Sunday, 30 April 2017

Arsonists target Cooks Lane allotments over Bank Holiday weekend

ARSON: Firefighters tackle the blaze yesterday evening
Picture/West Midlands Fire Service

FIRE crews have been called out to the Kingshurst Community Allotment two nights running, after sheds were set ablaze.
The first incident happened at the Cooks Lane site on Friday evening, at around 11pm, and it is understood that tools and a child's playhouse were among the items destroyed.
At a similar time last night (Saturday), Sheldon Fire Station's Green Watch was called out to tackle a second fire. Residents reported seeing flames rising from the plots at around 11.30pm.
The crimes have appalled local people, although there are hopes that the culprits may have been caught on CCTV cameras installed at nearby Endeavour House.
If you have any information about the arson attacks, call Solihull Police on 101.

Major shake-up of bus routes announced

OVERHAUL: Changes take effect
in just over a month's time.
SWEEPING changes to bus routes serving North Solihull have been announced by National Express.
The company said its alterations, which will take effect from Sunday, June 4, are designed to make the network more efficient.
Among the main changes are that the No 71 will now only run between Chelmsley Wood and Sutton Coldfield and the No 72 will be limited to trips between Chelmsley Wood and Solihull.
Under the new arrangements, the No 94 will use Chester Road and Moorend Avenue between Smith's Wood and Chelmsley Wood and it's understood it will bypass Cooks Lane, which could have implications for some students travelling to the CTC Kingshurst Academy.
The No 966 is to be axed, with passengers having to use a new 96 route between Erdington and Chelmsley Wood and the X12 'Platinum' service for the section between Castle Bromwich and Solihull town centre.
Other routes affected include the No 14, 55 and 70.
Some travellers have already made the point that the shake-up will mean that they now have to catch more than one bus.
Timetables and route maps are yet to be made available, but further details of the various changes can be found here.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Feature: Taking the fight to off-road bikers

FROM an upstairs window, a resident films the chaotic scenes below.
A group of six or so bikers cut across the grass and head for a narrow footbridge in an attempt to escape the policeman on their tail.
But when a second officer appears on the other side of the river, the riders are left with no choice but to retreat back the way they came.
The video, shot in Chelmsley Wood last month, is one of several doing the rounds on social media which show the extent of problems being caused by motorbikes, quad bikes and mini-motos screeching through North Solihull.
It’s important to point out that this isn’t an entirely new phenomena. A quick search of YouTube turns up footage of a couple of quad bikes running through the streets of Marston Green some seven years ago.
That said, complaints about boy racers tearing around parks, along pavements and down public roads have definitely increased in the last year or two and no longer do problems seem to be confined to the long summer evenings.
There are regular reports of rallies being held along the Collector Road and gangs use sites such as Facebook to organise mass “ride-outs”, including a particularly notorious incident at Halloween last year; at one stage a group of up to 100 riders launched a frenzied attack on a police van.
Although these incidents are those most likely to make the headlines they’re interspersed with scores of reports of residents kept awake by racing engines, afraid to use certain parks and recounting near-misses which could have ended in tragedy.
Commenting on our Facebook page, Robyn Owens recalled the day she had nearly been involved in a head-on collision after a bike jumped a red light.
“The day I came so close to killing one of them changed me as a driver,” she said.
Previously the police had been criticised for not doing enough to tackle the problem.
When Insp Allan Green, the neighbourhood inspector for Meriden, appeared at a recent meeting in Castle Bromwich, many residents were frustrated by an apparent lack of action.
The officer, who said many of the riders were “nasty, hardened criminals”, insisted that police were taking steps to seize bikes and warned that those who flouted the law could expect a knock at the door early one morning.
“We will find out who these people are and we will do all in our power to stop them,” he assured locals.
Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) was among those to have previously raised concerns about the police response, but he did believe that recent operations were making a difference.
He said the dawn raids – in which bikes are impounded and often sent to be crushed – had acted as a deterrent, although he was less convinced that an injunction which Solihull Council had secured to ban road racing had made much difference.
“The attitude of the police has improved a lot,” he said. “A year ago, they were dismissive so we
worked hard to get that attitude changed. Now, the police understand why we were pushing them so hard and they have taken action.
“But there’s still a long way to go. There are still a lot more off road bikes being used inappropriately that they need to deal with, so the police need to redouble their efforts to get there."

