Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year

Delivery of the annual Christmas card and calendar is now well under way. And this year's has a historical mystery.

The photograph shows Perry Pool House, Perry Barr, pictured in 1909. But where was Perry Pool House? We have studied the 1890 maps of Perry Barr and cannot find a trace of it on the River Tame or by the pool in Perry Barr Park.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A day out over the holiday?

Would you like a day out over the Christmas holiday? Here are some offers you may not have heard about.

You can get a £5 day return ticket to London from Snow Hill or Moor Street. You have to book in advance using London Midlands' "rapid advance purchase" system.

You can also get a £10 day rover ticket which allows you to travel anywhere on the London Midland service.

These are special ticket offers the company has agreed following its failure to run Sunday services earlier this year. This emerged at the meeting of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority yesterday. There are 400,000 of the London tickets and just 50,000 day rover tickets so expect to have to hunt around to find the offers. This is the London Midland site.

* In a second development at the ITA, Jon Hunt was pleased to put through a ground-breaking deal to ensure the future of the Ring and Ride service. Centro has agreed to fund Ring and Ride for at least three years, enabling Ring and Ride to invest in new services and equipment with a view to carrying more passengers more efficiently.

If you have special transport needs and are eligible to use Ring and Ride, look out for special day-time trips such as shopping expeditions.

* And there's more good news on public transport because for the first time in donkey's years, bus fares on National Express West Midlands - that's the old TWM - will not be going up in the New Year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Queslett Road lights hold up

Today Jon Hunt raised the deadlock on the Queslett Road/Nova Court junction at the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority.

As a result Centro is to talk to Sandwell and Birmingham Councils to try to get joint working resumed on this junction.

Queslett Road, as has been well reported, has had a tragically high accident rate in recent years with several unpleasant crashes near this particular junction.

Speaking to the authority Jon stressed that quite a lot has been done. New traffic light junctions have been installed at Netherhall, close to Nova Court, and at Asda a little further on. In addition there are speed cameras on this stretch of road.

However access to Nova Court and the estate around it remains hazardous.

At last month's ward committee, the Perry Barr councillors were told that Sandwell Council had withdrawn its support for lights at this junction, claiming they are not necessary any more. Birmingham officers said they are now looking at other ways to spend their share of the cash to improve safety here. However, without lights, this junction is always going to be hazardous.

The Transport Authority received a report on progress in the region which stated that:
1/ road casualty rates are still too high'
2/ the local authorities do not think there are many more major engineering schemes that can be put in place to deal with the problem.

Jon took his opportunity, asking who could "bang heads together" and gained backing from officers and members for taking up the problem.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ward committee in Witton

Perry Barr ward committee meets on Monday at 7pm at the Methodist Church, Wyrley Road, Witton.

The main topic is the proposed Aston and Lozells Action plan. It proposes a new zoning arrangement for Witton, between industrial and domestic housing. We had some concerns about the plans we saw as they did not include Deykin Avenue School. We have been assured this will be corrected.

A second major issue is the fate of the Serpentine Site, which used to be a supermarket and is now a parking area for Villa and includes the Villa Leisure Centre. It was previously intended it would be for housing and leisure - it is now being zoned for industry and commerce.

Whatever happens, it needs cleaning up. However we are concerned it will leave the Yew Tree estate isolated and also that earlier plans to replace or develop the Villa Leisure Centre should not be abandoned.

Art exhibition

Jill Barnard with proofs of calendar
A terrific art exhibition by the Perry Beeches Art Group at St Paul's Church Hall, Great Barr, today, demonstrating some hidden talent in Perry Barr and Great Barr.

This group started just six years ago in the Trehurst Community Centre. They have had a little bit of community chest to help them along.

There were pictures to see - but the group has also produced its own calendar for next year.

Many Perry Beeches art group calendarof the artists had never believed they could paint before they joined the group. Yet all produced a range of excellent and interesting pictures in a range of styles. We understand that one of our Christmas cards inspired an intriguing painting of the old Perry Mill Farm, which stood roughly where One-Stop is at Perry Barr.

The photos here show secretary Jill Barnard with proofs of the calendar. It costs just £5 and can be obtained by calling Jill on 358 0781.

There's another opportunity to take up art on Wednesday nights, we hear. Classes are held at Great Barr School at 6.30pm. The contact is Mrs H Davies at the school.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Speedway Hopes and Trees

Two developments on Wednesday which offer hope of a rapid solution to keeping Speedway at Perry Barr.

