Sunday, 31 December 2017

Review of the Year: Part 2

MERIDEN MP Caroline Spelman was returned with a handsome majority, although Conservatives
nationwide were stunned after losing seats.
During the campaign we attended a hustings at Chelmund’s Cross, with the audience there whipped into a frenzy over the EU, foreign policy and ailing public services.
Other Side of Solihull also spoke to some of those behind a campaign to improve levels of funding for cash-strapped schools in Solihull.
This month also saw a flurry of enquiries from residents in local high-rises, who feared for their safety following the tragic fire at London’s Grenfell Tower.
In a grim coincidence, a blaze had in fact broken out on the roof of Chestnut House a few weeks before the conflagration in Kensington, but the flames were fortunately dowsed.
As the year reached its half-way point, North Solihull also welcomed Radio 4’s Any Questions and saw a flurry of arrests following a major disturbance in Chelmsley town centre.

AFTER a series of delays – which left local residents deeply frustrated – plans to revamp the ageing Kingshurst Parade finally moved forward.
Fall out continued from the Grenfell Fire tragedy, with increasing calls for Solihull Council to install sprinkler systems in every single tower block.
Steve Sandford from Chelmsley Wood needed nerves of steel after he had to deliver his baby daughter by the side of the Collector Road!
From a new arrival to a long-awaited reunion, Andy Steggles returned from the US to meet the man and woman who had saved his life when he fell into Hatchford Brook as a toddler.
Castle Bromwich residents were growing increasingly anxious about plans by Birmingham Airport to change flight paths over the suburb.
If that noise wasn’t enough, a fresh spate of incidents involving off-road bikes racing around parks and side streets led to renewed calls for action.

KINGSHURST was left reeling following the death of 20-year-old Callum Lees. A young man
was subsequently charged with murder.
Such were the fears about violent crime on the estate, an urgent meeting was organised at St Barnabas Church to provide locals with an opportunity to air their concerns.
In what proved to be a difficult month, a man also lost his life at Marston Green Railway Station and a brutal robbery took place outside the village’s One Stop store.
Better news came when Kingshurst Caterpillars, a local nursery, secured a £50,000 grant from Children in Need, and another popular event took place at The Green, in Meriden Park.
And St Mary and St Margaret’s Church rang the changes, with the culmination of the long-running project to restore its bells.

AS pupils returned to school after the six-week break, parents at Marston Green Infant Academy had to adjust to the introduction of tough new parking restrictions.
Mums and dads were also increasingly frustrated by the fact that youth services in and around North Solihull continued to dwindle. We ran a special report on the controversy.
Elsewhere, Caroline Spelman refuted claims that the north of the borough had been singled out for a disproportionate amount of new homes – though she admitted she felt the Babbs Mill development was a mistake.
It emerged that councillors were poised to sign off savage cuts to the crossing patrol budget – with the facility in Hurst Lane North among those set to be axed.
Troubling new data suggested that Solihull was the most polarised council area in the country, with one Smith’s Wood councillor calling for more to be done to address the gulf in living standards.
In another political development, it was announced that plans to create a new constituency – dubbed Chelmsley Wood and Solihull North – had been dropped. Meriden, it seems, will remain.

WE revealed the extent of the housing crisis in areas such as Chelmsley Wood, with one councillor revealing that many local families were regularly reduced to tears by their difficulties.
There was, however, some good news with the official opening of a new facility in Ipswich Walk to assist those facing homelessness.
In Marston Green, parishioners at St Leonard’s Church unveiled plans to install a memorial window in tribute to much-loved member of the local community Anne Dunkley.
A little over a year on from its installation, Solihull Council hailed the success of a new speed camera erected on the Bradford Road.
A more sombre anniversary was marked by Dawn Lewis who appealed for help in tracing a suspect wanted in connection with the murder of her husband Giovanni 12 months earlier.
And Sophie McEvoy, from Marston Green, had her dream come true when her idol Craig David agreed to perform at her wedding.

IN an important milestone, the opening of Chelmund’s Court care home marked the end of the final phase of the Chelmund’s Cross development.
Residents in Marston Green turned out to cheer on Team Rickshaw, who rode through the village as part of a One Show challenge raising money for Children in Need.
Elsewhere in the village, news broke that a former charity boss was facing jail for his part in a major fraud which had hit Birmingham Dogs Home.
The Three Trees Centre played host to an event with a difference, when it staged a “death cafe”, a session designed to promote discussion about a traditionally taboo topic.
For soap fans there was no reason to be shy about the arrival of EastEnders star Jake Wood, who was booked to flip the switch at the Chelmsley Christmas lights.

FED-up residents in Marston Green got in touch with us to complain about planning chiefs’ handling of an unpopular development in Blackfirs Lane.
Following a survey of hundreds of locals, the newlycreated Community Action Network vowed to take action to tackle long-standing concerns in and around Fordbridge.
Castle Bromwich Singers celebrated their 50th year with a Christmas concert produced by Stella Aston - a local woman who had been involved since the group’s very first meeting!
More details emerged about the plans to recreate Meriden Park’s much-missed Bogey on the Stick sculpture.
There was alarm that a fund which helped charities, including Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, was to be restructured by the local authority.
The final Full Council meeting of the new year saw residents lambast congestion problems on the Chester Road, through Chelmsley Wood.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Car overturns in Castle Bromwich crash

WRECKAGE: The crash near the Castle Practice Surgery
Picture/ @CVSHResponse

POLICE were called to a Castle Bromwich street following a late night car crash.
Officers arrived to find a silver Ford Focus had collided with a lamp post in Hazelhurst Road, overturning and hitting a garden wall.
The incident happened yesterday morning (Friday) at around midnight, with some residents living near the scene of the collision having reported hearing a loud bang.
A West Midlands Police spokesman said: "A 31-year-old man suspected of being the driver was arrested nearby on suspicion of being unfit to drive through drink or drugs and was taken to hospital for treatment to injuries sustained in the crash. His injuries aren’t life threatening."
Fire crews and the electricity company were also called out amid concerns about the damage which had been done to the lamp post.
The incident comes at one of the busiest times of the year for road traffic teams, who tend to step up efforts to tackle drink driving over the course of the festive break.

Temporary closure of Castle Bromwich Library

CASTLE Bromwich Library will close for refurbishment work from lunchtime today (Saturday).
The temporary closure is to allow for improvements to the building's doors and windows, with the branch set to re-open on Thursday, January 18 (from 10am).
A Solihull Council spokesman said: "During this time there will be an extended loan period, so that people can keep books out for a slightly longer loan period than usual."
Alternatively books can be returned to the Hurst Lane Clinic, next door, or any one of the other 13 borough libraries (the nearest are at Kingshurst, Smith's Wood and Chelmsley Wood).
Regular visitors to Castle Bromwich should be aware that the mobile library service will be visiting Chestnut Court, Chester Road, this coming Thursday (January 4). It will be visiting from 1.15-2.00pm.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Review of the Year: Part 1

OTHER Side of Solihull looks back on the major news stories from across the local area during the course of the past 12 months.