Friday, 28 April 2017

Solihull Council faces hard choice over housing

THORNY ISSUE: The loss of part of Babbs Mill triggered
numerous protests by local residents
SOLIHULL Council should take the “crunch” decision to develop green belt sites rather than continue to cram homes into built-up areas, the borough’s longest-serving councillor has said.
Coun John Windmill, leader of the Lib Dem group, said the local authority was caught between a desperate need for more homes and local opposition to new estates.
Addressing a cabinet meeting this month, he noted that the borough had few brownfield sites, such as old industrial sites or waste ground, to choose from.
This left a clear dilemma as to whether to allow more housing in densely-populated neighbourhoods – with the likely loss of sports fields and parkland – or carve up parts of the green belt, which makes up around two thirds of Solihull.
“You can put so much density into an urban area that the quality of life is destroyed for those that are living there,” said Coun Windmill, a long-serving member of the planning committee.
“It is more realistic...that, here and there, with land of lower value in the green belt we do allow housing.”
His comments came in a debate in relation to a government report which specifically looks at how to address the nation’s mounting housing crisis.
It could be argued that both options would be controversial in North Solihull; areas of green belt, including parts of the Cole Valley, were eroded during the Regeneration, while the development of part of Babbs Mills Park drew significant opposition.
Leader of Solihull Council, Bob Sleigh, acknowledged that the White Paper prepared by ministers posed a number of question as to what was required of the council and said there was “confusion” in some areas.
Coun Tim Hodgson (Green, Shirley West) said: “In an area like the West Midlands you can see the needs of younger people finding it so difficult to get on the housing ladder.
“That is especially acute in areas like Solihull where the house prices are so expensive.”
The discussion comes amid renewed concern that closer collaboration between the region’s councils will put more pressure on Solihull to make land available to help meet the housing needs of neighbouring areas such as Birmingham.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

"People are fed up with politicians who don't listen."

SETTING OUT HIS STALL: Coun James Burn launched his manifesto
at the Three Trees Centre, in Chelmsley Wood.

A CHELMSLEY Wood councillor who is standing to become the first Mayor of the West Midlands has vowed to tackle inequality head-on.
Coun James Burn, who is the Green Party's candidate in next month’s election, has officially unveiled his manifesto - arguing that voters are fed up of politicians ignoring their concerns.
He chose to hold the launch event in the ward he represents, having made clear in his policy document that he has concerns that “disadvantaged” residents often struggle to be heard.
“The economy is growing at the moment, but it’s clear that the wealth isn’t being shared,” said
Coun Burn. “We are seeing a handful of individuals get richer, while the rest of us are seeing a fall in our living standards.
“A whole generation of working young people are unable to even consider the possibility of owning their own home or having a stable job that pays decent wages.
“At the moment, more than half of all West Midlands adults have less than £100 in savings. They are just a broken washing machine or winter coat away from disaster.”
Other key policy announcements include the creation of an investment bank to help small businesses, improving public transport links and appointing a “citizen’s jury” to hold the Mayor to account.
Coun Burn, who has been a councillor since 2014 and is also a qualified social worker, has not been uncritical of the role that he is standing for.
While he welcomes the principle of handing more power to local communities, he believes that the devolution deal agreed for the West Midlands has been shrouded in secrecy.
He has vowed to lobby for more scrutiny, to publish his expenses online and only take a salary of £28,000 – the average for the region.
The rest of the £79,000 pay packet would be put towards helping deprived communities “getting more voices heard.”
The election takes place on Thursday, May 4. An article with full details of all six candidates will be available on the site at the weekend.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Takeaway's tribute to Castle Brom man

A CASTLE Bromwich takeaway this month announced it had named a chef's special in memory of a regular customer, who died in a road accident earlier in the year.
Lime Pickle has dubbed its creamy chicken dish – a personal favourite of local man Alan Watkinson – “Mr Alan’s Massala.”
The 73-year-old ex-Rover worker had died from his injuries several days after a collision at the junction of Windleaves Road, just yards from the Indian eatery.
A Lime Pickle spokesman said it had wanted to do something to remember the popular pensioner, who lived nearby.
“He will be missed tremendously, he was a great customer and a friend to everyone here... always putting a smile on our faces.”
Patrons of the the takeaway, several of whom said they knew Mr Watkinson, have welcomed the gesture on the business' Facebook page.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Terrific response to Chelmsley art projects

SNAP COLLECTION: Rachel Symonds at Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre

