Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Planning Applications to the 17 November 2014

2014/08155/PA - 452 Fox Hollies Road, Hall Green, B28 8RN
Erection of two storey side extension, single storey rear extension and loft conversion.

2014/08085/PA - 2 Greenwood Avenue, B27 7QJ
Erection of first floor side extension

You can find the details by inputting the reference number into the Council online database here
If you have any comments, you can submit them online - feel free to pass your comments on to me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Warwick Road Update

The work to open Station Road up to two way traffic has been completed. This is an experimental change, so we'll need to keep a close eye on it. BT also completed work to redirect some of their utilities around Victoria Road.

The pictures also show the removal of the trees from the central reservation. Work has also been done to remove the furniture from the central reservation and will continue this week. Some of the blocks used to make up the retaining wall on the reservation originally formed part of the wall of the convent. These have been saved for reuse as part of the scheme.

Some pedestrian crossing points may need to be adjusted, but safe crossing points will be maintained.

The contractors are required to keep one lane running in each direction, but there may be the occasional need for traffic control, as there was last week with the tree felling.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A quiet revolution?

Friday was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, so it was perhaps fitting that it also marked the end of division between the Black Country and Birmingham, with the announcement of work towards a West Midlands Combined Authority. Fortunately, this rapprochement was achieved without the intervention of David Hasselhoff. 

I have no doubt that this is in the interest of Birmingham and the rest of the Midlands. This is a potentially transformative change in how the Midlands works – putting power back in our hands and reducing reliance on Whitehall. It isn't the most exciting proposal on the doorstep, I grant you, but the potential is huge. Bringing the West Midlands together creates a single region generating 15% of the nation's GDP - we'll have a tremendously powerful voice.

A combined authority isn’t, as some have suggested, a “super-council” – the constituent local authorities will carry on, representing and delivering services to their residents, but there will be a process for them to work together. Primarily, this will be about economic development and transport – we have the chance to create a body that could work like a regional version of Transport for London and the authorities will work together on the economy. Powers can be passed up from the local authorities, but they decide that together and the councils don’t have to surrender those powers completely – members of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority retain their economic development powers.

What does that mean? Economic development is crucial to the function of a local authority like Birmingham – businesses like Deutsche Bank brought 2000 jobs to this City as the result of a coordinated effort to identify their potential interest and provide a matching package of help to ensure that they made the right choice. That’s the sort of work that the combined authority will do – working across borders for the benefit of all.

Neither employers nor employees look at local authority borders – I actually worked out that apart from being a councillor, I’ve not actually worked in Birmingham since 1996. My career has taken me to Coventry, Mansfield and Oldbury (twice) and that’s not unusual. Employers moving into Birmingham or Sandwell or Walsall will employ people from across the city region – what’s good for one authority also has benefits for others.

Crucially, powers also come down from government. Last week’s deal for Greater Manchester promises this:
  • a new housing investment fund of up to £300m, with the aim of building up to 15,000 more homes over 10 years
  • greater planning powers
  • responsibility for local transport, including power to run franchised bus services and provide Oyster-style integrated tickets
  • welfare-to-work programmes, with a budget of £100m, to help up to 50,000 people back into work
  • control of existing health and social care budgets, which have been pooled by local authorities across Greater Manchester
  • greater responsibility for business support and further education
  • up to £30m a year for the growth generated by its economy
We’ve a long way to go before the authority is legally constituted or before we understand the precise deal on the table from government.

So this is a real opportunity for the Midlands, but there are some that disagree. Solihull seems quite lukewarm on the idea, but that has a knock on effect – current rules require that councils making up combined authorities have to share boundaries, so unless Solihull join, Coventry can’t join in.