IT may have been a mild winter, but as the year began the police received a frosty reception in Castle Bromwich.
Scores of residents had packed into a parish council meeting to confront an inspector over rising levels of crime in the suburb.
We revealed how one family had been left furious after masked men had tried to break in while their teenage daughter was alone in the house – only for officers to stand down the emergency response.
From calls for more boots on the ground, to a ban on trainers in the classroom – the CTC was unamused after more than 100 students turned up in casual footwear. A prank note was apparently to blame.
There was also anger among customers at HSBC, after the bank confirmed it would be closing the Castle Brom branch in the summer.
Over in Chelmsley Wood, residents in Lambeth Close implored the council to end the uncertainty over the future of their bungalows.
While in more cheerful news, old film footage discovered in a loft shed light on life in Marston Green many decades ago.

ONCE again residents were concerned about over-development - with Smith’s Wood councillor Mark Wilson arguing it would be “a calamity” if Auckland Hall closed its doors.
The possible loss of Bosworth Wood playing fields was also causing concern, with local mum Stacey Lanchester suggesting this would spell the end for a junior football club.
Elsewhere on the estate, it was confirmed that the Sports College had decided to close its sixth form in response to a dwindling roll-call.
Boy racers were back in the news, with those living near the Collector Road growing increasingly
frustrated by the regular bike rallies taking place on the dual carriageway.
There was also a lot of noise being made about dog mess, with the revelation that it cost Solihull Council £80,000 a year to empty the bins.

COUNCIL tax bills were hiked up by borough councillors, as the local authority admitted it was struggling to meet the mounting costs of social care.
Rather more appetising than a rates rise was the food cooked up by Marston Green school chef, Jose Davies Kochakkadan, who made it to the final stage of the National School Chef of the Year Awards.
After many years of hard work, the Three Trees Centre celebrated the official opening of its revamped premises...
Although later in the month, the community venue was left baffled by an apparent complaint to the police about a poster advertising a screening of the film 1984!
Chelmsley Wood residents learned that the HS2 rail development, which will rattle past Yorkminster Drive, had finally received the green light.
And we uncovered statistics which revealed that people living in Smith’s Wood and Kingshurst were among the most likely in Solihull to be involved in a road accident.

POLITICIANS crossed swords over the possibility of Solihull releasing more land for housing – always a concern in the densely populated wards locally.
From green belt to blue beds, denim fibres were used to prepare the ground for a number of a new wildflower beds in North Solihull.
Castle Bromwich takeaway Lime Pickle announced it was naming a dish in memory of regular customer Alan Watkinson who had died in a road crash.
There was a terrific response to the launch of the B37 Project – a Chelmsley Wood arts initiative which briefly occupied an empty unit in the town’s shopping centre.
Residents also rallied behind the Meriden Adventure Playground, which was reeling from the news that Solihull Council was to withdraw funding.
We visited the facility to meet parents and volunteers and formally launched a campaign encouraging people to help keep the playground open.
As the month drew to a close, allotment holders in Kingshurst were left fuming by a spate of arson attacks on the site.

STREET Associations set up in Smith’s Wood and other local communities were hailed for bringing neighbours together.
There was rather less good feeling in Cooks Lane, where a learner driver’s test was brought to an abrupt end after it was alleged the instructor’s car wasn’t insured.
Two sisters from Chelmsley Wood were somewhat luckier, after they won £300,000 on a scratch card
– receiving their winnings despite ripping the ticket during their celebrations.
Police appealed for help in solving a terrifying robbery, in which an 88-year-old man from Smith’s Wood was threatened by intruders in his own home.
There was also a plea for help from a Castle Bromwich family, who had lost a treasured timepiece in a burglary.
In what proved to be one of our most viewed stories of the year, National Express confirmed sweeping changes to North Solihull’s bus network – a move which infuriated many passengers.
Claims that areas including Kingshurst had been “cut off” by the shake-up would continue to be heard throughout the year.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Police cuts lay bare the challenge for the force locally.

THE West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has rubbished claims by the Government that overall crime is falling.
David Jamieson, a former councillor for Kingshurst and Fordbridge, gave a stark assessment of the challenges facing officers when he addressed Solihull Council this month.
He revealed that since 2010, the force’s budget had been cut by £145million (around a quarter of the total) and it had lost around 3,000 staff (two thirds of whom were uniformed officers).
“Sometimes you will hear government ministers say that crime is reducing, well you just have to go around your own ward and ask that question...
“Crime is not reducing. Some crimes have reduced, some have increased and some crimes have increased in importance.”
The Commissioner also took a number of questions from borough councillors on matters of concern locally.
Coun Mark Wilson (Green, Smith’s Wood) wanted to know why it was that crime was on the rise.
While Mr Jamieson said that there was perhaps a greater willingness for people to report certain incidents – such as sexual offences – cuts had also played their part.
“The blue line is thinner than it was. That’s just a fact. We’ve got 3,000 fewer people now working on crime in the West Midlands than we had seven years ago, so that must be a contributory factor to it.”
Only this week, a survey suggested that almost half of people had not seen a uniformed officer patrolling their area at any point this year.
The poll, conducted by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, found that the number of respondents in England and Wales who had not seen a single patrol over the course of the 12 months had risen to 44 per cent. This was up from 41 per cent in 2016 and 36 per cent the year before that.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Couple sentenced over animal charity fraud

"PURE GREED": Simon and Alayna Price were sentenced on December 22

A FORMER charity boss from Marston Green has been jailed for five years after admitting defrauding Birmingham Dogs Home out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Simon Price, 53, who had been the charity's chief executive, was handed a custodial sentence last week after admitting multiple counts of fraud by abuse of position.
His wife Alayna, 39, who had worked as the organisation's commercial manager and head of fundraising, received a two year suspended prison term for her part in the the fraud.
Birmingham Crown Court had heard that specialist investigators from West Midlands Police had begun looking into the couple's dealings last November, when the Dogs Home first reported that £399,274 had gone missing from the sale of a property in Digbeth, Birmingham.
It transpired that Simon Price, who oversaw the transaction, had instructed for proceeds to be paid into his own bank account having claimed it was a business account used by the charity.
He was arrested and subsequently admitted stealing more than £650,000 − money donated by members of the public for animal welfare − and squandering it through online gambling.
Enquiries revealed that he created bogus invoices from solicitors, construction companies and marketing firms − and authorised payments straight into his own account − while his wife stole £250,000 left to the charity in people's wills.
Det Con Arron Cox, from the Economic Crime Unit, said the pair’s home in Somerton Drive, plus another property they owned and rented out in Wheelwright Road, Erdington, had been seized by the force.
He added: "We have control of those properties and will be looking to seize them under the Proceeds of Crime Act and sell them… with the profit being handed back to the Dogs Home.
"We will also be looking to take whatever other assets or cash the couple has that we can show was accrued through this fraud and again refunding the charity. We will do all we can to ensure as much money is paid back as possible.
"This fraud was motivated by pure greed: between them they took home handsome salaries but still felt the need to steal from the charity. And of course they were taking money that had been donated by generous people in the West Midlands and beyond − money that was earmarked for animal care but instead was splashed on gambling and a lavish lifestyle."
The Prices were both previously of good character and the Judge, Patrick Thomas QC, said that he had taken into account that Mrs Price was pregnant in deciding not to impose an immediate custodial sentence.
Birmingham Dogs Home, which was founded in 1892, had moved to a new purpose-built base near Catherine-de-Barnes in 2015.
John Wheatley, the charity's chairman, said: "We remain bitterly disappointed that a position of trust was abused in such a manner, but we now look to the future under the guidance of our new CEO and with measures in place to ensure something like this never happens again.
"Some of the funds have now been returned and we remain hopeful that more can be recovered. We will work closely with the relevant authorities to do all we can on this matter.
"Once again we would like to thank our wonderful supporters for standing with us and helping us to continue to care for our dogs during an exceptionally difficult time."