Firstly during the evening the Speedway tested out the new reduced noise exhaust systems on Wednesday night. The aim is to reduce noise levels by about 10 decibels.

Jon and Karen listened at various locations and were pleased to note the way it reduced the volume of noise across Perry Barr. If you live in the area of the track we'd value your feedback (please email with your address ) on the success of this.

Earlier in the day Karen, Ray and Jon visited the track and met promoter Graham Drury to discuss further environmental measures.

This was an exciting and productive meeting. Graham is suggesting planting about 100 metres of fast-growing high conifer trees along the line of the bank of the River Tame. We've expressed concerns that the river is acting as an echo chamber - you can see in the picture behind Ray Hassall, there's a chain-link fence and then the river, which is flanked by factory walls. Once fully grown, this line of trees would help prevent sound reaching the river and screen the track from both the Nash Square and Cliveden/Teddington neighbourhoods of Perry Barr.

It would also have a big environmental impact. It would hugely improve the appearance of Perry Barr as you approach it from the Birchfield flyover and would provide a green, leafy backdrop to the stadium.

Ray said: "As everybody knows, I've made it my mission in recent years to get trees back into Birmingham. This proposal from the Speedway would make a big contribution as well as helping to ensure the noise from racing does not give residents cause to complain in future years.

"I shall be doing what I can to provide advice and support to Speedway to make this happen and have begun talks with our experts in the parks department."

He added: "During the three years I was cabinet member for the leisure department we increased the rate of tree planting from 1,000 trees a year to 3,000 trees."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Speedway result

Planning committee today deferred a decision on speedway at Perry Barr for one year "minded to approve" and with a request to the officers to come up with appropriate conditions.

This is a wise decision very much in line with the submissions from the local councillors and many local residents, who wanted to see noise problems resolved before permanent permission is given.

The committee made it clear they want to ensure that the reduced noise exhaust systems are being introduced into speedway. Members were also supportive of our suggestion that other measures need to be taken.

The issue has generated a lot of heat and misrepresentation in the last few days as emotions have run high in some quarters.

Here is the text of what Jon Hunt said the planning committee this morning:

"Mr chairman, committee members,

Most residents are happy to live with speedway and let fans enjoy it. They just want something done about the noise. I am here to advocate solutions.

Unlike the old Perry Barr speedway, which was banked, this track is open in several directions. In addition the River Tame is flanked by factories and acts as an echo chamber creating some weird acoustic effects.

Reduced noise from the bikes would be welcome and I hope very much would work - but we also need specific measures to close boundaries of the track.

Tall fencing would be good and what about some tall, leafy trees?

Speedway says it wants to be good neighbours and many of its fans tell me it’s a community activity. We need to see it invest in good neighbourliness, not run down the residents affected by the problem as NIMBYs. Please don’t denigrate the genuine concerns of residents who have been to see me about this on a regular basis over the last three years."

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Volunteers spent Saturday planting new flower beds in the moat area of Perry Hall Park and working on clearing and tidying up the stream through the "Chinese garden".

Volunteers, police, park staff and local councillors all worked together in the latest stage of the enhancement of this park.

Second picture shows Cllr Jon Hunt planting a bed all on his own and the third picture shows some of the thousands of goldfish that now inhabit the moat.

Sadly work on enhancing another of our parks, Turnberry Park, is being blighted by the vandals who are flytipping large amounts of rubbish in its woodland. Details to follow.

Speedway decision on Thursday

The application for permanent planning permission for the Speedway at Perry Barr is to go to the planning committee on Thursday.

The current recommendation to the committee, from the city's planning officers, is to refuse the application.

That is because the council's environmental protection department have advised there is no way of guaranteeing that the noise can be controlled. They argue that the reduction of 10db promised through new exhaust systems cannot be enforced if it does not go ahead and concur with local residents and businesses that the current level of noise is not tolerable.They also confirm what we have been saying - that the planning decision is the best point to settle problems of noise.

In addition there have been heavyweight submissisions from Birmingham City University as well as many from local residents.

Speedway have apparently collected more than 500 signatures of support, including some from residents around the track.

When the return of Speedway was given temporary permission three years ago, the planning committee overruled the advice of officers to refuse it.