The Conservative candidate for Solihull, Julian Knight has decided that this whole idea – of working together to bring jobs and prosperity to the whole region – isn’t a good idea.
There has been increasing talk of a Greater Birmingham authority encompassing Solihull. Julian Knight, parliamentary candidate for Solihull has looked at the early proposals and is deeply disturbed over the plans. Julian is also launching a campaign to stop Solihull being subsumed into this ill-conceived Greater Birmingham authority...
Now, even a basic understanding of a combined authority means that no council is “subsumed” into Birmingham or anywhere else. Indeed, if he is opposed to this proposal, I assume that he will also be campaigning for Solihull to withdraw from CENTRO or the West Midlands Fire Authority, upon both of which councillors from across the region sit to run and monitor key services. I assume he will insist on Solihull's immediate resignation from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership. But I suspect that Julian will declare victory at some point, having saved Solihull from being swallowed up in a way that nobody has actually proposed. (See also George Osborne saving us from paying £1.7 billion to the EU. Which we were never going to have to pay in the first place,) Even if Solihull does decide to stay outside the CA, I'm sure that Julian will be only too happy for the residents to take up any new jobs delivered thanks to the policies of the neighbouring councils.

Also in pursuit of short term political gain are UKIP, who have also decided to oppose this. I’m not entirely sure to which part of jobs, prosperity or genuine local control they are opposed, but opposed they are. Just as over HS/2, they don’t have the interests of the West Midlands at heart.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Crime Update

At the Housing Liaison Board last night, PCSO Kevin Large reported back on reported crime for October to date. Overall, crime is down 18% compared to same month last year 52 offences against 72 at the same point. Burglary is down by 66% to just three offences this month. There have been no robberies either so far this month. Vehicle crime remains a problem with 10 offences so far this month, compared to 11 last year and they were up 33% year on year in September.

Officers are focussing on this and have been tracking down owners of vehicles left unlocked or with items left on display to tempt thieves.

There's been a spate of shoplifting, but a suspect has been identified for thefts of meat from Aldi and Farmfoods. Two have been arrested for theft of aftershave from Boots, having been detained by the security officer employed by the Business Improvement District. There were also a couple of thefts of customer from Ladbrokes and the Red Lion. One person is also wanted in relation to a theft of money and a debit card - the victim was followed into Sainsburys from the cashpoint, the thief got talking to them and stole the items.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Planning Applications to the 4 October 2014

2014/06872/PA - 31 Olton Croft, Acocks Green, B27 6PG
Erection of single storey rear extension.

2014/05110/PA - 1225 Warwick Road, Acocks Green, B27 6PX (Dolphin Fish Bar)
Variation of condition number 1 attached to 2011/04182/PA to allow extended opening hours from 12 noon to 10pm on Monday to Saturday and closed all day Sunday.

2014/06403/PA - 109 Holcombe Road, Tyseley, B11 3PR
Erection of two storey side & rear extension and single storey front & rear extension

2014/06500/PA - St Mary's Church, Warwick Road, Acocks Green, B27 6QX
Display of 3 non-illuminated post mounted signs

2014/06210/PA - 184 York Road, Hall Green, B28 8LE
Erection of single storey rear extension

2014/06254/PA - Shaftmoor Lane, Former Lucas Site, Tyseley (Morrisons site)
Application to determine the details for conditions numbers 2,4,5,11,17,32 and 39 attached to approval 2011/06776/PA
I've been in touch with Morrisons and plans are still afoot for construction - this relates to some of the aspects of the plans that have to be agreed in advance. No start date as yet - I'll keep you up to date. I have to say that Morrisons' communications department aren't lightning fast (although spectacularly better than the glacial movement of Network Rail's team)

2014/06016/PA - 1025 Warwick Road, Acocks Green, B27 6QJ
Erection of first floor rear extension, single storey forward & rear extensions and installation of dormer to rear

2014/06046/PA - 162-166 Yardley Road, Acocks Green, B27 6LR
Change of use from Sui Generis (Service Station) to Use Class B2 (Tyre Repair)
They keep coming back. There's significant residential objection to this already.

2014/06231/PA - 25 Broom Hall Crescent, B27 7JR
Erection of single storey forward extension, erection of conservatory and installation of porch

You can find the details by inputting the reference number into the Council online database here
If you have any comments, you can submit them online - feel free to pass your comments on to me.

Last week in brief....