HUNDREDS of local people got involved in a series of community art projects taking place in Chelmsley Wood town centre earlier this month.
The week-long programme of activities, inside an empty unit on the parade, was organised by the recently set-up B37 Project.
The group of volunteers aim to bring the community together through a range of creative activities.
Among the first salvo of ideas included handing out disposal cameras – a true novelty in the age of the iPhone – and asking people to go out in the local area and take photos. The images were then developed and turned into an anonymous exhibition.
Debbie Gara, from the B37 Project, said: “We’re just a group of people who come together to do something like this and then go back to our day jobs.
“We have had an incredible response from those coming in this week. One of the main things we want to do is support local talent, we want to give a platform to the ideas that people have.”
A number of local artists were helping with the activities; pieces by Ronnie Cashmore adorned one corner of the unit, while Rachel Symonds was co-ordinating the “selfie” project. Her aim was to collate 1,000 photos of local people to put together into a massive mosaic.
“When you look at what’s happening in other parts of Solihull, in London, in Bristol, wherever, there’s no reason why the people in Chelmsley Wood shouldn’t have the same opportunity to express themselves,” she said.
“There’s an energy to art. It can bring out a colour and a character that we don’t always see and I think people enjoy the escapism.”
Buoyed by the success of their “launch” event, B37 Project hope to continue organising other events and are keen to hear from residents with ideas. It is also hoped that the initiative could lay the foundations for more public art around the estate.
You can get in touch with the group via their Facebook page.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Save our Playground: Challenge to council's decision fails


A SOLIHULL Council committee has tonight ruled that the controversial decision to only continue funding to Meriden Adventure Playground for another six months was correct.
Last month's decision, which will mean that local authority support comes to an end in September, had been "called-in" by opposition councillors.
In an often heated debate, representatives from the adventure playground had urged the council to reconsider the timetable and allow longer for the facility to become self-sufficient.
Supporters had always argued that the time that had been allowed would make it incredibly difficult to raise sufficient money from elsewhere.
Rebecca Bradshaw, speaking on behalf of the playground, said: "This committee [has] a simple choice. To leave the service to walk the gangplank... based on a poorly assessed decision that will have an impact and a greater expense to the community and authority. 
"Or, to rethink across the remits which some of you hold to at least provide a life raft and flare to attract other funders in time.
"Let’s face it, it's a tiny amount of money needed to keep this service afloat. This committee is the final stop for the decision, and so I urge you to do whatever horse trading needs to be done."
Ultimately the call-in committee upheld the original decision by four votes to three. The split was along party lines, with the four Conservative members backing the cabinet member, while the Green and Liberal Democrat representatives argued it had been the wrong call.
Councillor Stephen Holt (Green, Smith's Wood) noted that the facility served three of the most deprived wards in the country and said that if the council took its commitment to tackling inequality seriously, it needed to take into account the impact on local youngsters.
"The thing that struck me reading through the various documents...is how much the playground contributed to helping children from disadvantaged families. It's clear the playground made a difference to those children...so taking the playground away must, by definition, increase the disadvantage.
"It's quite clear that the benefits of the playground are enormous and yet the amount of money [we're talking about] is relatively small."
QUIZZED: Coun Ken Hawkins
His comments were echoed by Coun Glenis Slater (Lib Dem, Elmdon), who said it had to be recognised that the opportunities available to children in different parts of Solihull varied dramatically. She was particularly critical of the suggestion that people in other wards might resent having to contribute towards a facility that they didn't directly benefit from.
"I would like to know why people would complain about other people having something they have already got?" she asked, prompting applause from the public gallery.
Councillor Diana Holl-Allen (Con, Knowle) acknowledged it was a sensitive issue, but argued it had been looked at "thoroughly".
Councillor Ken Hawkins, cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration, was the man who made the decision last month and had been called upon to explain his reasons. He argued that financial pressures on the council's departments were such that difficult choices had to be made and there needed to be honesty about the resources available.
"I may not have been happy taking the decision...but considering all the facts and issues relating to it, I'm in no doubt it was the correct decision and I did not make it lightly."
While Coun Hawkins has said he very much hoped that the playground could find alternative funding to continue in its current form - 15 bids have already been submitted - he suggested that much of the current site would be retained. Although without staff, some of the larger equipment would be removed and services such as the clothes bank and food vouchers would end.

Latest edition of our digital newspaper out now


THE latest edition of Other Side of Solihull's digital newspaper is now available to view online.
If you have news for next month's edition please do get in touch via our 'Send Your Story' form or email theothersideofsolihull@gmail.com

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Plans unveiled for new housing in Marston Green

HOUSING PLAN: The diagram developers have posted to local residents.

PLANS to build almost 70 new homes in Marston Green - first raised several years ago - have at last been made public.
The development - made up of 68 dwellings in total - would involve building on a field near Wavers Marston, with houses accessed via Chelmsley Lane.
The site in question was one of several around the borough previously identified for new housing. Several other such sites, notably nearby Moat House Farm, have already been developed.
In a policy document dating from 2012, Solihull Council argued most of the site was excluded from the green belt.
While the proposals have been known for some years, the arrival of the actual plans at neighbouring properties has nonetheless divided opinion locally.
Many residents remain concerned about over-development in the village and are also worried about the possible traffic problems that a new road junction could create.
Others argue that the scheme would create much-needed new homes - it is required that 40 per cent of the dwellings are designated as affordable housing.
Residents are now being invited to comment on the proposals and have until May 5 to make their feelings known.
Write to Nexus Planning, Suite A, Weybridge Business Park, Addlestone Road, Weybridge, Surrey, KT15 2BW. Alternatively you can email info@nexusplanning.co.uk, quoting 'Chelmsley Lane' in the subject heading.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Save our Playground: Fight for the future of popular facility

"VILLAGE HUB": Children and parents pay a visit to the playground
during the Easter break. 251 youngsters visited last Friday alone.