We have proposed that a sound proofed high fence be erected on the west side of the site, which adjoins the River Tame. We believe if sound-proofed fences can be used on the motorway they can also be used by the Speedway. The Speedway have told us that this would cost them at least £40,000.

Both Speedway and the environmental protection department agree that they don't think a fence will work.

We say it is a shame it was not tried, when we suggested it a couple of years ago. We've walked the site and note the noise is hitting the south-west corner of Nash Square most, where it is coming up the line of the river, past the factory buildings that lie between Nash Square and the stadium. On the west side of the track there are no buildings to block the noise and that may explain why there are so many complaints from roads lying the other side of the Walsall Road. As this is an industrial site, a high barrier would not be obtrusive.

Directly north of Nash Square a new FE college is to be built. That will almost certainly have evening sessions and could experience the same problems as BCU complains of.

Otherwise, if the decision goes to a straight reject or approve on Thursday, without any attempt at finding a workable solution, there will be a great many people upset.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cricket review

Review of community cricket in Birmingham announced.

Here is the Birmingham Post report - a useful update on the controversies over the summer over Perry Hall Park.

"Council to review grass roots cricket

A Birmingham-wide review of grass roots cricket is being launched in a bid to build on the huge enthusiasm for the game following England’s Ashes success this summer......."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer News 3 - Booths Farm area

Football in the Park!
Continental Star Football club, Turnberry Park, daily from 10.30am-3pm, Mon to Fri.
During term-time the club will run on Thursday nights at 5pm until half-term.
 Food provided (free). Contact 07773 321568 for more info; There’s skills training in the morning and games in the afternoon. In the wet weather they use The Motorway Tunnel. All ages welcome from 8 to 18.
Thanks for the Funday
A big thanks to those who supported the FunDay and Classic Cars in the park in June. A special thanks are due to the organisers, Melvin and Pauline, Booths Farm Neighbourhood Forum, the Trehurst Centre and the Booths Farm Neighbourhood Watch.

Improving the Park
We’re continuing step by step improvements to the park.
  • The football club is possible because of the £20,000 spent from community chest earlier this year to drain the field after our consultations with you, the local residents.
From community chest we’ve also agreed:
  • to replace the barrier at Turnberry Road;
  • to replace the litter bin in the children’s play area;
  • to install a pair of permanent goal-posts for knock-about football.
Next priority: get the woodland cleared of rubbish. This has been stuck in red tape for years because the woodland is owned by the housing department. Now some ideas are being explored to get round this and make this an area that can be used for pleasant walks.
This wood is NOT a tip!
One set back: money was going to come from the Booths Lane development for the park. Because of financial problems at the Golf Range and the economic depression it looks as if that development may not happen for some time.
Do you have ideas for improving the park? Let us know.
Crime Alert
There are criminals operating in this area. Please ensure you keep security gates closed and locked and watch for any suspicious activity.
Don’t forget you can chat to the local police teams by calling 428 6140
Other summer holiday activities:
     There are also activities at the Alexander Stadium, the GMAC(gymnastics and martial arts) and the Beeches Fitness Centre. These involve small daily charges.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer News - Edition Two

Carnival update and details of some summer activities...

  1. Birmingham Carnival – new noise controls
    The Carnival is being held in Perry Park on August 2nd. The procession is due to arrive at Church Road between 3.30 and 4.30pm

    A number of residents supported us in making a submission to the Licensing Committee about the Carnival so we could get new and tougher noise controls.

    The committee has now met and agreed tight restrictions on noise levels.

    It’s not to exceed 65 decibels in any nearby properties (including the flats) and there will be professional monitoring on the site. Last time sound levels reached 84db in the Perry Villa estate.

    In addition the carnival organisers have agreed to set up a hotline for residents if noise gets intolerable – and to do something about it. We did not get all the restrictions we asked for. However we have explained to the organisers that last time, very loud sound systems were placed facing down the hill in Perry Park – and this sound reflected off the big lake, leading to many complaints on the Beeches Estate.

    If you think the noise is getting too loud this time, please call the Carnival hotline 303 3008. By all means let us know also!

    We are also looking for a couple of residents to volunteer to host noise monitoring equipment on the day so the problem can be properly monitored. These are small devices which will be installed by the council’s environmental protection unit. Please call Cllr Karen Hamilton 507 1047 if you can assist.

