“I obviously had major concerns about this and when I looked into it, I soon found there were so many people angry about these changes for all sorts of reasons,” she said. “I think the consultation process was very badly run.”
Politicians from various parties have been quick to wade into the row.
Councillor Karl Macnaughton (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said that Kingshurst would suffer particularly badly following the changes – losing the No 71, 56 and 59 and seeing a “torturous” extension of the No 55 service to Birmingham.
“The main problem here is that buses are run by private companies whose main motive is profit,” he said.
“As a result they’re not really interested in routes, or times of day, where specific journeys don’t make them money. As a result, it’s often easy to get somewhere in the day but problematic getting back home again in the evening.
“Public transport really needs to be publicly owned and run on a ‘service provision’ rather than ‘for profit’ basis.”
Caroline Spelman, currently seeking to be re-elected as Meriden’s MP said she had been “dismayed” at changes to the No 72, which she has said will have a significant impact on Marston Green. National Express has said that the changes it had laid out took account of “changing customer use”.
In a message which has been put up in shelters around the area, the company said:
“New and updated timetables are designed to counter increasing traffic congestion and delays.”

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Election hustings in Chelmsley Wood this Friday

CANDIDATES standing in the General Election will have chance to put their case directly to voters at a special debate in Chelmsley Wood.
The hustings, taking place less than a week before polling day, will be one of the last opportunities for the five hopefuls to sway undecided voters.
In Meriden, the constituency which includes North Solihull, Conservative Caroline Spelman is the clear favourite – having turned a wafer-thin majority in 1997 into a close to 20,000 vote advantage two years ago.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the extent to which the Tories have put the emphasis on Brexit negotiations nationally, Mrs Spelman has thus far fought a campaign very much centred on local issues.
In a pitch to voters, she said: “With your support, I will continue to fight for fairer school funding, to protect the Meriden Gap - which remains under pressure for development, defend local NHS services and, work to make sure no one feels left behind or disadvantaged in our community.”
Her main challenger is likely to be Labour’s Tom McNeil, a lawyer and human rights activist who was also the party’s candidate in the 2015 General Election.
“The message I’ll be spreading in Meriden... is that we should invest today for a fairer tomorrow,” he tweeted earlier this month.
Mr McNeil will be hoping that local anger over the state of public services will rack up votes in areas where Labour support has been in steady decline.
The Green Party have also backed a candidate from the election two years ago, confirming that teacher Alison Gavin will stand again.
While the party holds every council seat in Chelmsley Wood and Smith’s Wood, it has fared less well in Parliamentary elections and lost its deposit last time. Mrs Gavin is confident, however, that their message can resonate on the doorstep.
She said: “Whether it’s speaking out against racism, advocating the living wage or defending our NHS, the Green Party has a proud history of bold thinking that our country now needs.”
UKIP’s candidate is Leslie Kaye, who is hoping to capitalise on concerns over HS2 and development of local parkland, although the national polling suggests that much of the party’s support base has flocked to the Tories.
“I will work hard to represent your views and interests in Westminster, not like other parties, to impose Westminster policy on Meriden,” he said.
The Lib Dems will be pinning their hopes on local businessman Antony Rogers who is described by local activists as having “great initiative and drive.”
Meriden has not traditionally been fertile ground for the party and at present they don’t have a single councillor in the constituency. That said, they may find themselves best placed to draw support from the sizeable minority of voters who supported ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum.
The hustings will take place at the Three Trees Centre on Friday, June 2 (6.30-8.00pm). Questions can be submitted in advance to alan@3trees.org.uk

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

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