Parakeet population reaches North Solihull

TALKING POINT: Two of the birds tuck in to a pre-Christmas feast of
sunflower hearts.

AT this time of year people might expect to see finches, sparrows and a robin or two on their feeders...
But those living in North Solihull should start to keep their eye out for a rather more exotic visitor to their gardens - the ringed-necked parakeet!
The species - which has vivid green plumage and a distinctive red beak - is native to Africa and Asia.
In recent years, feral populations of the brightly coloured parrot have become increasingly common in suburban London and the South East. Indeed, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has suggested that the British population could now be as large as 32,000.
Sightings in the West Midlands are much rarer, although back in 2012, scientists had suggested that the colonies in and around the capital were migrating to the region.
Now there have been a number of reports in and around the Cole Valley; indeed Other Side of Solihull's editor spotted two of the birds in his back garden on Christmas Eve.
We'd like readers' help in trying to determine how widespread the species is locally. So if you've seen a parakeet in the North Solihull area let us know.


  • The ringed-necked parakeets have rapidly established themselves in the UK in the space of a few decades, adapting to our colder climate and finding a plentiful supply of food.
  • Stories about how the population got started are almost as colourful as the birds themselves. Some claim that several specimens escaped during filming on the action-adventure film The African Queen - shot in London in the early 1950s. Others report that the late guitar legend Jimi Hendrix released a couple of the parakeets in Carnaby Street during the Swinging Sixties.
  • There are concerns that the expanding population could ultimately pose problems for farmers and might out-compete native species such as nuthatches and woodpeckers.

Call for committee to protect Marston Green's green belt

LOST LAND: Moat House Farm is one of the sites which has been
developed in recent years.

MARSTON Green is now almost “totally surrounded” by industrial development, borough councillors were warned this month.
Local woman Pat Preece called for greater protection of the green belt, amid concerns that swathes of open space are being built on in and around the village.
Addressing Full Council on behalf of residents, Ms Preece spoke of fears that there were too many loopholes in the laws put in place to prevent urban sprawl.
“There is a get-out clause and this seems to be to use the words ‘only in exceptional circumstances’ as an excuse whenever a decision is made to build on green belt land.
“It’s truly amazing how many exceptional circumstances there are in Solihull MBC.”
Noting that the village already experienced gridlock on a regular basis, Ms Preece said that other developments in the pipeline would only make matters worse.
These include Arden Cross, a 4,000 home development near Stonebridge, and the 24-7 warehouse distribution centre on the outskirts of the village.
“Given the imminent development of these projects we would like to propose to the council that the needs of the environment should take first priority. At the moment, the well-being of the citizen comes last.”
In an effort to address the problem, she said that residents were in favour of setting up a committee, comprising of both local people and borough and parish councillors, to promote green development.
The task force they are proposing would also focus on the preservation of ancient trees and efforts to create more walking routes between the village’s green spaces.
Councillor Ian Courts, cabinet member for managed growth, insisted that the local authority had often resisted attempts by developers to push for “massively increased” housing targets.
“I would expect that every member here would share my concern, and this council’s concern, for protection of the green belt,” he said.
“It is a legal obligation that Solihull has to cater for its housing need and indeed it also has to make a contribution for some of its neighbours who are unable to deal with their own housing growth.”
Coun Courts noted that the latest version of the borough’s Local Plan would see the removal of around two per cent of the green belt - well below the proportions set to be sacrificed by the likes of Birmingham and Manchester.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Hundreds of hampers collected for Christmas appeal

GREAT RESPONSE: Pupils from Coleshill Heath Primary
GENEROUS residents have turned out in force to support the North Solihull Christmas hamper appeal.
Almost 300 boxes were packed full of food stuffs and have been delivered to the elderly and vulnerable residents in the run-up to December 25.
A whole range of businesses and organisations threw their support behind the campaign, which is now in its third year.
Among those singled out for praise include pupils at Fordbridge and Coleshill Heath Primary Schools (pictured, right), the Bosworth Community Centre and Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council.
In a statement on Facebook, the organisers said: “You are all truly amazing. Thank you so much.”

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Village's knitted Christmas tree goes on tour...

A TOWERING fir made in Marston Green took pride of place at the recent Coleshill Christmas Tree Festival.
The tree, strung with hundreds of hand-knitted decorations, was first unveiled at St Leonard’s Church last year.
Earlier this month it was transported to St Peter and St Paul’s over the border in Warwickshire and took several days to assemble.
Its tour of the region is expected to continue in 2018, with an appearance at St Mary and St Margaret’s, Castle Bromwich.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Council under pressure over Chester Road congestion

CONTROVERSY: Changes to the Chester Road have caused considerable
tailbacks, with residents suggesting that two lanes should be reinstated

TRAFFIC problems on a main route through North Solihull are now leading to nearby workers handing in their notice, councillors were warned this month.
At the recent Full Council meeting, Chelmsley Wood resident Fran Rickard said local people were having to contend with continuous disruption along the A452 Chester Road.
Previously a stretch of the road was reduced from a dual carriageway to a single lane, a cycle lane installed and three new pedestrian crossings added.
While Ms Rickard said she understood the reasoning from a road safety perspective, she was concerned that the changes had led to major congestion – with tailbacks stretching all the way to Birmingham Business Park.
Major jams are also reported on neighbouring routes including the Collector Road, Moorend Avenue and Coleshill Heath Road, with fears the situation could get even worse when construction work on HS2 begins.
“The vehicles are actually sitting idling most of the day, especially in the rush hour,” said Ms Rickard, who lives in Tay Croft.
“I’ve lived in the borough for 47 years and have worked at Birmingham Business Park for 20 years and I really do know this area well. What used to take me ten minutes to get to work now takes up to 40 minutes both ways.”
She told members that the noise, delays and traffic fumes were having a major impact on local people, and indeed some staff employed at nearby companies were quitting their jobs because of the time their commute was taking.
“What I’m asking is can the road layout be revisited and returned to a dual carriageway?”
Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) had introduced Ms Rickard at the meeting and took to Twitter to thank her for raising the issue.
Solihull Council’s cabinet member for transport and highways, Councillor Ted Richards, said he recognised “how important the A452 in this location is”.
“We are aware there are currently localised congestion issues. The council has successfully secured £200,000 from the West Midlands Combined Authority to undertake a corridor enhancement study.”
The research will help identify priority schemes which might ease the traffic, although Coun Richards said it was imperative that steps taken to solve short-term issues didn’t cause further problems down the line. The study is expected to be completed by the spring of next year.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Latest edition of our digital newspaper out now.