PARENTS, children and volunteers are among those to have thrown their weight behind a campaign to keep Meriden Adventure Playground open.
The future of the award-winning facility was placed in serious doubt after Solihull Council announced that it would only continue funding for another six months.
Supporters were dismayed by the move, which has left the playground facing a monumental fight to become self-sufficient between now and when the local authority support comes to an end in September.
Opposition councillors have “called-in” the decision and a meeting will be held tomorrow (Monday) to consider whether the issue should be referred to Full Council.
In the meantime, more than 1,000 petition letters have been signed by local people - urging the council to rethink its current timetable. As well as handing out the slips at the nearby Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre, families also led a protest on the steps of the council house.
And even as it pushes for a rethink, the playground has also thrown itself head-long into a search to find alternative funding.
Ali Wood, the chair of the Meriden Adventure Playground Association (MAPA), said there had been overwhelming support from local people.
“Our main worry is how little time we have to sort something out,” she said. “I think if there was a couple of years to put something together we would be able to do it, but six months doesn’t give us very much time at all.
“We are trying to make clear the consequences for the community if this closes down. We’re really a 'village hub', we get to know the families and we refer them on to other services.”
The playground was set up in 2007 with the help of Big Lottery funding and its popularity has snowballed over the past ten years. Several hundred youngsters can visit each day during busy periods and the site has been credited with helping tackle anti-social behaviour locally.
Councillor Ken Hawkins, cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration, has acknowledged the playground is a valuable resource and said efforts would be made in the coming months to help MAPA develop a business plan.
He suggested the lack of any such proposal at present would make it difficult for the local authority to commit additional funds.
Speaking last month, he said: “I’m not entirely happy about this [decision]... but also I have to take into consideration the financial constraints and budgets of this council.”
If you can help in any way, email aliwood@blueyonder.co.uk or contact the playground via their Facebook page.

Local Reaction:
COMMUNITY groups, residents and councillors from across the political spectrum have emphasised the importance of the playground.
The Community Action Network (CAN) was among the organisations to express concern about the council’s handling of the situation, and said it was “extremely disappointed” by the recent decision.
A spokesman said: “The closure of the adventure playground [would] have a disastrous effect on the area and result in huge social and financial costs to Solihull. This decision is short-sighted and reflects a clear lack of understanding and indifference towards North Solihull and its residents.”
Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) argued the facility saved the council far more money than was invested, while Coun Debbie Evans (UKIP, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) said she was “gutted” that funding was being withdrawn.
When Other Side of Solihull visited the facility during the Easter holidays, several parents praised the services available.
Michelle Moulton, from Water Orton, has been visiting with her son Franky, aged eight, for the past three years. “He just loves it here,” she said. “It’s very, very important to have something like this.”

Chelmsley Wood man to run in London


A CHELMSLEY Wood man will be tackling the London Marathon tomorrow (Sunday) for a cause very close to his heart.
Adam Scott said he was inspired to pull on his running shoes to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital, where his nephew Kieran had received treatment after suffering serious burns.
The 34-year-old, who works as a sign fitter, had originally set a fundraising target of £2,500, but having already smashed this total he is now aiming to raise £4,000.
Explaining his motivation, Adam said: "Due to the high levels of dedication, professionalism and care from the staff, Kieran is on the mend.
"[The hospital] not only looked after Kieran but also worked closely with his family. This kind of service is second to none and I would like to help them as much as I can."
Around 50,000 people - including several from North Solihull - are set to take part in tomorrow's race.
Adam had previously run the 26 mile course in 2009, "when he was a lot younger and fitter."
Aside from pounding the streets of the capital, he has also run a number of half marathon events, climbed Ben Nevis and completed a 54 mile trek in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales.
Ahead of his latest challenge, the runner held a charity evening to boost his total and local companies have agreed to sponsor his vest.
You can support Adam via his JustGiving page. And if you want Other Side of Solihull to promote your own charity challenge please do email us.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Nursery worker will be sentenced next month

A FORMER nursery worker from Smith's Wood today admitted a string of serious sexual offences involving children.
Jamie Chapman, 28, of Tamar Drive, pleaded guilty to the the rape of a teenage boy as well as 21 counts of causing or inciting sexual activity with children.
The defendant also pleaded guilty to nine counts of taking, making and distributing indecent photos of children. The offences are understood to have taken place between 2011 and 2016.
Police, who had arrested Chapman last year and seized computer equipment, had previously advised there was no evidence to suggest inappropriate contact between the worker and infants at the nursery where he had most recently been employed.
Judge Melbourne Inman QC, sitting at Birmingham Crown Court, today advised that a prison term would be "inevitable." He remanded Chapman in custody, with the case adjourned for sentencing on May 22.

