Friday, May 09, 2014

Free security marking and Dr Bike at Acocks Green Station - 13 May

Well worth it - get your bike checked over by a qualified mechanic (mine ran much better after a few minutes on the stand) and get it security marked and recorded.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Footway repairs - Boyd Grove

The pavements on Boyd Grove (just off Olton Boulevard East) are due to be resurfaced.

The work is scheduled to start during the week of the 12-16 May 2014. It is expected to take about five days and the crews will be working on site on weekdays between 8am and 6pm.

Amey will put signs on the road to confirm the precise start date.

Access to properties will be restricted. 

If you require access for medical/personal reasons, you can contact Amey on 0121 303 6644 (option 2), to discuss how access can be arranged or ask the crew on site to assist. Pedestrian access will be maintained as well as access for emergency vehicles. That number can also be used for any other questions that you might have. 

During the works, it will not be possible to park on the pavement. Cars left causing an obstruction will have to be removed and this may incur a cost to the registered keeper. 

Planning Applications to the 26 April 2014

Playing catch up from last week, I'm afraid. Nothing from the preceding week to report.

2014/01905/PA - Olivet Care Home, 17 Sherbourne Road, Acocks Green, B27 6AD

Erection of conservatory

2014/02228/PA - 1080 Warwick Road, Acocks Green, B27 6BH
Installation of new shop front and roller shutters

2014/02221/PA - 1080-1082 Warwick Road, Acocks Green, B27 6BH

Display of 1no internally illuminated fascia and 1no internally illuminated projecting signs
These both relate to the new CEX store in Acocks Green Village

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.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Arden Road Residents Association and street trees

Stewart and I were both kindly invited to the AGM of the Arden Road Residents' Association last week - well worth a visit for the quality of the cakes on offer.

There were the usual items of business - chair's report and the election of a new committee - plus welcoming two new volunteers to the Neighbourhood Watch, which was to the fore following a spate of burglaries in the area. Hopefully, various police actions have put a stop to that, with suspected offenders being targetted and arrests made.

We also had a thorough discussion about street trees, which are of great importance to the residents. In particular, there was a discussion about the tree at 61 Arden Road, which is leaning slightly into the highway. Although Stewart and I only had short notice of the meeting, we managed to arrange for an Amey tree specialist to attend and discuss the general issues. Along with an earlier site meeting that we arranged to look at a number of trees scheduled for removal across the ward, we had a full discussion of the issues around tree removal and replacement and the management of the Birmingham Street Forest.

There are a couple of points to note - Amey haven't been great previously about replacing trees exactly where they had been removed, but we now have assurances that they have improved their tracking system so that they intend to replace any removed tree with a fresh planting in the same ward. The first priority will be to replace in the same spot, but not all tree pits are suitable for re-use - the location might be the cause of the removal, if the tree is in the way of a dropped kerb, or the pit might be infested with underground pipework and cabling. Second option is a neighbouring pit close by - on the same road or one adjoining and the final option is to use an empty pit somewhere else in the ward.

I'm tracking the tree removals, so I will be making sure that this is exactly what happens - I like to see promises being kept!

The tree at 61 does show signs of damage, roughly where you would expect the edge of a removal van or a box van, for example and it does lean into the road. This means that if a driver "making lawful use of the highway" hits the tree, then there is little defence to an insurance claim, as Amey are aware of the problem and it could be claimed that they had done nothing to resolve it. As the officer pointed out, they have had trees knocked over completely by buses and they do see damage on similar trees caused by vehicle impact. While the probability may be low, there is definitely a risk. We're still trying to find a cost-effective way around the problem. Should the tree end up being removed, then it is unlikely that it would be replaced in the same spot, but when I went to the site with another officer from Amey, he spotted a grass verge about 20m away that might prove suitable.

Amey don't want to remove trees. Their tree officers don't fall into the career by accident - they love trees and have a tremendous knowledge of their subject. There's also no financial reason to remove a tree. When you add up the costs of felling, stump removal, replacement of the tree and a three year watering programme to establish it, there's no change out of about £3000. Maintenance of an existing tree over the same three or four year period works out to under £50 on average.

We have 19 trees scheduled for removal in Acocks Green and following some concern from residents at this unusually high number, I arranged for a senior Amey specialist to come along and give another opinion on the reasons for their removal. We spent most of the morning looking at over a quarter of the trees planned for removal and it was an education. He pointed out the decay on a tree on Malvern Road and explained why the horse chestnuts on Hanbury Road have to come out - some have simply outgrown their location and another has bleeding canker which will kill the tree.

As a result of that visit, a number of corrections to the notices should have been made. In particular, the contact details need to be updated and there's also a statement that "your local councillors have agreed to the removal," which isn't quite correct. We're told about it, but not asked to approve or reject removals.

Replacement trees are ordered in June each year, for delivery in early winter to allow planting over the winter period. Any tree removed prior to June should be replaced later on that year, but any tree removed afterwards will be replaced as part of the following year's planting. Amey buy the most established young trees that they can, to give them the best chance of surviving the tough conditions that a street tree faces.

We're lucky in Birmingham to have such a green street scene - any view from above shows a mass of green - and we have over 70,000 trees adorning our streets. They are still divisive, however. I can easily find residents who would take an axe to a tree outside their home given half a chance, as well as plenty who love the trees.