THIS year's final edition of Other Side of Solihull is available to download now at Issuu.
If you have stories or suggestions for our next edition please contact us.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A rail Christmas classic being shown in Kingshurst

KEC Church Centre will be hosting a family 'film night' with a festive theme.
The Cooks Lane venue is screening The Polar Express tomorrow (Thursday) from 4.00-5.30pm.
The popular animation features the voice talents of Tom Hanks and Eddie Deezen.
Admission is free.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Outdoor carol service in Chelmsley Wood

A TRADITIONAL carol service will be taking place at Chelmund's Cross tomorrow evening (Tuesday).
The 'Carols on the Green' event is to be held outside the Three Trees Centre, Hedingham Grove.
The event is free and will run from 6.30-7.00pm. Don't forget to bring a lantern if you have one!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Review: Jack and the Beanstalk

PANTO'S PEOPLE: Malcolm Stent with Rebecca Ross (left) as Jack Trot
and Lorren Winwood as Tilly Trump

Jack and the Beanstalk, The Core Theatre, Solihull
AFTER 30 different productions, local funnyman Malcolm Stent is about to put his pantomime career...behind him.
Yes, having performed at The Core (formerly Solihull Arts Complex, formerly the Library Theatre) in an unbroken run stretching back to the early nineties, the comedian has decided that this year's run of Jack and the Beanstalk will be his last.
On this evidence it's a fitting finale, taking all the ingredients which have made previous productions so popular and mixing in topical references to a certain Mr Trump and Prince Harry's upcoming wedding celebrations.
Perhaps given the fact that this is Stent's swansong, the show seems to place a more obvious dividing line between the story of magic beans and the song and stand-up interludes that the comedian has made his own.
Fortunately neither half suffers. The panto itself continues to punch well-above its weight, with a dizzying array of scene and costume changes. We have an actual Giant - rather than just a disembodied voice from the back of the theatre - and a slapstick scene involving Flossie the cow is milked for all its worth (pun completely intended).
Rebecca Ross makes for a gung-ho Jack, while Marcus Fernando - who has become the theatre's go-to bad guy - has real fun as Fleshcreep; even if several weeks of stage smoke has wreaked havoc with his vocal cords.
As for his repartee with the audience, Stent continues to make good-natured fun of his adopted hometown (he grew up, of course, in Saltley.) He claims that the people of Dorridge have discovered a rather curious way of pronouncing the name of the village to avoid it rhyming with a popular breakfast choice, and jokes that Knowle residents are so posh that they make trips to the bin with a briefcase.
In many ways, the festive show has done more to bind the different communities of Solihull together than any number of slightly muddled council initiatives. With this in mind, I think all of the borough will be rather sad to see the end of an era. Oh yes it will!
Jack and the Beanstalk runs until January 2.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Traffic plans to go on show at parish hall

A ROADSHOW taking place in Marston Green will give residents the chance to discuss a congestion-busting scheme aimed at easing traffic at a major bottleneck.
Around £282million is to be spent on a project to improve the flow of vehicles at the junction of the M42 and the A45 Coventry Road.
Highways England will be presenting the plans to the public at a series of events taking place around the borough next month.
The proposals will be on show at Marston Green Parish Hall, Elmdon Road, on Wednesday, January 17. The event will run from 12noon-8pm.
Views expressed by the public will inform the planning application, which Highways England expects will be lodged late next year.
Subject to approval being granted in 2019, construction work is calculated to be completed in 2023.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

MP welcomes tougher line on animal cruelty

MERIDEN MP Caroline Spelman has spoken in favour of proposals to usher in tougher punishments for animal cruelty offences.
A draft bill unveiled by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove would increase the maximum prison sentence for those who mistreat animals to five years (it is just six months at present).
Dame Caroline said: "Animals are sentient beings who feel pain and suffering, which is why I will support the Government's proposals to ensure that this principle is effectively written into law in order to protect their welfare."

Monday, 11 December 2017

Police appeal after Castle Brom break-in

DO you recognise these men?
Police would like to speak to them in connection with a burglary in Clayton Drive, Castle Bromwich earlier this month.
The break-in happened overnight on the weekend of December 2-3.
A rear window was smashed at the victims' home, with the burglars stealing items including car keys and two laptops.
If you can identify the men in these images, please contact officers on 101 (giving reference 20SH/262561T/17).

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Weather Update: School closures, gritting runs, buses...

WHITE WATER: Babbs Mill earlier today
Picture by Jayne Robinson
ALL Solihull Council-run schools will be closed tomorrow (Monday) in response to heavy snowfall.
The blanket closure, affecting all schools which are part of the local authority, was confirmed this afternoon.
Academies, which are independent of the borough council, have been left to make their own decision - although the advice of officers has been for them to follow suit.
By 6pm this evening, Park Hall, CTC Kingshurst Academy, Grace Academy, Smith's Wood Academy and John Henry Newman Catholic College had all posted notices on their respective websites to confirm they would not be opening.
Solihull Council has announced that its gritting teams will be out at 7pm and again at 4am in an effort to keep the roads clear.
While current forecasts suggest that snow will stop falling before dawn, there are concerns that the freezing temperatures will make for treacherous conditions - particularly on the side streets which are untreated by gritting lorries.
National Express West Midlands - which suspended all bus services earlier today - has said it will be providing an update as to which routes will be operating tomorrow at around 5am.

Wintry weather grips the borough

NORTH Solihull woke to a thick blanket of snow this morning.
An Amber weather warning is in place across the West Midlands, with forecasters suggesting that up to 10cm of the white stuff would be reported in large parts of the region.
The snowfall has caused widespread disruption, with National Express West Midlands confirming that all services had been suspended until further notice.
The rail network has also been hit by delays in what could be a difficult first day for London Northwestern - which has just taken over the West Midlands franchise from London Midland.
The adverse conditions have also forced local people to cancel a number of Christmas events, with the winter woodland walk at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens (due to take place today) having been called off.
The snow is expected to continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning and although Monday is currently forecast to be bright and sunny, daytime temperatures are unlikely to get above zero. In fact, the Met Office is currently suggesting that the mercury could fall to as low as -6 celsius early on Tuesday.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Looking back on 50 years with Castle Bromwich Singers

IT is 50 years since Stella Aston was asked to play piano for a new group of performers.
And half a century on, the retired school teacher is still a key member of the Castle Bromwich Singers and, indeed, is currently producing their forthcoming show.
Originally from Bolton, Stella recalls being asked to get involved shortly after starting at Castle Bromwich Infant School.
She was one of half a dozen ladies who attended the first rehearsal in Poplars Drive in April 1967.
“I didn’t really think about how long it would last,” said the mum-of- two. “When you’re in your 20s you don’t really consider what you’re going to be doing in your 70s.”
Over the years, Stella has been involved in scores of shows, with highlights including playing the part of Charlie Chaplin and performing at Villa Park.
“When we started the focus was on more classical music, but we moved into doing popular music as well – which at the beginning would have been bands like The Beatles.
“We do try to keep things up-to-date [the group recently added modern-day chart-topper Jess Glynne to its repertoire]. When you see the reaction of the children in the audience, you hope they will take a shine to it.”
The variety is reflected in the age range of members, which runs from a couple of 17-year-old girls through to a woman of 96!
Despite Stella’s many decades with the group, she was nonetheless bowled over to be recently told she had won a Solihull Borough Civic Award - recognising her contribution to the arts locally.
“I was amazed when I had the envelope come through. The committee had nominated me but they hadn’t said anything. To be honest I didn’t believe it.”
• Castle Bromwich Singers’ Christmas show will be taking place at the Baptist Church, Timberley Lane on December 12. Rehearsals take place at the same venue every Tuesday evening (7.30-10pm), with new members always welcome.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Sleigh routes for 2017 confirmed

FATHER Christmas will be doing the rounds in North Solihull from Monday night.
The popular sleigh routes have once again been organised by Marston Green & District Lions, with extra roads confirmed for this year's timetable.
The club advises that they will try to get round every street on the rota, although their licence means that they can only stop out until 9pm.
For more information about the Lions and the good causes they support locally, please visit their website.