Concern after metal wire is found in dog food bought in Castle Brom

A WOMAN has reported finding pieces of metal wire in dog food bought at a Castle Bromwich supermarket.
Dog owner Amy Taylor posted pictures of the lengths of wire - some of which were described as sharp - inside the 400g box of 'Gravy Bones' purchased at the Morrisons store, in Chester Road.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Ms Taylor said that she had reported the issue to Morrisons and would be returning the pack as soon as possible.
She wrote: "Luckily my mum noticed, although the dog has already had a few. It's on almost every single gravy bone! Pretty scary."
Her story has been shared tens of thousands of times on the social media site and has prompted a number of other customers to come forward claiming that they've experienced the same problem.
A Morrisons spokesman said: "We are aware of the Gravy Bone situation issue and this is currently under investigation."

School place debate rages on in North Solihull

OVERSUBSCRIBED: Some parents have reported a struggle to get into
their first choice school in areas such as Castle Bromwich.

DEBATE has reopened about whether North Solihull has enough primary school places available.
This week, around 600,000 families nationwide found out whether their child had secured a place at their first choice school.
While figures for 2017 have yet to be released for Solihull, country-wide data suggests that thousands of families are missing out on their first preference.
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "We are facing the worst shortage of school places for decades.
"It is resulting in overcrowded classrooms, often in makeshift buildings that are squeezing out space for playgrounds, for art rooms or music spaces."
The issue has really come to the fore in the north of the borough during the course of the past 12 months.
Former councillor Graham Craig suggested last year that there would be an increase in demand as more young families moved onto Smith's Wood, and that the borough council was failing to prepare.
It is almost a decade since parents fought a campaign against the decision to combine Bosworth Wood with Kingfisher Primary, one of several such mergers approved as part of the North Solihull Regeneration.
There is also concern about the situation in Castle Bromwich, with a particular debate on the area's Facebook page about the lack of coverage for the Parkfields estate - with some still blaming the lasting impact of closing nearby Whateley Primary in the 1980s.
James Homer wrote: "We live in Parkfields and [were] refused for Castle Bromwich. Not even Smith's Wood was offered. Straight to Kingshurst."
Touching on long-standing concerns about overdevelopment, Joanne Gibbs said: "They shut so many schools down to build properties on there. They don't think of the kids nowadays."
And Sharon Muxworthy added: "There is massive under-funding from this government in education. I hope all those aggrieved parents put their X in the right box on June 8."
In a report prepared last year to assess demand for school places, Solihull Council noted that the birth rate across the borough reached almost 2,400 in 2015.
The north of the borough has seen a 10 per cent increase, with the local authority reporting the largest rise in the Castle Bromwich and Kingshurst & Fordbridge wards.
The council previously calculated that around 420 new places would be needed in the north of the borough, citing an expansion of Kingfisher and redevelopment at Yorkswood as among the solutions.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Meriden MP confirms she will seek to stand again

MERIDEN MP Caroline Spelman has said she intends to stand for a sixth time following today's shock announcement that the Prime Minister plans to call a snap General Election.
This morning Theresa May confirmed she would seek MPs' approval to dissolve Parliament and go to the country in a matter of weeks, despite previous assurances that there would be no fresh ballot before 2020.
While a two thirds majority in the House of Commons is needed to trigger an early election campaign, all the major parties have said they would support such a move. With this in mind, a poll on June 8 now appears all but inevitable.
Mrs Spelman, who has represented Meriden since 1997 and has a majority of almost 20,000, was among the sitting MPs who today said they would seek their parties' nominations.
In a statement, she said: "With many news outlets reporting that Brexit will be the focus of this election, it is important to remember that this election will also give the Prime Minister the chance to present a new domestic agenda.
"I will be seeking re-adoption by my local party in Meriden, in order to fight this election and champion the needs of the people of the Meriden constituency, whom I am proud to have represented for two decades."
The election campaign will be fought using the current boundaries, with no time left to push through the proposals to create all-new constituencies.
Although the candidates from opposition parties have not been confirmed in Meriden, such a short period before Britain goes to the polls make it likely that those who contested the seat in 2015 may be asked to stand again.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Hub to tackle homelessness opens in Kingshurst