A surprisingly busy week last week, despite only a few meetings planned. Monday was the usual ploughing through emails and casework, but I also made contact with the fire service and the police regarding the series of fires affecting a building on Tyseley Lane. Fortunately, the damage was contained and, while worrying for residents, didn't affect any houses. Yardley School did remain closed for the remainder of the week to allow the safe removal of the remains of roof sheeting that had dropped into the grounds. Investigations are under way into what are believed to be three separate arson attacks and the police did release CCTV footage of a man that they would like to interview in relation to the incident.

What is clear is that this building was a specific target for arson - this is not a problem that should worry the community at large. Both the local fire service and police were clear on that.

On Tuesday, I was invited to be in the audience for the BBC Radio 5 Live debate on the Tory party conference at the Alexandra Theatre, a meeting regarding the Fox Hollies Forum and a home visit to look at a potential environmental health problem on Edenbridge Road in response to a resident's complaint. Wednesday saw a home visit to a disabled resident regarding a serious social care issue, a quick meeting in the Council House with Cllr Bore and Cllr Stacey and then a walk up and down the Warwick Road discussing Christmas Lights.

That's an important issue this year, as the planned works on the Warwick Road will be taking place at the same time as the scheduled display for the lights. It looks like we won't have any festive light displays on the into-city side (Aldi side only) from Dolphin Lane to Holy Souls Church, as those lighting columns are planned for replacement towards the end of the festive period. The displays not used there will be used elsewhere in the Village, though, so we won't lose out! I've also ensured that the traditional cross displayed on the column outside the Church will be kept in the same spot this year - work to that column will be delayed.

On Thursday, I had a performance review with the head teacher of Cottesbrooke Infants School, where I'm a governor and also found time to drop into Warwick House respite home on the Warwick Road, which is doing well. After that, there was time for some good old-fashioned door knocking in Acocks Green to canvass support and talk to residents about issues or problems that they have.

Friday started with a meeting down on Fox Hollies Park with the local Parks Manager, finalising plans to remove the disgusting pile of rubbish that's blocking the stream and we also talked about proposals to relieve the flooding around the bridge further up. I finished up the day with the usual Friday surgery and a catch up with Cllr Stacey.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JobCentre Plus changes announced for Acocks Green residents

At present, all claimants in the B27 area use the Sparkhill Jobcentre.

From 20th October, the following changes will apply.

If you 25 or older AND are claiming JSA OR you are claiming Income Support, you will need to attend Yardley JobCentre.

If you are between 18 and 24 AND claiming JSA or you are claiming Employment and Support Allowance, your case will be handled by Solihull JobCentre.

JobCentre say
"We will be able to provide an enhanced level of support and resource to assist those claimants in their job search at Yardley and Solihull Jobcentre Sites. The B27 postcode is easily accessible on major bus routes to either site. 
The redistribution of our caseload in this way will also assist us with creating more space and capacity at Sparkhill Jobcentre. This is important for all our Jobcentres, particularly with the introduction of additional computers for customer use."

Tree on roundabout

As promised at last week's Ward Committee meeting, following concerns raised over the proposal to remove one of the trees on the Green, I arranged a meeting for last Thursday morning. Cllr Harmer, Cllr Stacey and the LD MP John Hemming all met Nick Barton, the tree specialist from Amey. Sadly, Julia Larden of the Acocks Green Focus Group couldn't make it, as she is away on holiday, but I asked her in advance for questions and also gave her a telephone call from the Green to give her a chance to put her points directly to Nick and the others present.

The photo shows the problem. The tree in question is leaning over the road and does show signs of damage to the trunk where it has clearly been hit by vehicles - although nothing recent. The tree's presence pushes larger vehicles out to the left hand side of the inside lane on the roundabout and there is always the risk that a driver unfamiliar with the layout of the Green could wind up hitting the tree. If the driver was "making lawful use of the highway", then now the council is aware of the problem, there is no defence to an insurance claim, leaving the council liable for the full cost of repairs to a damaged vehicle. Worse, there is always the potential for a collision to cause injury, putting any financial loss into the shade. Given that this is an A road, with junctions with two major B roads and a major route into the city centre, the risk of collision is significantly higher than a similar tree on a residential road not often used by goods vehicles.

Birmingham is very sensitive to this - and rightly so - since a fatality in Kings Heath a few years ago and the A38M case which saw a council officer facing trial over the death of a motorcyclist who had hit a drain on the Expressway.