Monday, December 11 (6.30-9pm)
Charlbury Avenue, Lambourne Grove, Hillys Croft, Ilkley Grove, Kettlewell Way, Grassington Drive, Leyburn Road, Buckden Close, Oxford Grove and Chichester Grove.

Tuesday, December 12 (6.30-9pm)
Perch Avenue, Grantley Drive, Pendrell Close, Conway Road, Stapleton Drive, Fencote Avenue, Elmore Close, Hadfield Way and Anstey Croft.

Wednesday, December 13 (6.30-9pm)
Clopton Crescent, Newby Grove, Tyne Close, Runcorn Close, Tay Croft, Alder Drive, Rowan Way, Box Road and Whitebeam Road.

Thursday, December 14 (6.30-9pm)
Bluebell Drive, Yorkminster Drive*, Lyecroft Avenue, Foxland Close, Waterson Croft, Ryeclose Croft, Hawksworth Road, Drake Croft, Hawksworth Road, Kitegreen Close, Heathgreen Close and Partridge Close.

Friday, December 15 (6.30-9pm)
Pike Drive, Bream Close, Graylings Walk, Chilham Drive, Ludlow Close, Wardour Drive, Penrith Grove and Drummond Way.

Saturday, December 16 (3-6.30pm)
Elmdon Lane, Canterbury Drive, Greenway, Newlands Lane, Digby Drive, Elmdon Road, Somerton Drive, Ashfield Lane, Moat House Lane, Wolverton Road, Rotherby Grove, Farndon Avenue, Hidcote Grove, St Leonard’s Close, Land Lane, Hall Drive and Aylesford Drive.

Sunday, December 17 (3-6.30pm)
Bickenhill Lane, Coleshill Road, Station Road, Chelmsley Lane, Alcott Lane, The Orchard, Holly Lane, Moseley Drive, Martin Rise, Marston Croft, Elm Farm Avenue, Wayside, Bickenhill Road, The Oaklands, Mowe Croft, Brook Croft, Bickenhill Road and Lyndon Croft.

Monday, December 18 (6.30-9pm)
Stokesay Close, Keepers Gate, Carisbrooke Avenue, Starkey Way, Longley Walk, Wavers Marston and Clarksland Grove.

Tuesday, December 19 (6.30-9pm)
Hamar Way, Shirland Avenue, Ludworth Avenue, Holbrook Grove, Enville Close, Costock Close, Maple Leaf Drive, Byford Way, Harby Close and Radlow Crescent.

*Please note that the sleigh only travels along Yorkminster Drive from Bluebell Drive to Waterson

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Gritters do the rounds with snow expected overnight

GRITTING teams are out in Solihull this evening as the borough braces for its first spell of properly wintry weather.
Snow is expected to fall from 3am, with forecasts that flurries of the white stuff will continue throughout tomorrow and over the weekend, with daytime temperatures struggling to get above zero.
The Met Office has indicated that between 2-5cm will be reported fairly widely tomorrow (Friday), with deeper drifts over high ground.
Solihull Council has previously suggested it is well-prepared for harsher weather conditions, having experienced a particularly mild winter last year.
Nine new gritting lorries have been brought into service in an effort to keep the roads moving.
Councillor Ted Richards, cabinet member for transport and highways, said: "Motorists’ safety is a priority for the council and we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that daily life can carry on as normal during freezing temperatures.
"I would, however, still like to remind motorists to take extra care when out and about during cold months."

Council planners accused of "ineptitude" over Marston Green scheme

A WOMAN whose home is a stone’s throw from Birmingham Business Park has criticised the decision to approve plans for two “gigantic” warehouses on a tract of green space.
Glenis Heappey, who has lived in Blackfirs Lane for the past 20 years, condemned Solihull Council’s handling of the controversial application.
Addressing a recent Full Council meeting, Ms Heappey noted that a decision had been deferred twice since outline planning permission was granted in October 2016.
Although concerns had been expressed by members at previous meetings of the planning committee, the application was ultimately rubber-stamped in October.
This was in spite of the fact that an investigation into the planning process, ordered in light of earlier criticism, was not available when councillors voted. Other Side of Solihull has since learned that frustrated residents are yet to learn the outcome of this probe - some eight weeks later.
Ms Heappey accused the planning department of “ineptitude” and said that residents felt “badly let down”, arguing there were many more appropriate sites for the development.
“[This has] condemned the residents of Blackfirs Lane to living as part of a massive industrial estate for years to come,” she said.
“We are seriously disappointed with the council’s planning department.
“We have never been against having suitable buildings erected on this site to create jobs for the area – far from it – but we are against huge structures opposite our home, which will dominate the landscape and create noise and toxic fumes around the clock, every day of the year.”
At the decision-making session a few days earlier, another resident, Alec Inshaw, said the consideration of the development had been “flawed from start to finish”.
And Richard Cobb, speaking on behalf of Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council, said that despite some improvements to the proposals, the principal concerns remained.
Councillor Jim Ryan (Con, Bickenhill) had questioned whether it was “right and proper” to take a decision before the investigation into alleged failings in the planning department was completed.
However, the planning committee’s chairman, Coun David Bell, had argued the application and the investigation were separate matters. This view was shared bythe council’s solicitor Sherrie Grant.
The plans were ultimately approved by a majority of the committee (with seven out of nine members  in favour).

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Castle Bromwich school crossing falls victim to cuts

SAVINGS: The council is looking
to shave £100k from its annual budget
A CROSSING patrol in Castle Bromwich is among those set to be wound up as part of a controversial council cost-cutting drive.
Earlier this year, Other Side of Solihull revealed that the borough council was considering a dramatic reduction in the budget available for crossing patrols. In order to save £100,000 a year, Solihull Council has set out plans to “disestablish” a total of 22 sites.
First in the firing line are eight locations where there is a facility such as a Zebra or Pelican crossing as well as a traffic warden. This includes the crossing in Hurst Lane North, opposite Castle Bromwich Junior School.
Last month, Councillor Ted Richards, cabinet member for transport and highways, approved plans to do away with the lollipop person along that stretch of road and at seven other sites.
He told fellow members it “wasn’t an easy decision”.
“At the end of the day I have to ask the question if you have any other thoughts about where we’re going to save £100,000?”
Earlier in the meeting, representatives of opposition parties had voiced some misgivings about the process.
Coun Glenis Slater (Lib Dem, Elmdon) said the plans gave her “a great cause for concern” and specifically identified Hurst Lane North as “an extremely busy area”.
“It’s a very, very well-used road, there’s a lot of vehicles on that road and it’s not just cars, it’s buses as well and big trucks and all sorts of things. There’s quite a lot of inconsiderate parking down that road as well. Personally I think it’s a mistake, a great big mistake, that the council are making.”
Council highways officer Paul Tovey argued that the eight crossings were something of an anomaly, with around 120 similar sites already operating without the presence of a warden.
“People manage to use those 120 very safely,” he said. “But I do appreciate it is a change and certainly we can offer support to those schools where we do take away that facility...”
Solihull Council has said it does not envisage making any redundancies at this stage, given that there are around 10 vacancies at other sites, which would enable the local authority to “shuffle the pack” and redeploy the wardens affected.
The council admits, however, that the jobs situation may need to be reviewed as it considers the future of more than a dozen other patrols.