    If you are in the usual “exclusion zone”, you should have received a residents’ access pass. Stewards should be directing carnival visitors to the official car parks around the park site and we’ve been promised the Walsall Road closure – which can cause big problems – will be better timed this year.
    The official carnival residents’ hotline is 303 3008.

    If you have additional problems, Karen Hamilton is on stand-by to assist in the run-up to the event on 507 1047. During the day you can call the following mobile number 07505 351416.

    Perry Park
    As many residents will have noticed, the contractors were ordered to “try again” after they made a hash of the area between Perry Park Crescent and the GMAC. It’s improved but we still don’t think it’s good enough.

    We also ordered, through community chest, a pair of goal posts to create a kick-about area that side of the park for local residents.

    Some summer holiday activities:
    - Open air play activities for 5-13 year olds, Mon-Fri, all day, Turnberry Park ( access from Trehurst Avenue) until August 7th. Contact 0121 675 8528.
    -Football club, Turnberry Park, daily from 10.30am, Mon to Fri, until August 28th , food provided(free) contact 07773 321568;
    -Holiday club, Beeches Chapel, mornings, July 27 to 31;
    -Thornbridge Allotments Summer Show, Saturday August 8th;
    -There are also activites at the Alexander Stadium, the GMAC(gymnastics and martial arts) and the Beeches Fitness Centre. These involve small daily charges.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Ward committee – meet your councillors!
Updates on the carnival, speedway and parks are due to be given at the Perry Barr ward committee to be held at 7pm on Monday July 13th at the Methodist Church on Rocky Lane (by junction of Lavendon Road).

An application for permanent planning permission has been submitted for this. Residents who live in the vicinity of the stadium will receive further details from us. As ward councillors we recognise the event has many fans but also that the noise disruption from racing is currently intolerable for many people living close by.
This may be the last chance for residents to do anything about the noise.
You can comment on-line at: or by writing to: Planning Management, Birmingham City Council, PO Box 28, Alpha Tower, Suffolk Street Queensway, Birmingham B1 1TU .
quoting application number: N/02660/09/FUL. Deadline July 29th

Last posting on this

Birmingham Carnival
A reminder that this is due to be held on Sunday August 2nd . The event’s in Perry Park with parking in Perry Hall Park.
There is to be a licensing hearing on July 20th and many residents have made submissions – so there may be last minute alterations. We have submitted strong evidence that there needs to be better control of noise and that the Carnival Procession needs to keep to time (because of the disruption to traffic lateness causes).
If you live are in the usual “exclusion zone”, you should receive a residents’ access pass the week beforehand. The official residents’ hotline is 303 3008.
If you have additional problems, Karen Hamilton is on stand-by to assist in the run-up to the event on 507 1047.
Last posting on this topic

Perry Hall Park
Two petitions have recently been submitted to the council about issues over this park. The local councillors are fighting a proposal to remove the park warden, who has done excellent work with the Friends of the Park and other volunteers to improve things.
We’ve also followed up complaints about access to cricket pitches and rubbish left following cricket games. The park keeper has mowed practice pitches for people who’d like to try their hand at cricket (but please don’t use hard balls!). In addition we’ve agreed to develop two community playing fields on this side of the river. New football posts will be erected (paid for from community chest), the ground surface checked and repaired to remove hazards and the grass mowed short over the area of a football pitch. A third pitch will go in by Perry Park Crescent on Perry Park when the grassing of this area is finally complete (following mistakes made by the contractors)
Previous postings on this here and here.

Letting Boards
Following complaints from residents and the local councillors, the planning department has launched a crackdown on “TO LET” signs. It’s become clear these are being left up for advertising purposes even when properties have been rented. Please let us know if you think this is happening in your neighbourhood.

Many thanks to the civic-minded individuals who have ordered skips for neighbourhood clean-ups. If a City Council skip appears on your back-land it is there to enable you to clear the shared land and drive areas. Please do not use them for personal use!

Church Road – will be closed for through traffic July 13th for eight weeks for water mains work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Carnival licence up

Birmingham Carnival's licence application to run the event in Perry Park on August 2nd has now been submitted.

We checked today and notices of the application have not been posted around the park and on the Walsall Road as is required. We've spoken to licensing and have been assured this will be put right (It's up to the organisers to do it, not the licensing department).

One of our major concerns this year has been that the noise problem from 2007 is put right. The second is that traffic and parking management is got right.