There is a clear problem - so can anything be done to save the tree by changing the island layout? It would be possible to change the original line of the Green to create some additional space for grass, but that would change the road alignment and would actually need to run for about 30 metres before the tree to adjust the line of traffic smoothly. Added to that, the works would be carried out over the tree roots themselves, risking damage and possibly dooming the tree anyway. The work would not be cheap - with costs suggested of over £30,000.

Nick made the point that the tree wasn't put in the right spot in the first place - it was planted too close to the kerb. It is also not a great street tree - horse chestnuts are better suited to parks and this one would have thrived in a more central spot on the Green. There is also the risk that the tree will contract bleeding canker that has already killed a horse chestnut on Henbury Road.

The good news - and there is good news - is that the tree will be replaced by two new ones, better located on the Green itself and that the new planting should be completed this winter as part of the normal planting season. Amey don't use saplings, they plant trees that are about two years old. I'm sorry to see this tree go, but we have been able to get something more out of it.

Post Office move confirmed (UPDATED)

It has been confirmed that the current Crown Post Office in Acocks Green Village is to relocate to a new site on the other side of the road by Iceland. It will be in a new news, tobacco and confectionary store run by a firm called ZCO and will have extended opening hours too - opening 0830-1800 Monday to Saturday, rather than 0900-1730 as it is now. Accessibility for those with mobility problems is to be improved and a hearing loop installed.

A six week public consultation starts today with a proposed move planned for January 2015. There will be a Customer Communication Forum event as part of the consultation and I'll post details of that when I have more information. You can find details of the consultation here, including how to put your views into the process.

The Post Office have confirmed that there will be no compulsory redundancies - staff can transfer across to the new operator or can seek work within the rest of the Post Office.

I will be asking the Post Office to guarantee the long term future of this. Where this has happened elsewhere in the country and the new operator has subsequently closed, then the Post Office concession has also closed. I'd like reassurance that the Post Office will remain a feature of the Village - it is heavily used and valued by our residents. We will also lose the Home Office Digital Application Service - where will the nearest branch be that can offer this?

Let me know what you think. 

Comments from the Post Office:

What will this mean for customers? 
  • A modern open plan branch in newly refurbished premises 
  • Longer opening hours
  • The same wide range of products and services. For reasons outside Post Office Limited's control, we cannot yet confirm whether or not a cash machine will be available at the new branch. The provision of a cash machine is subject to a survey by our cash machine provider and relevant planning permission. 
  • The new branch will not have the Digital Application Services for the Home Office 
  • Selected Post Office services available at the retail counter during shop opening hours

Friday, September 05, 2014

Planning Applications to the 30th August 2014

2014/05946/PA - 177 Shirley Road, B27 7NP
Change of use from accessway to rear of 175-177 Shirley Road to amenity space for 177 Shirley Road

2014/04299/PA - Lidl, Olton Boulevard East, B27 7RR
Variation of condition C2 attached to planning approval 2000/01878/PA to allow collection and
delivery of goods 06:00 to 22:00 Monday to Saturday and 08:00 to 20:00 Sundays & Bank

On the 18 June 2014, the Ward Committee agreed to object to this application. While the store opening times have changed and therefore there should be some flexibility in delivery hours, we felt that this needed to be balanced with consideration for local residents. We agreed that the following hours would be more acceptable: Mon - Sat 7am to 9pm; Sun and Bank Hols 9am to 6pm

You can find the details by inputting the reference number into the Council online database here
If you have any comments, you can submit them online - feel free to pass your comments on to me.

Tree Removals for Acocks Green

Two tree removals slated for the ward:

Opposite 920 Stockfield Road - structural integrity
Opposite Inn on the Green - highway obstruction

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Acocks Green Station Update

As you can see from the picture, the tower facings are almost complex and the brickwork is well advanced. The bridges are in place and the door has been knocked through to the main building. Things are moving along nicely. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Express agree to restore 31 bus to Olton Boulevard

I am delighted to be able to report that National Express West Midlands have agreed to return the 31 bus to the route along Olton Boulevard East and Gospel Lane. Service 1 will continue along Pool Farm Road and Pollard Road.