Another view:
A crossing warden we spoke to from another council area said they believed the role was still very important.
 “Children are distracted on their way to and from school,” said the mum-of-three. “They’re either staring at their phones or chatting to friends.
“We provide a vital service, not only making sure they cross the road safely, but we add another line of defence safeguarding them from harm. I get paid just over £200 a month – I’m sure any parent would consider that money well spent.”

Car set ablaze in Chelmsley Wood street

EMERGENCY RESPONSE: Fire crews dowse the flames.
Picture/Sheldon Fire Station

FIREFIGHTERS were called to a Chelmsley Wood cul-de-sac after a car was set alight right next to an open gas main.
The vehicle is believed to have been torched by arsonists in Cornfield Croft - just off Yorkminster Drive - yesterday evening (Tuesday).
The alarm was raised at around 10.30pm, with eight firefighters from Sheldon Fire Station arriving to douse the blaze.
Fortunately no-one was injured in the incident, although the car's proximity to the gas main meant that the flames could well have triggered an explosion if circumstances had been slightly different.
If you have any information about the fire call Solihull Police on 101.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Pupils offer suggestions for brand-new Bogey on a Stick

EFFORTS to resurrect Chelmsley Wood’s “Bogey on a Stick” are starting to gather pace.
Other Side of Solihull revealed last year that the Meriden Park public artwork – removed by Solihull Council seven years ago – was to be recreated.
Last month, Gro-Organic, the social enterprise which first came up with the idea to install a new Bogey, invited residents to have their say on what the new sculpture should look like. The organisation has already asked pupils at Fordbridge Primary, Bishop Wilson CofE Primary and Windy Arbor Primary to create their own interpretation.
The decision to involve local children in the design process is in line with the creation of the original artwork more than 30 years ago.
Residents also have the opportunity to contribute to the process by dropping in concepts to the Enterprise Centre, at Chelmund’s Cross.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Warning over latest telephone scam in North Solihull

SCAMMERS posing as telecoms engineers are reportedly ringing homes in North Solihull.
Police have confirmed reports from residents in Chelmsley Wood, Fordbridge and Marston Green, who are being called by conmen posing as workers from BT Openreach.
The crooks claim that they have identified a problem with the homeowner's computer and try to cajole their victim into giving them remote access to the machine.
Their hope is to gain access to online bank accounts.
A West Midlands Police spokesman said: "If you haven't already reported a problem with your computer and you get a call out of the blue the chances are it's a scam.
"BT will not cold call you and ask for remote access to your computer, Do not give your personal information, computer password or bank account details to anyone who cold calls over the phone."

Changes to charity support "as clear as mud"

COUNCIL FUNDING: Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens has received
support through the Community Initiatives Fund.

SOLIHULL Council has faced criticism after confirming a decision to scrap the Community Initiatives Fund (CIF), which has this year pumped around half a million pounds into charities and voluntary groups.
Last  month, councillors agreed to shut down the fund in its current form, having heard evidence
that it was “no longer fit for purpose”.
The decision is likely to cause disquiet among the beneficiaries, despite assurances from the local authority that support for organisations will continue via a new arrangement.
A total of £471,450 has been shared between five good causes in 2017/18. Among them Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, which received £37,000, and Age UK, which picked up £71,640.
The single largest sum (£241,800) was awarded to Citizens Advice Solihull, which has a branch in Chelmsley Wood town centre.
Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) was among those to raise concerns about the funding changes.
“The report [explaining this] was as clear as mud,” he told Other Side of Solihull.
“DIAL, based in Kingshurst, which supports disabled people, have already had a huge cut in their funding in recent years.
“I’m keen we don’t see the same with Sustain, the CAB, Age UK or other much-loved organisations. The Green Party group will be keeping a close eye on this.”
Coun Williams noted that guarantees about funding to the current beneficiaries do not extend beyond 2018 and suggested the move was part of a general trend of cutting support to the voluntary sector.
In response to criticism, Solihull Council has described the new arrangements as “an administrative change”, arguing that much of the money in the old fund had become tied up in contracts.
Councillor Karen Grinsell, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “The decision will not have any impact on the current 2017-18 spending plans.
“The dissolution of the CIF does not change any of the contracts associated with the budgets.”

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Oddities spotted over North Solihull

STRANGE objects were spotted in the skies above Castle Bromwich earlier today (Sunday).
A local resident, who asked not to be named, noticed three dark-coloured objects heading towards the Hodge Hill area at around 12noon.
They managed to snap this photo as they passed overhead - with the admittedly blurry image showing markings vaguely reminiscent of military-style camouflage. So is it a drone, a high-flying shopping bag or something more sinister? The truth is up there...

Teenager takes top education award

SUM OF HER EFFORTS: Ellie De'Athe and the Grace Academy's Assistant
Principal Shaun Donald.

A STUDENT from the Grace Academy was among the star pupils recognised at the Solihull Borough Education Awards.
Ellie De’Athe was named as the borough’s Most Improved Maths Student, after impressing teachers at the Chelmsley Wood school.
Having been shortlisted earlier this year, the Year 12 pupil was hand-picked from a long list of nominees.
"In Years 7 and 8 I wasn’t good at anything and really struggled," she said.
"However, I hate failing so I made a decision to turn my life around. I started revising and revising and, for me, it was a great motivator to have competition.  My friend Sophie challenged me and, because she was my friend, it made it fun and we had a laugh.
"I knew I wanted to try harder and that is what I did.  I was always asked by my teacher, Shaun Donald, if I wanted to move up a set because he believed in me.  Shaun Donald was the main reason I got such a high grade in Maths."
Ellie is now considering going on to study criminology or photography at university.
Coun Ken Meeson, cabinet member for children, education and skills, said: "The judging panel were hugely impressed with the number of outstanding nominations and the winners can take great pride in being chosen from such a strong field."

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Those who live alone invited to Chelmsley Xmas dinner

BOSWORTH Community Centre is planning to organise a special lunch for those people who would otherwise spend Christmas Day on their own.
Up to 20 people will be able to share a meal at the Chelmsley Wood venue on December 25.
Figures from Age UK suggest that around 873,000 older people will have little or no contact with anybody else over the festive period.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: "For many lonely older people the festive season also brings back memories of happier times in years gone by, reminding them of partners and other close relatives and friends who are no longer around and who they sorely miss."
The community centre's Christmas lunch will be taking place from 12.15-3.00pm. Space is limited, so to reserve a spot call 0121 770 8570.