This is the first time the Carnival has had to submit a separate application for this event and there is likely to be a hearing in mid-July.

Residents have until June 30th to submit comments. They have to write to the Licensing Section, Crystal Court, Aston Cross Business Village, 50 Rocky Lane, Aston, Birmingham B6 5RQ.

We are currently working on our response and will publish details soon.

Pictures from Turnberry Park fun day

As predicted a terrific day for the first event in this park for some years. Special thanks must go to the Booths Farm Neighbourhood Forum for organising it, in particular to Melvin and Pauline Martin.
Pictures show: Perry Beeches Marching Band;
Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Mike Sharpe with the winning car, a a sparklingly immaculate E-type Jag, along with his wife Thelma, Ray Hassall, Melvin Martin, Jon Hunt, John Spencer of the BFNF;
Ray Hassall and Mike Sharpe inspecting the winning car;
Karen Hamilton, Ray Hassall and greyhounds.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fun day tomorrow

Things are looking good for tomorrow's Cars in the Park and Fun Day at Turnberry Park, Great Barr.

Today's weather is brilliant for this kind of event, nice and warm with cloudy intervals. Tomorrow's forecast is identical.

We're expecting dozens of classic cars, a big car boot sale, free rides for children and hundreds of people.

The event marks several milestones for the community around the park. It is being organised by Booths Farm Neighbourhood Forum, which had spent much of the last two or three years fighting a critical right of way case. In the end, the Forum was successful in making someone remove fencing that had been erected to block off a right of way and absorb some shared land. This left legal bills and the Forum will be fund-raising to pay those bills.

In addition the "swamp" area of the park has been restored to its original use for football and ball games. We agreed some £20,000 of community chest money to pay for drainage here and you can see the work in the background of this picture.

Whilst Perry Hall Park and Perry Barr Park are wonderful parks dominating our ward, Turnberry Park is the most accessible green area for most people so over the years we've put quite a lot of effort into developing it. The footpath that crosses it was lit for the first time a few years ago. Some people walk through it to use the Queslett Nature Reserve which lies just beyond the other side of the motorway (which is behind the trees on the right).

Access is via an entrance facing Calshot School or you can park at the neighbourhood office on Beeches Road and take a short footpath through a wood to the park.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Perry Hall Park open day

Today the friends of Perry Hall Park held an open day in the park.

This was a chance to show off some of the progress made recently in this park under the supervision of park warden Jez Lilley. The park was set up by a group of young people who are becoming junior park wardens.
The first picture shows the friends, the second the Swan Rescue Centre and the third the Historical Society which had a fascinating exhibition on the history of Perry Hall.

The fourth is Norman Ball, popularly known as the "moatman", the hard-working volunteer who has landscaped the moat over a number of years. Norman is shown in the park's new welcome garden.

We launched a petition at this event calling for the retention of the park warden's post. The warden has made a big difference to the park in recent years, working with community groups and establishing the Friends and enabling bids for various funds.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

TowerHill success

Some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that our campaign to restrict opening hours at the new Clifton Cinema restaurant has been successful. Planners have refused permission for it to stay open, offering dancing and drink until 2.30am.

Throughout we've stressed we welcome the conversion of this historic cinema building and the investors that the Chinese businesspeople are putting into it. But opening in the early hours was too much and we had to resist it.

The bad news is that they have a right of appeal - and sometimes that can lead to things going pear-shaped.

For instance, close to this site, we were celebrating two years ago when permission was refused for a phone mast and base station outside the Co-op cinema. We were astonished and dismayed when this self-same structure was installed.

Upon inquiry, it emerged the phone company had quietly gone to a government inspector to appeal and won. Outrageous! The structure isn't as bad as we feared but our original arguments stand - that it's clutter in a shopping area which has just been renovated with new bus stops and public access.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rain stops play...

Sadly the big event planned for this weekend in Great Barr is going to be postponed because of the dreadful weather forecast.

The event is the Cars in the Park, to be held in Turnberry Park, Great Barr. This is an ambitious fun day organised by the Booths Farm Neighbourhood Forum and was to include a parade of classic cars and motorbikes on Sunday 17th.

The weather forecasts suggest rain every day between now and Sunday. It could be wrong but stopping the event now prevents thousands of pounds being lost through a wash-out and keeps cancellation costs to a minimum.

It is now hoped to run the event on Sunday June 21st.