Cllr Stewart Stacey, Cllr Jess Philips and I had a tremendous response to our petition - hundreds of people supported a return to the original route. We have had complaints from residents along Olton Boulevard, protesting the loss of any bus service and we have had complaints from Pool Farm Road about 12 buses an hour (one count saw 17 buses in an hour) travelling down that narrow road. I have even had complaints from businesses in the Village, who have reported a drop in footfall that they directly attribute to the loss of the bus service.

We consulted local residents a few weeks ago on an alternate plan put forward by NXWM to run all services along Dolphin Lane and Thornfield Road, but overwhelmingly, the response was in favour of the original route.

I met CENTRO and NXWM last week and we had a full discussion of all the issues around the route. The outcome was that NXWM have agreed to reverse their original decision.

The exact timetables have yet to be confirmed, but I expect a 20 minute daytime frequency on both routes once the services return on the 26th October. It is worth noting that the Service 1 only operates between the city centre and Acocks Green Village in the evenings.

The level of public support was crucial in persuading National Express to change their minds. so thank you to everyone for your backing - it gave real force to our arguments. Thanks are also due to CENTRO for their support and to NXWM for correcting their mistake.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Watch out for the parking vultures

These signs have recently gone up on the land behind the shops on Shirley Road (accessed from beside Jeffries Hardware). Existing car parking immediately behind Jeffries isn't affected, but all the space beyond that is.

One thing that this government got right was to ban private wheel clamping on private land - that was simply extortion. However, it hasn't stopped parking companies issuing parking tickets - often termed as "Parking Charge Notices" so they look like council-issued Penalty Charge Notices, even though they aren't.

When you enter a privately run car park like this, the operator considers that you are entering into a contract and if you break that contract, then they will invoice you. They are not "fines" in the same way that a council or police-issued ticket is. The company has to go to court to obtain judgement against you - unlike the police or the council.

The excellent Moneysaving Expert has a guide on how to appeal dodgy fines. As GBPS are a member of the British Parking Association, there is an independent appeal process and a code of practice.

Always take care in where you park and unless you can see clear signs allowing you to park there, don't take the risk. These firms are after your cash, pure and simple.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bin collections - update

Despite extensive talks with representatives from Unite, the City Council has been unable at this point to reach an agreement over issues that have been raised by the Trade Union about terms and conditions of employment for refuse collection staff.

The Council is continuing to talk to the Union with a view to reaching a resolution, but regrettably, there will be some industrial action that will lead to disruption of collection services on Monday 11th and Friday 15th August. There is also a temporary ban on overtime working.

If you are due a collection either today or Friday, please put your bags, boxes or bins out as normal.

If they have not been collected by the end of the day, please take them back onto your property and put them out for the NEXT scheduled collection. 

That will be next week for rubbish and two weeks for either green waste or paper/glass/tins/plastic recyclables

There is no need to report a missed collection.

Sorry for any inconvenience - the council are trying to come to an agreement with the unions.

The never ending list

Some kind soul decided to dump this at the end of the alleyway on Ninfield Road connecting to the Warwick Road. The bags contained roofing tiles, so I suspect that this is the result of a dodgy builder pulling into the car park and chucking waste out of the back of the van. I've had this cleared after it was raised by a local resident.

Also on the radar from last week - there's still work in progress to sort problems with an alley off Shirley Road. Following a resident's complaint, scaffolding on a council property on Gospel Farm Road has been removed.

A resident on Gospel Lane has raised concerns about a leaking sewer pipe, which he has been trying to get sorted for some time - that's now the subject of a formal s163 notice to Severn Trent, insisting that they deal with the problem within a few weeks.

The saga of the 31 bus route grumbles on. I've written to the respondents to our petition asking for feedback on the National Express proposal to remove the buses from Pool Farm Road and Pollard Road and run them down Thornfield Road instead. This doesn't restore the service to Olton Boulevard East and that's been a major concern of residents. I've fed the views of residents back through CENTRO, but further comments are always welcome.

Residents from Woodcock Lane had raised concerns about the "SLOW" markings becoming invisible and I've been on to Amey who will be repainting them.