Warning over Solihull's "shrinking" school budgets

CUTS in funding have left education services “heading for an iceberg”, Solihull Council has been told.
A long-running row about the resources available to schools was reignited at a recent Full Council meeting, during which a number of teachers outlined the problems they were facing on a daily basis.
Local parents have been campaigning for months for the issue to be addressed and with calls for action intensifying, Solihull Green Party presented a motion calling on the local authority to acknowledge that the situation was “unsustainable”.
Claire Melia, a school governor and a member of Fair Funding for Solihull Schools, said that over the next five years real terms funding per child would fall by £180 every year.
“That translates into an average reduction of £50,000 per primary school per year,” said the mum-of-two. “How can this be good for any of us?
“We know that local headteachers will do everything in their power to minimise the impact of the funding shortfall, but without your support local school budgets will simply continue to shrink.”
Teacher Coleman Doyle suggested that money was so tight that each child was allocated one pencil for every half-term and teachers were having to buy old library books from charity shops.
“I’m in the frontline, I’m in the trenches, fighting for your children and your grandchildren,” he told councillors, struggling to contain his emotion.
“If you don’t believe it, go to a classroom and find out. Not for a day, not for a week, for a term, for a year. Find out.”
Councillor James Burn (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said: “I’m hearing from councillors that all is really well and that money is sufficient, everything’s wonderful...
“And I’m hearing from teachers, including my mother... that actually the situation is really, really bad. That things haven’t been addressed.
“The question is who to believe and quite frankly I’d rather believe the teachers doing the job.”
Coun Ken Meeson, the cabinet member for children, education and skills, said that the council had been campaigning for years for fairer funding for schools, but argued that proposals put forward by the Government earlier this year would help matters.
“For years we have had a situation where schools in well-funded areas have had millions more in their budgets than Solihull schools.
“Some schools are still sitting on millions of pounds in reserves, are able to pay their headteachers more than the Prime Minister and, in some cases, supply every child with an iPad.”

Friday, 1 December 2017

Hundreds have their say on the future of North Solihull

YES WE CAN: Volunteer John Moose, chair of the steering group Simeon
Bright and volunteer co-ordinator Penny Keeling.

A PROJECT which aims to identify solutions to some of residents’ top priorities has been launched in North Solihull.
The Community Action Network (CAN) will be working with local people to address long-standing concerns, including the deterioration of parks and a lack of support for the area’s young people.
Over the summer, CAN members surveyed hundreds of residents in Fordbridge and surrounding areas, asking them what they liked about the community and those things they wanted to improve.
Chairman Simeon Bright said that local residents were ideally placed to push forward with initiatives which could make a real difference.
“It is clear that many people feel strongly about their area,” he said.
“Obviously now we’ve completed the survey, we don’t want it to just sit on a shelf. We will be looking at how we can move things forward.
“Sometimes people care about an issue, but it would be a real handful to tackle it on their own. It’s often when you get a few people together that they can make a difference.
“It’s these people, who have friends and family and extended family in the area, who are often best placed to do something. They understand the community because they live there and in many ways that's more helpful than having someone come in from outside.”
CAN was formally launched at the Bosworth Community Centre a few weeks ago, with a group of local people briefed about what was next for the project.
Penny Keeling, CAN’s volunteer coordinator, said: “The response from local residents [to the survey] was amazing.
“It showed real passion for the community in which we live and we will now look at how we can help the development of that community.”
Among those attending the Chelmsley Wood venue was Nicola Brady, who set up M.A.D. House – a facility for 11 to 18-year-olds.
CAN believes that this is “a shining example” of what can be achieved by residents, particularly in an area of services where there have been real concerns.
The organisation’s steering group is also pleased with the impact that a group for local mums, which meets weekly at the Community Centre, has had locally.
“Obviously there are constraints, but some of the things that can be done – which will make a difference – are actually fairly easy to get started,” said Simeon.
To find out more about CAN and how you can get involved visit their website.

What you want to see:

MORE than 400 residents took part in the survey, with locals asked their views at events including Chelmund’s Day.
Almost one in five of those questioned mentioned parks and open spaces, with many suggesting that the council did not value these areas as much as local people.
The decision to withdraw funding from Meriden Adventure Playground was a particularly sore point.
Around 15 per cent of respondents mentioned local policing and anti social behaviour, with off-road bikes and a lack of visible patrols among the main frustrations.
The single biggest theme to emerge was concern about the support available for children and young people and CAN intends to set up a group to look specifically at this issue.
Many of those surveyed felt that the closure of facilities ranging from Sure Start centres to the Kingshurst youth centre had taken its toll.
“This was something that came up time and time again,” said Simeon.
“There is a concern that there is not enough available and obviously that can store up massive problems for the future.”

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Chelmsley Wood charity suffers break-in

A CRUEL thief has targeted a charity which provides vital support for local people with learning disabilities.
Solihull Life Opportunities (SoLO), which is based in Chelmsley Wood, reported a break-in last Thursday evening (November 23).
Under cover of darkness, the culprit had smashed one of the windows at the charity's Walnut Close premises and stole the organisation's new smart TV. It's understood the alarm was raised by neighbours at around 9.30pm.
The crime comes just a few weeks after staff, volunteers and service users had celebrated the launch of the building's new extension, for which fundraisers had drummed up £145,000.
Writing on Facebook following the break-in, a SoLO spokesperson said: "This is a horrible and unfortunate situation and a very sad reflection on our society. Fortunately, nobody was hurt..."
There was an immediate outpouring of sympathy from local people, with Councillor Debbie Evans (UKIP, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) describing the crime as "absolutely heartbreaking."
A fundraising page has been set up to raise £800 towards a new TV, and local residents have also been asked to consider taking part in a reverse advent calendar campaign - putting aside a small donation each day in the run-up to Christmas.
This month's theft is not the first time that SoLO has been targeted. In 2010, burglars had broken a hole in a store room roof and stolen a raft of electronic equipment.
Solihull Police are investigating this most recent incident. If you have any information about the crime, call officers on 101 [quoting crime number 20SH/254023K/17].

Castle Brom takeaway scoops national award

WINNERS: Jay Alom and the Lime Pickle team with host John Bishop

A CASTLE Bromwich takeaway has been named the nation's best - bar naan!
Lime Pickle took home the top prize at this week's British Takeaway Awards.
The team from the Indian eatery were presented with the smart-looking trophy at a star-studded ceremony, which took place at London's Savoy Hotel on Monday evening.
It was a case of third time lucky for Lime Pickle, which had been a finalist at the inaugural event in 2015 and was named the best takeaway in the West Midlands last year.
And the staff were stunned when stand-up comedian John Bishop, who was hosting the 2017 event, announced that they had clinched the national title - receiving more than 1,000 votes from the public.
Lime Pickle owner Jay Alom said: "We are absolutely blown away that Lime Pickle has won Best Takeaway in Britain.
"I would like to say a big thank you to the staff for their hard work day in, day out, ensuring our customers receive the best food and service possible.  We couldn’t have got here without them or our loyal customers. We’re over the moon."
A video shown at the event highlighted some of the work that the Windleaves Road business does within the community, including efforts to support the homeless. Last Christmas Eve, they had paid for ten rough sleepers to stop in a hotel.
A spokeswoman for the British Takeaway Awards said: "[Lime Pickle] encapsulate everything that is phenomenal about this brilliant industry."
The awards were set up to recognise the stand-out businesses in a sector which is worth £9billion to the UK economy. Celebrity guests at this year's gala evening included the chef Ainsley Harriott, model Kelly Brook and Countdown star Rachel Riley.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Venue loses its licence following teenagers' deaths