Although not many people will have heard of Turnberry Park (it runs alongside the M6 and access is from an entrance facing Calshot School or via a path from Trehurst Avenue), it used to hold big neighbourhood watch fun days.

So we've been pleased to support the reinvigorated Neighbourhood Forum in organising this event - which, we hope will eventually be great fun - and the Perry Barr Ward Committee has voted to approve substantial funding.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

All change

The council's annual meeting takes place on Tuesday and it looks as though the three councillors may have changing roles.

Karen Hamilton is being nominated as chair of the highways and transportation scrutiny committee. If successful, she will effectively be number 2 in the highways department.

Jon Hunt continues as Lib Dem group leader on the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority and will be nominated to continue as chair of the children and education scrutiny committee.

Ray Hassall will be joining the public protection committee after stepping down as cabinet member for the leisure department.

It's worth recording some of Ray's achievements over the three years he has held his post. Quite a lot of work has impacted on Perry Barr with its two major parks and the Alexander Stadium and sometimes he has faced criticism for being responsible for major decisions. However his knowledge of the department is going to continue to be invaluable to local people, precisely because we have so many issues.

Ray brought the half-marathon to Birmingham, setting a great example by taking part himself.

He's been involved in hard negotiations to bring top Olympics teams to Birmingham for 2012. It's no secret we are talking about the US Track Team.

He got park wardens back in the parks - look at the impact Jez Lilley has had on Perry Hall Park.

Talk to him and he can reel off a long list of what he's been involved with!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Transport 2

Jon Hunt writes:
several significant things that I was involved in getting through the transport authority (Centro) on Monday.

1/ there's an agreement to review the cost of child and young people's concessionary passes. This budget has been under-spending by more than £1 million because of declining numbers of children and young people. There's been quite a lot of pressure to look at London's free pass system and the UK Youth Parliament has organised several events recently. In fact the West Midlands has a very good pass system which allows students up to the age of 18 to get discounted travel. However more work needs to be done to encourage young people to use public transport (rather than family cars) to get to school. And an annual pass does cost several hundred pounds.

2/ Saving bus routes. I steered through an agreement with National Express (former TWM) which will now cover the whole region. The deal seeks to encourage more bus use. We've had some good local deals recently but often they've been undermined by axing of other bus routes. Under this deal, Centro and local councils will get plenty of notice and a chance to save threatened bus routes before they are withdrawn. Ray O'Toole, MD of National Express, joined us to sign the deal on Monday.

3/ Our Lib Dem group continues to keep up the pressure to get local rail lines reopened in Birmingham. This hardly affects Perry Barr very much at all but I need to mention it! The plan is to put two new routes into Moor Street Station, enabling half a dozen new local stations to open. We're disappointed that regional spending plans of Network Rail and the regional local authorities and AWM do not envisage work starting until 2014 - especially when they want to put hundreds of millions into road schemes around the region.

Perry Hall Park "row"

The users of this lovely park are up in arms about a request from the cricket league to take on more pitches.

A local campaign has been launched and it's great to see that people care.

However we need to make clear that this is not an agreed council plan. Several years ago when a strategy for the parks was agreed we made it clear that in our view the cricket should stay the west side of the river and the east side should continue to be enhanced for general leisure. Under park warden Jez Lilley there have been some terrific improvements and a lot of work by volunteers also.

Ray Hassall is cabinet member for leisure and he confirmed to the Ward Advisory Board on Monday night that he has put a block on any cricket pitches returning to what is known as the "air field", a large green south of Rocky Lane where people used to fly model planes and where football pitches are located. The site was used for cricket five years ago when work was under way on the River Tame and we had a bit of a battle to get it reinstated. (A classic example was two years ago when some cricketers hijacked it on Carnival Day causing major traffic chaos).

So we support the bulk of the aims of the campaigners but wish to make it clear that this is not an agreed plan! Our position as ward councillors has not changed - the Park is a Park, not just a Playing Field! Here's a link to their site.

* More park news. On May 30th the Friends of Perry Hall Park are planning an open day to celebrate the work they have done. There's a plan for a local history exhibition. They're having one or two problems with red-tape which need to be resolved and Ray has offered to help ensure that no jobsworth gets in the way!