A NEW centre to tackle homelessness among young people has been launched in Kingshurst.
The youth hub will provide housing advice and support to 18 to 24-year-olds in need of assistance.
A joint project between the homelessness charity St Basil's and Solihull Council, it will initially run for two years.
A recent survey found that family breakdown, domestic violence and mental health issues were among the most common reasons people found themselves in difficulties.
Those involved in the consultation said that more information about the options available and a service which was easier to access were among the changes they would like to see.
Lorna Esien, St Basils' deputy chief executive, said: "We have worked in this field for 45 years and in Solihull for over 20 years, we know that the only way to have a positive impact on tackling the issue is through working with partners.
"We look forward to helping shape the positive futures of young people through this partnership."
Aside from the base in Church Close - open Monday to Friday (9am-5pm) and Wednesday (1-5pm) -an outreach service will be accessible in both Chelmsley Wood and Solihull town centre.
Homelessness is a growing problem, with an increase in the number of rough sleepers across the country. In February, the Government was accused by the UK's data watchdog of relying on "misleading" data which disguised the true scale of the problem.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Mayoral election: Just weeks remain until polling day

TOTTING UP VOTES: Each of the seven council areas will count their ballot
papers separately and their totals will then be added together.

NEXT month the region will go to the polls to elect the first ever Mayor of the West Midlands.
The winning candidate will have direct responsibility for an area encompassing seven council areas (Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley), control a multi-million pound budget and represent almost three million constituents.
While the upcoming county council elections are mostly held in Conservative strongholds and the other Mayoral races (including Manchester and Merseyside) are in traditional Labour heartlands, the West Midlands contest is one of the few battlegrounds where the two largest parties both have a credible chance of winning.
The area has generally been dominated by Labour, who have the majority of MPs and overall control of four of the seven councils. Indeed, Solihull is the only local authority where they are not the largest party.
But the Tories will be buoyed by a significant lead in the national opinion polls and, based on results from the 2015 General Election, a swing of four per cent could be enough to hand the Conservatives victory.
While triumph by any of the other parties would be a significant surprise, the current political climate is such that it would be foolish to discount it altogether. Moreover, the election gives voters the chance to give a second preference, which could yet decide the outcome.
Whoever takes office in early May, they will be handed considerable decision-making powers, handling key areas including housing, business and transport.
Unlike individuals being installed elsewhere in the UK, they will not at this stage take responsibility for policing or local NHS services. In addition, services relating to schools, libraries bin collections etc will continue to be the responsibility of individual councils.
Depending on how the role evolves, more responsibility could be passed down from Westminster in the years ahead.
The Mayor, who is to receive an annual salary of around £80,000, will be in post for the next three years. Following the election in 2020, individuals will serve four years' terms from then on.
The election takes place on Thursday, May 4. Other Side of Solihull will be running a profile of all six candidates standing later this month. In the meantime, you can find more information here.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Residents woken by serious crash in Castle Bromwich

A MAN is understood to have suffered serious head injuries following a collision in Castle Bromwich early this morning (Friday).
Residents reported hearing a loud bang at around 5.15am, when a Mini crashed near the junction of Bradford Road and Heathlands Avenue.
Ambulance crews and police officers attended the scene and photographs posted on social media show that the vehicle involved suffered extensive damage in the collision.
A section of road was closed off following the incident. There has been significant disruption to a number of bus services, with routes including the 71 and 94 diverted.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Gardening Club in Chelmsley Wood


FREE gardening sessions for children and teenagers will be taking place in Chelmsley Wood next week.
Gro-Organic, a North Solihull social enterprise, will be hosting the sessions at the Junction, in Chapelhouse Road.
Nine to 15-year-olds are invited to learn about planting, landscaping and making bird boxes and bug houses. Parents are welcome too.
The activities will run from April 18-21 (10.30am-3.30pm). For more details call Gro-Organic on 0121 630 2190 or 07946 251 605.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Arrest made after man is attacked with "machete" in Smith's Wood

EMERGENCY: The Air Ambulance lands in Smith's Wood.
Photo/Kirsty Hibbard

A YOUNG man has been attacked in broad daylight with what is believed to have been a machete.
The 20-year-old was airlifted to hospital after suffering wounds to the hand, following the disturbance in Kennet Grove, Smith's Wood yesterday evening (Tuesday).
Worried residents watched from their windows as armed police descended on the cul-de-sac following reports of an altercation at just after 5.30pm.
An Air Ambulance landed in the grounds of nearby Smith's Wood Primary Academy and the injured man was transported to hospital. His injuries have been described as severe and it is understood he received some treatment at the scene.
A large number of residents took to social media following the tea time attack in an attempt to find out what had happened. Many were all the more concerned that the incident had happened on a sunny evening when many children would be playing out on the estate.
One woman said: "I used to live in this area and my daughter still does with my two young grandchildren - it's scary stuff."
West Midlands Police have confirmed that a 56-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of violent disorder. They said that investigations were ongoing and urged anyone who was witness to the incident to contact detectives.
If you have information or saw what happened, call Det Con Adam Buzzard on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Blue shoots of spring spotted in Chelmsley Wood