LOSS: Dylan Booth
A CITY centre venue looks set to close almost two years on from the death of a Chelmsley Wood teenager, who had taken ecstasy at the nightspot.
Dylan Booth, aged 18, had taken the Class A drug during an evening out at the Rainbow club, in Digbeth, where he was celebrating the start of 2016. Following the New Year's festivities he fell ill and was rushed to hospital, where he died a few days later.
On October 30 of this year, another young man - 19-year-old Michael Trueman - had also died after reportedly taking MDMA at the club.
Following the second tragedy, Birmingham City Council's licensing sub-committee yesterday (Tuesday) took the decision to revoke Rainbow Venues' licence.
In its decision notice, the council said: "All in all the sub-committee lacked confidence that personnel at the premises would be able to uphold the licensing objectives, no matter how tightly conditioned.
"There was a clear risk of further crime and disorder, and a risk to public safety, particularly in relation to drugs."
Rainbow Venues has said it intends to appeal against this week's decision.
"We firmly believe that our team took great care, time and passion to create a safe environment for people to enjoy our events," said a statement released today.
"We had very robust policies that West Midlands Police have accepted are more stringent than any other licensed premises in the country.
"As operators we can’t be false. The decision is wrong. We can’t pretend we agree, we can’t promise that drugs will not enter licensed premises; people go to extreme lengths to get drugs into venues, if they succeed over the border, prisons and even Parliament, then they will find a way into a club. They are breaking the law. Are we?"

Marston Green man faces prison over charity fraud

A FORMER charity boss from Marston Green has been warned he faces jail after admitting his part in defrauding Birmingham Dogs Home of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Simon Price, 53, of Somerton Drive, has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud by abuse of position, dating from his stint as the charity's chief executive.
His former partner Alayna Price, 39, who had been the home's commercial manager, admitted five counts of the same charge.
Today (Wednesday) the pair were warned by a judge at Birmingham Crown Court that they should expect custodial sentences for their actions - which saw huge sums of money defrauded over the course of four years.
It's understood that the financial irregularities came to light last year, with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirming that they would press charges last month.
Judge Avik Mukherjee acknowledged that the estranged couple - who have since separated - were of previous good character, but said they nonetheless faced severe punishments.
"For my part, I can't see an alternative end to this case other than significant custody for both of you," he said.
The Dogs Home was founded in the late 1800s and was based in Birmingham city centre for well over a century. Two years ago, a new purpose-built facility opened near the village of Catherine-de-Barnes, Solihull.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Arrest in Chelmsley over alleged loan shark activity

A MAN was arrested in Chelmsley Wood today (Tuesday) on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering.
The 56-year-old was detained as part of ongoing efforts to root out those who are allegedly operating as loan sharks.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), working alongside Solihull Council's Trading Standards team and West Midlands Police, executed a warrant at an address on the estate.
Paperwork, electronic devices and an undisclosed quantity of cash were seized at the property.
The suspect is currently in custody and being questioned by IMLT officers.
In September, a report in The Guardian revealed that illegal loan sharks continued to target deprived areas, seeking out those struggling to make ends meet.
If you’ve been issued a loan with no paperwork or are receiving threats over a loan you have already paid off, you can get in touch with the IMLT on 0300 555 2222.

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Monday, 27 November 2017

Parking makes more than £2million for Solihull Council

SOLIHULL Council raked in £2.26million in parking charges in the last financial year, new statistics reveal.
This figure represents revenue brought in from standard car park charges and penalties issued to those who ignore restrictions.
The figure for 2016/17 was up from £1.87million in the previous 12 months and is the first noticeable rise in the borough for three years.
According to a league table collated by the RAC Foundation, Solihull lies 93rd out of 353 councils in England when it comes to the amount of money it made over the course of the year.
The Local Government Association (LGA) insisted that funds are put back into essential transport projects, although the RAC Foundation believes that taxpayers should ask for more detailed information about how local authorities spend the cash.
The league table shows that London dominated the list in terms of the sums of money raised. In Westminster, which is top of the pile, the surplus from parking revenue was an eye-watering £73.2million.
Solihull's position put the borough slightly below the likes of Harrogate and Worcester, but just ahead of Cheltenham, Coventry and North Tyneside.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Deer friends descend on Smith's Wood

REAL-life reindeer have swapped the slopes of Lapland for Smith's Wood.
The animals will be at the Christmas Fair, taking place at Auckland Hall today (Sunday).
A Santa's Grotto, craft stalls and face painting will be among the other highlights. The event is free and runs from 10am-1.30pm.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Vehicle crime increases three fold in parts of North Solihull

VEHICLE crimes have more than tripled in some parts of North Solihull, the latest crime stats show.
Figures for the year to date reveal that there have been 128 offences in Castle Bromwich (compared with 42 over the same time-frame in 2016). In Smith's Wood, there have been 95 incidents so far this year, up from 29 over the equivalent period last year.
The most common type of crime in this category involves items being stolen from cars and other vehicles.
Total recorded crime has increased across the borough, with the latest figures revealing almost 1,500  more offences in the year to date.
While increases in vehicle crime have been most notable in the two wards identified above,  the rise in robberies has in fact been most dramatic in neighbourhoods south of the Coventry Road (including the highly rural ward of Meriden). Burglaries too have tended to be concentrated in more affluent areas.
Types of crime where the number of offences has fallen include domestic violence (down from 912 to 859) and Class A drug matters (just 19 have been recorded in the year to date, although this may be in part because of reduced use of stop and search powers).
You can read the full report by the Safer Solihull Partnership here.

Our Say: November

Friday, 24 November 2017

Raffle prizes requested for school dinner with a difference

THE CTC Kingshurst Academy will be hosting its annual senior citizens' Christmas dinner next week.
The Cooks Lane school is holding a raffle as part of the evening and has asked anyone who has suitable prizes to send them to the school.
The annual dinner, set to take place on Friday, December 1, is now in its 14th year. Last year more than 170 local pensioners attended the meal.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Castle Brom school chef to take on the best in the region

A COOK from Castle Bromwich Infants School will be battling it out for the chance to compete for the coveted title of National School Chef of the Year.
Christopher Townshend is one of eight competitors from around the West Midlands who will be strapping on their aprons for the regional heats of the competition on December 5.
The winner of this will then have the opportunity to progress to the national finals.
School Chef of the Year takes place every 12 months, with the competitors given 90 minutes to rustle up a main course and a dessert which would win the approval of the most difficult to please 11-year-old.
To make the competition even harder, the ingredients must cost no more than £1.30 per head.
Solihull has a proud history in the competition. Back in 2014, Christopher was highly commended for the ‘superhero meatball’ (meatball encased in dough served with sweet potato gnocchi, salad and roasted red pepper relish) he served up to judges.
And last year, Jose Davies Kochakkadan - from Marston Green Infants Academy - made it all the way to the national finals.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Monday, 20 November 2017

Safe and Sound in Smith's Wood

SMITH'S Wood's next "Safe and Sound" event will be taking place at Auckland Hall this week.
The meeting - offering residents the opportunity to discuss crime, the environment and safety on the estate - is to be held on Thursday (November 23).
All welcome between 7-9pm.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Horse work and hot food in Meriden Park

HOOF AND TAIL: Tan Tan the horse clears timber during a previous
Oaks and Shires event at Yorks Wood

TRADITIONAL woodland crafts and children's activities will be on offer in Chelmsley Wood next weekend.
The Oaks and Shires event will be taking place in Meriden Park on Saturday (November 25).
Visitors can also look forward to hot food and find out about the valuable role that horses play in maintaining the nation's woodland.
The event will run from 11am-3pm.