Friday, December 06, 2013

Free loft and cavity wall insulation available

Birmingham Energy Savers - a partnership between Birmingham City Council and Carillion Energy Services are installing free loft and cavity wall insulation (where appropriate) in certain areas of the city.

You can check your specific availability here, but the offer is broadly available across the Yarnfield estate, around The Avenue, the area around Fox Green Crescent and Pemberley Road and across the Gospel Estate. Many of those properties will not be suitable for cavity insulation as they were built with solid brick walls, but please check.Insulating a loft could save £170 a year on your heating bill and cavity wall insulation could put £140 a year back into your pocket.

I'd really recommend this - if you haven't already had this done.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Report - Acocks Green Ward Committee

A brief report on Wednesday's ward committee meeting.

I started with a brief tribute to Trevor Wagg, the late husband of former Cllr Penny Wagg and somebody who - despite our differing political views - was one of the keystones of our community and passed away suddenly a few weeks back. Our civic society is built on people like Trevor who are prepared to get involved and keep things running. He will be missed by his friends and family, but also by the wider Acocks Green and Yardley community.

We had a brief on the role of the local delivery group in the overall community safety and policing structure and the drive to cut crime, engage with young people and work to marginalise extremism of all sorts. You can find the full details here.

Our Environmental Health Officer had to send her apologies, but she sent a brief report. She's rolling out Street Litter Control Notices and has been dealing with properties on Spring Road and Westley Road, but will be dealing with the Yardley Road next. Members of the public raised a couple of issues about rubbish along the Yardley Road, which I'll be forwarding to the relevant council officers for action.

On planning applications, it was noted that the plans to demolish the Glynn Edwards Hall have been withdrawn at the last minute and there is no immediate prospect of a resubmission. We had a look at the current live planning applications, although we did not decide to object to any specific applications. We also noted that 2013/04742/PA, which was refused permission in August, is now the subject of a planning appeal.

Moving on to the community chest applications, almost all of the 2013-14 spending was finally allocated, with £2478 set aside to supply some new computer chairs for the library to replace the existing ones, which can best be described as "well-worn." These are the same chairs that were provided for the new South Yardley library, so should be good enough for us too! I also updated the meeting on the progress of the repairs, explaining that the delays have been caused by the amount of additional work to be done and the days lost to the weather (although we have been remarkably fortunate this autumn). Cllr Stacey pointed out that allowing for time lost affects the overall cost of a contract and there is a trade-off between risking time overruns and paying more upfront. These repairs look to be overrunning by about a month - which is rather better than the experience with South Yardley Library, which remained closed for well over a year for roof repairs.

We also agreed to allocate £1000 to the police project to secure homes against burglaries. We've had a rise across the ward and this is key in reducing fear and protecting people. We also approved a grant of £1200 to support the work of Fox Hollies Green Neighbourhood Forum.

One interesting issue was raised towards the end of the meeting - that of neighbourhood planning. We'll be inviting a council officer with experience of the Balsall Heath pilot to attend a future meeting to discuss it. It is an innovation of the current government, but it is not an easy option - neighbourhood plans have to comply with national and local planning policies and there's a lot of work to be done before it can be put to a referendum of the neighbourhood. Although the term "neighbourhood forum" is used in the government information, they aren't necessarily equivalent to the neighbourhood forums that we have in Birmingham - although the chances are that they would generally pass muster.

There was also a reminder that we are about to start the formal consultation on the 2014-15 budget. There are a number of meetings planned. Next week, there's one at South Yardley Library between 6pm and 8pm. on Wednesday 11 December.

Acocks Green Library Repairs Update

I attended another of the regular progress meetings at the library on Tuesday and work is continuing well. Re-roofing is now complete on all three roof sections and the roof lights are installed on the two smaller roof sections. The weather has been generally quite kind, although it has caused some delays and the external work won't be complete until the 20th December.