A JEAN-IUS idea to bring a splash of colour to the roadside is being introduced around Solihull.
Recycled denim is being used to help germinate wildflower seeds at eight different locations in the borough.
Patches of land alongside Winchester Drive/Bosworth Drive and in Lowbrook Way are among the sites which were selected for the "hydo-seeding" technique.
Another patch of land near Birmingham Airport has been prepared in this fashion.
The process works by spraying the seeds on the ground alongside the denim fibres; this helps retain moisture, creating the perfect conditions for the plants to sprouts.
Solihull Council expects that the flowers will bloom between July and November.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Playground campaigners in chocolate bar protest

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save the Meriden Adventure Playground will be handing out chocolate Freddos before tomorrow night's (Tuesday's) Full Council meeting.
The parents, children and volunteers will be offering the bars to councillors on the steps of the Civic Suite to press the point that the £20,000 funding that was turned down last month would cost each of Solihull's taxpayers less than the well-known Cadbury's snack.
Following a price rise earlier this year, Freddos now retail for 30p, while the money for the playground would have worked out at 27 and a half pence per taxpayer.
As well as protesting outside the meeting, the group have also applied to address the council chamber and will be re-emphasising the importance of the site to the local community.
The meeting is due to start at 5.30pm and if you can't make it in person, you can watch the live webcast here.
Footage is then archived on the website.

  • There will be much more coverage of the campaign to keep the facility open in this month's edition of Other Side of Solihull.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

What's on in North Solihull this Easter


AN EGGS-cellent series of events will be taking place in and around North Solihull this Easter.
Some of the activities being held locally include:
Alice in Wonderland event (April 12) - Characters from the famous children's story will be roaming Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre, where visitors can also enjoy crazy golf and a White Rabbit-themed treasure hunt.
Easter Family Fun Day (April 15) - Local residents have banded together to host a free event at the Kingfisher Pub, in Rover Drive. There will be face painting, a cake sale, a tombola and much, much more. Events will run from 12noon-4pm.
Bonnets, Eggs and Circuses (April 15) - Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens will be holding a traditional bonnet parade, craft activities and egg hunt next Saturday (12.30-4.30pm).
Easter Eggstavaganza (April 20) -There will be an Easter trail and other activities at Auckhall Hall, Smith's Wood (from 2-4pm). Admission is 50p and the session is suitable for over 11s.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Baby boxes being handed out in Chelmsley

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: The kits have been handed out in Finland
for the best part of 75 years and the idea is catching on in the UK.

MUMS-to-be are being invited to claim their free "baby box" from Chelmsley Wood's You+ Shop.
The "starter kits" contain a selection of essential items, including nappies, breast pads and a mattress, with the box itself suitable for use as a basic cot.
The idea is relatively new to the UK but has a long history in Finland. Since the Scandinavian country has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the world, there has been increasing interest in making the boxes available in other countries.
Call the You+ team on 0800 015 3265 to find out how to claim a box. Alternatively you can visit the shop itself (it is next to the Coppice Fish Bar, in the town centre).

Friday, 7 April 2017

Meriden MP wades into row over green belt

URBS IN RURE: Around two thirds of Solihull is designated green belt,
but the borough's attitude to development this week sparked a row

A ROW has erupted over the future of Solihull's green belt, amid suggestions that more of the land should be released for housing.
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman has insisted that the borough has already "sacrificed" large tracts of space for developments which benefit the whole region, including the NEC and airport expansion.
Her comments came in response to suggestions by Sion Simon, the Labour candidate for West Midlands Mayor, that Solihull had shied away from hard decisions.
In a debate this week, the ex-Erdington MP said: "People want new housing but don't want it on their green belt, they want it on someone else's green belt... We need to start those difficult conversations.
"And the most difficult conversation is with Solihull - which has the great bulk of the wealth and a huge pressure on land and has very expensive land.
"There's a huge resistance to development on the green belt and resistance to ceding planning powers."
In a statement yesterday Mrs Spelman defended Solihull's record and argued that the best way to address the housing shortage was to clear-up brownfield sites.
"Mr Simon has failed to acknowledge that Solihull has in recent years, already sacrificed much of its green belt in order to support strategically important regional and national infrastructure.
"[The Mayor will] not have any planning powers or the power to pressure individual member of the Combined Authority into taking more than their fair share.
"Our borough council made it clear when we joined the West Midlands Combined Authority that Solihull is not there for the combined authority to 'cherry pick’ in order to meet other local authorities housing deficit and I stand by that message."
Her comments touch upon old suspicions that closer partnership between council areas would put more pressure on Solihull to release land to meet the needs of more densely-populated neighbours.
For the people of North Solihull there would be concerns that their two main stretches of green belt land - the Cole Valley and the buffer between Chelmsley Wood and Marston Green - could be further developed. These sites were already placed under pressure by the needs of the Regeneration project.