Link back to winter pictures of the park.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Clifton Cinema

The plan to convert the historic Clifton Cinema at Tower Hill to a Chinese buffet has been welcomed by most people in the local community following its closure as a bingo hall. The new owners are promising considerable investment for a tasteful conversion and many people are looking forward to their tasty menus.

Sadly a new proposal is antagonising the local community. This is to extend opening and licensed hours until 230 in the morning. Applications have been placed with both the licensing committee and the planning committee.

Licensing laws mean that only direct neighbours can object to the licensing committee and by the time licensing applications are circulated not many comments can be submitted.

However the planning application has now arrived and is likely to meet opposition. We know that immediate neighbours on Tower Hill and Law Cliff Road are concerned about car doors banging into the early hours. The problem we have is we don't know what the hours will be used for - if there is any suggestion of holding large parties with large amounts of alcohol into the early hours the wider community will also be affected - it's not a good place for a night-club! If it's just for the sake of a few late-night diners, it's hard to complain.

In the meantime we can report that ten days has been added to the consultation time for the planning application - taking it into early May. The consultation letter that went out earlier this week originally stated the application was until 14.30 hrs - it should have read 2.30am! So we are now awaiting a new consultation letter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Public transport 1

Jon Hunt reports:
There are still fading posters in houses on the Walsall Road from 2003-4 when proposals to run the Metro up the road were first announced and created major opposition from residents adjoining the route (most of our ward).

A lot has happened since then but this week I think has seen a major development.

To recap: the original proposal, which Centro and the then City Council administration kept secret until the last minute was to run trams up to the Scott Arms with a view to creating a park and ride from the motorway.

Apart from the environmental impact on the Walsall Road, I quickly established that the plans would rapidly undermine local bus services. The Metro was only commercially viable if most bus passengers transferred to it. Our preferred alternative, which the city council finally agreed to support, was to end the Metro at Perry Barr so it could also pick up through passengers from Kingstanding, New Oscott and Sutton Coldfield.

However the Metro plan was never deleted from the maps or from the Local Transport Plan. What did happen was that the city council changed its priorities for Metro - putting in an A45 route to the Airport ahead of the Walsall Road. The practical impact has been there has been very very little prospect of the A34 route ever happening - and in fact the red route and bus showcase scheme has delivered massively improved bus services.

At a recent constituency committee meeting at Tower Hill Library I had a go at city planners who had yet again put the so-called Varsity Route into the Big City Plan. The reality is that the plan is unlikely ever to happen in anyone's lifetime.

However since I've been on the Passenger Transport Authority, since 2004, new thinking has permeated Centro.

So on Monday the PTA (now the Integrated Transport Authority) approved a draft of a new "Integrated Public Transport Prospectus" with some big changes proposed on the A34 plans.

This for the first time proposes to take "rapid transit" all the way to Walsall but with a big difference. What is proposed is bus rapid transit and/or Metro.

This I understand would mean taking Metro to Perry Barr - as always seemed sensible - and then building on the existing bus improvements to create new style fast bus services- bus rapid transit - to Walsall. Who knows it might even find a solution to the Scott Arms!

It is still a long, long way away, whatever happens, but this seems to me more in keeping with what the community wanted - fast bus access in both directions and a Metro serving the whole of north Birmingham at Perry Barr.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Carnival

The last meeting of the ward committee heard that it is proposed that the Birmingham International Carnival be held in Perry Barr Park on August 2nd this year.

Ward councillors have asked in the past for better consultation about the event, which could be a great event but usually poses big organisational headaches and provokes a lot of complaints from local residents.

Karen Hamilton was able to attend the last meeting of the city council's planning group. However we were dismayed to learn that the carnival committee has stated it will not have a Perry Barr ward councillor on its committee.

Our inquiries suggest the event is by no means guaranteed. For a start the council has not agreed its grant and is unlikely to until it is satisfied the organisation of the carnival is up to scratch.

Secondly the carnival needs a specific licence from the licensing committee to operate. Last time it breached its noise limits big time and we had a lot of complaints from some roads. We would hope the committee would require cast iron guarantees that noise will be controlled ie by limiting the number of sound systems on site.

In general this should be a cause for celebration and could be a great community event. The carnival procession is always magnificent. So why do the ward councillors receive the news with dread? Because something always goes wrong.

In 2007 the Carnival was held on a blistering hot day and attracted record crowds. That put pressure on the local roads but in truth quite a few problems were caused by simple human error. Each time we work with the organisers to put these errors right - and each time something else happens!