You can see the difference in the two pictures. The old rooflights, dingy and sealed with flashband (a temporary water proofing measure at best) have been replaced with new, identical uPVC units, which are double glazed and designed to retain heat. Each of these units is assembled in the factory to check that they meet the bespoke size requirements, then taken to bits for powder coating before being delivered to site and reassembled again. The dodecahedronal units on the lower roof will be the most complicated of the lot (there are four or five different designs of roof light up there in total).

The library will be noticeably lighter once this work is done. Because this project has been managed under budget, we're also improving the ventilation by installing powered openers on selected windows to give a better flow of air in the warm months.
Roof fixed and skylights replaced

The photo below shows the water damage above one of the windows on the stairwell in the staff area. The surveyor reports back that this is not merely cosmetic - the lintel will need to be replaced. This will require significant internal and external structural scaffolding to support the roof while the work is completed and is more substantial than first thought.

Again, thanks to careful management of costs, we're able to get this work done. Originally, the roof above this wasn't planned to be replaced, although the condition was at least as poor as the main roof sections above the lending library itself.

Water damaged lintel
Once the externals are completed and after the Christmas break, the internal work - making good and repainting - has to be done. Some of this work could perhaps have been completed during normal closure days, but that would have meant further disruption, so we have decided to keep the library closed until the work is completed.

Unfortunately, this means that we aren't likely to get the library handed back until around the 17th January and it will take at least a week to ten days to return the library to a suitable condition to be opened to users (South Yardley took a fortnight, but that had been completely stripped for well over a year), so the aim is that we should be back in business by the end of January at the very latest.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Planning Applications to 30 Nov 2013

Nothing last week and just one this week:

2013/08766/PA - Land adjacent 4 Grattidge Road, Acocks Green, B27 7AQ
Application to determine the details for condition numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 attached to approval 2012/05569/PA (This is looking at the details of drainage, hard and soft landscaping, boundary treatment, samples and pedestrian visibility splays)

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.

Diary Date - Acocks Green Ward Committee

Acocks Green Ward Committee
Wednesday 3 December - 7pm
The Oaklands School, Dolphin Lane

Key items on the agenda:
  • Community Safety Update
  • Environmental Health Update
  • Planning Applications
  • Community Chest
  • Grant to Fox Hollies Neighbourhood Forum 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Diary Date - Full Council

Full Council
Tuesday 3 December 2013 - 2pm
Council Chamber, Council House
And you can now watch online here.

Key items on the agenda:
  • Question Time
    • Members of the Public to any Cabinet Member or District Committee Chair
    • Any Councillor to Committee Chair or Lead Member
    • Councillors other than Cabinet Members to Cabinet Member
    • Councillors other than Cabinet Members to Leader or Deputy Leader
  • Report of Council Business Management Committee
    • Proposed Changes to the Constitution
      • Changes to the senior management and departmental structure
  • Report of the Executive
    • Birmingham Development Plan
    • New governance arrangements for integrated transport authority
  • Report of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee
    • Children and Families with no recourse to public funds
  • Motions for Debate
Incidentally - I missed last month's meeting for unavoidable family reasons. 

Yardleys School to take pupils from 4-16 from 2015?

A proposal for consultation has just landed on my desk and I thought I'd share it - Yardleys School is suggesting that from the 1 September 2015, it might expand from being a secondary school to include the primary phase as well and create an "all-through" school. Pupils will be guaranteed a place - if their parents wish - from reception through to completing their GSCE examinations (and the potential is there to extend either end to nursery and sixth form provision) - but will also be able to join the school at secondary level as they do now.

Birmingham certainly has a need for further school places and this will provide an additional 60 per year from 2015 with the first admissions to reception class in that year. The primary school would not be on the same site as the secondary school, but would be in "refurbished accommodation" on a new site nearby (I don't have any more information than that).

The school holds the view that the "all-through" method would help pupils make the transition from primary to secondary education as well as making curriculum planning easier across the phases.

What do you think?