  • The election for the Mayor of the West Midlands will take place on Thursday, May 4. Look out for more news and a profile of all the candidates in the weeks between now and polling day.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Suspect tries to hide in bin following police pursuit

CRASH SITE: The car crashed in Willow Way this afternoon
Picture/ @trafficwmp

POLICE have revealed that a suspect tried to hide in a bin after a police chase culminated in a car crash in Chelmsley Wood.
The vehicle careered onto the grass in Willow Way earlier today (Wednesday), badly damaging a picket fence.
Two men attempted to flee the scene on foot but were detained nearby, with one of the suspects having tried  to conceal himself inside a garden bin.
The other individual had attempted to get away from officers by scaling a fence.
A West Midlands Police spokesman said the car involved in the police pursuit had recently been stolen from Shirley.

Submit your selfie to Chelmsley art project


LOCAL people are being invited to get involved with a piece of public art in Chelmsley Wood.
The B37 Selfie Project wants residents to provide pictures to be included in the artwork.
You can drop in and submit a selfie at the unit opposite Wilko, in the town centre, from April 10-15. 
The B37 Project will also showcase design ideas for other public artworks designed by local community groups, schools and  artists. These include the popular plans to resurrect the much-missed Bogey on a Stick.
If you can't make it down you can email your photo to contact@b37project.org

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Former footballer's mum carjacked in Castle Brom

AN ex-professional footballer has spoken out after his mother was carjacked outside a Castle Bromwich petrol station.
Daryl Burgess, a former West Bromwich Albion defender, said that the 68-year-old's blue Mini had been driven off the Morrisons forecourt, on the Chester Road.
Taking to Twitter, he criticised the police response to yesterday's theft.
In an open message to the force, he wrote: "You will call her tomorrow & TRY to make an appointment for NEXT WEEK! Are you serious..????"
The incident happened only a couple of days after another vehicle was stolen from an elderly man at the same petrol station. Another woman, also in her 60s, was targeted on the adjacent supermarket car park last November.
Today a Morrisons spokesman said the company was conducting a full security review of the site and assisting police with their inquiries.
West Midlands Police said that in the six months since October they had dealt with 26 carjackings across the region and made 19 arrests.
Most of those taken into custody have been young men, ranging from their teens to late twenties.
If you have any information about the latest incident, call officers on 101.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Man hopes to find those who saved him from drowning 44 years ago

A MAN is hoping to trace the Good Samaritans who saved his life in Chelmsley Wood almost half a century ago.
The Birmingham Mail has reported that entrepreneur Andy Steggles, who now lives in the United States, is keen to track down the pair who pulled him from the waters of Hatchford Brook in May 1973.
Mum-of-two Anne Barley, from Marston Green, had performed CPR after the little boy's lifeless body was dragged from the watercourse.
Peter Owen, of Chelmsley Wood, had also assisted in hauling Andy to safety.
Speaking to the press a few months later, Anne said: “We managed to recover his breathing before the ambulance arrived. It seemed like hours at the time, but I imagine it took a few minutes before he began breathing.
“In an emergency case like this, you have to do what you can for you know someone’s life is in danger.”
The duo subsequently received awards from the Royal Humane Society in recognition of their quick-thinking.
Andy, who is now 47 and the co-founder of a Washington-based software company, is hoping to find the pair so he can thank them in person.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Anglo-Saxon warlord to become Chelmsley's official figurehead

PLANS are being drawn up to make a one-eyed Saxon warrior the official mascot of Chelmsley Wood.
Chelmund, the warlord from whom the area is believed to have derived its name, will appear bearded and wielding an axe on local road signs, street furniture and household recycling bins. 
The proposal is part of a wider plan to replace Solihull's staid coat of arms with "sexier" iconography, with officials apparently taking inspiration from the massively popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones.
Each of the borough's 17 wards will therefore be given its own emblem or "sigil", with Chelmund emerging as the clear favourite to represent Chelmsley Wood.
The decision by authorities to embrace the controversial figure is a remarkable about-face, coming only a few years after an evident reluctance to rename the Craig Croft area in the chieftain's honour.
Artwork commissioned by Loof Lirpa Ltd, a subsidiary of high-end London design agency Perfect Curve, has been seen by Other Side of Solihull
Early concepts include Chelmund chewing on the rump of a boar, surveying a Dark Age battlefield and preparing to deliver a fatal blow to a cowering Briton.
Amelia Latimer-Crumpet, a PR executive at Perfect Curve, declined to comment.