I've also been chasing our Fleet and Waste team over a number of piles of flytipped green waste around the ward - chiefly on the Yarnfield and Gospel Estates. I'm pushing to have these removed.

Concerns continue about a property on Yardley Road, which has hedges overgrowing the footpath - that's still work in progress.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Planning Applications to 4 August 2014

Playing catch up again...

2014/04871/PA - 91 Westley Road, Acocks Green, B27 7UW
Erection of two storey side and rear and single storey rear extension

2014/04956/PA - 8 Botteville Road (and rear of 4-6 and 8-12 Botteville Road), Acocks Green, B27 7YD
Application for variation of Condition 5 attached to planning approval 2010/06541/PA for minor amendment for plans with 0920 prefix to be substituted with drawing numbers 417-101, 417-102, and 417-201 to 417-208 inclusive

2014/05175/PA - 17 The Avenue, Acocks Green, B27 6NG
Application for a Certificate of Lawfulness for the proposed erection of a single storey rear extension

2014/05119/PA - 55 Francis Road, Acocks Green, B27 6LT
Erection of two storey rear extension

2014/04575/PA - 980 Warwick Road, Acocks Green, B27 6QG
Erection of a single storey rear extension and installation of an extraction fan

2014/05396/PA - Land adjacent 70 & 91 Francis Road, Acocks Green, B27 6LT
Application to determine the details for Condition Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 14 & 16 attached to approval 2013/04805/PA

2014/05267/PA - 11 Edenbridge Road, Hall Green, B28 8QB
Erection of single storey side and two storey rear extension

You can find the details by inputting the reference number into the Council online database here
If you have any comments, you can submit them online - feel free to pass your comments on to me.

Wheelie bins roll out

Every household in Acocks Green should be receiving one or other of these cards to identify whether your property has been assessed as suitable for a wheelie bin.

Here's some key points:

If you disagree with the assessment of your property, you can challenge it - either if you have been denied a bin or have been deemed suitable.

If you need a larger bin for your non-recyclable waste, please let the council know by Tuesday 2 September. Properties with more than six residents can request a larger bin and those with more than nine can ask for an even larger bin.

If you need help moving your bin for collection, then the council will provide assisted collections - just as they do now.

There is NO CHARGE for either of these bins.

Collection days may change - the details will be provided when your bin is delivered. For Acocks Green, collection days will be either Wednesday or Thursday.

Bins should be delivered between the end of September and mid November.

The first collections will be during the week beginning 24 November.

The bins DO contain a chip, but this simply identifies the property to which the bin belongs.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask - but the bins team will be at the Ward Committee Meeting on the 10 September, 7pm in the Library, ready to give you some answers.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Litter pick in Fox Hollies Park

On Saturday, I joined a group of Acocks Green residents of all ages who are set on forming a Friends of Fox Hollies Park group. 

Their first venture was a cleanup session and we had Lee from Waterside Care and Dan and Alec from the local police neighbourhood team join us. 

We only managed an hour in the sun and heat, but we put together quite a collection of bin bags.

If you'd like to join in future sessions, then please get in touch and I'll put you in contact with the organiser. 

This is how community organisations start - a handful of people committed enough to do something. Can you join in? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Warwick Road works

Part of the Warwick Road improvement programme includes work on the remainder of the road. Much of this is new lines on the road or changes to parking orders. At the junction of Broad Road and Warwick Road, we've built out on the junction and the give way lines will be repainted to improve sight lines down the hill into the Green.

There will also be a new pedestrian refuge just to the west of the Broad Rd junction, which caused some concern once I saw the markings on the road. Residents had also raised concerns that the island would force larger vehicles to swerve around it and there were doubts that some would be able to make the adjustment in the space allowed.

It was complicated by the bus stop on the other side of the road, which is used regularly by drivers to pause to catch up with their timetable before a crew changeover in the Green.

The design team came out on site and brought some traffic cones to create a temporary obstruction to mimic the changes in the road layout. We watched buses and trucks as they passed the site and as a result, the white road markings will be extended down towards St Mary's Close and slight adjustments made to the sizing of the refuge.