Last time there were problems with parking, noise and non-delivery of resident passes.

Starting with noise, in the Perry Villa Estate this reached 85 decibels which is about 25dbs more than the acceptable limt. So we're pressing for two things this year; 1/ to move the funfair away from the built up side of the park 2/ to limit the sound systems to the two mainstages. We do not believe the private DJ systems that come with the Carnival are acceptable. Last time speakers were pointed across the valley and blasted the Beeches estate for a period of up to six hours causing a raft of complaints from families in Curbar Road and beyond.

2/ Parking. Something very simple went wrong last time. A parking area was designated in Perry Hall Park. Stewards turned up and found a cricket match being played on the area - in spite of the fact that we had asked organisers to check cricket was cancelled. The stewards didn't consult anyone and closed the car park, just as the roads were closed for the procession. Chaos!! There was in fact still plenty of space in the park but nobody had told the stewards they could use it. It was Jon Hunt who went down with department manager Kevin Brown and found out what had happened and got the car park reopened. But by that time hundreds of cars had parked in semi-legal locations around Perry Barr and Great Barr.

The truth is that getting previous problems sorted is relatively easy. Anticipating what will go wrong this time is much harder. For years weve been asking about the quality of stewarding - proper briefings and good communication could make a real difference, as could ensuring that officials pay attention when they are told about problems on the day.

Witton developments

A couple of developments in the Witton area ahead of our ward committee meeting on Monday (9th) which will be at Witton community centre at 7pm.

First planning permission has been given for a large housing development on the former Siemens site, by Tame Road and Brookvale Road. We've welcomed this as we want to bring this derelict site into use. The plans have been developed by Villa, the site owners, and of course it remains to be seen whether developers can be attracted.

The proposals look very attractive and would improve the environment around Witton station, creating riverside walks. The two issues are flooding and the loss of villa parking spaces. Everybody has been satisfied that the plans involve adequate flood defences and preparation.

In addition the revise Villa parking scheme is now bedding down after some months of confusion. This means that both householders and a limited number of their visitors can now park on match days in the residential areas - but fans cannot.

The second issue has been raised in the press today and that is the possible move of the wholesale markets to the IMI site off Brookvale Road. This would obviously be good for the local economy but we would want to look carefully at any plans as it would mean a significant increase in traffic on Brookvale Road.

Dog fouling

For years the pavements around Calshot School, Great Barr, have been blighted by regular deposits of dog mess.

This year we've agreed with the police and the environmental warden service to have a major drive to tackle this problem.

We've been building up the environmental warden service over the last six years - and one of the reasons the newly-elected Liberal Democrat councillors back in 2003 and 2004 were keen to hire wardens was because of this problem of fouling.

Any dog fouling is an environmental hazard. However to do it on the pavement by the gates of an infant school or a nursery is nothing less than a crime.

Most dog-owners are responsible. They carry dog-bags and trowels and pick up the mess. A minority are giving others a bad name.

So we are sorry to report that in spite of the campaign that has been launched the problem is getting no better. So far the police have circulated households in the area of the school and attached prominent signs to the school fences.

The Walsall Road police welcome calls and information about the problem. They can be contacted directly on 428 6140

One mother told Jon Hunt last night that she had challenged a dog-owner directly in sight of one of these signs over the last few days. The dog-owner declined to accept responsibility for the mess being created.

It's becoming clear the only answer to the problem will be prosecutions. Residents in one neighbouring road are complaining their verges have been turned into a canine convenience.

Dog-owners who persist in abusing the pavements and putting the health of children at risk need to be aware that both the neighbourhood police team and the warden service are committed to dealing with this problem - as are we!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Scenic in the snow

Here's some more pictures of the parks in the snow today with the sun out. A view of the moat at Perry Hall and the lake on the River Tame, with a swan centre stage.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Perry Barr Park Lake

And here's the lake at Perry Barr Park in the snow this afternoon.

Perry Hall Park in the snow

Here's Perry Hall Park in the snow this morning. Don't forget if your grit-bin's empty, contact the team and we'll ask highways to refill it. Keep safe!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Alarming news about burglaries at the ward committee on Monday night. The police have recorded some 13 more burglaries than last year. The problem is on the west side of the Walsall Road and also in Handsworth Wood.

Some arrests have been made but it has not solved the problem.

The burglars seem to be using the late afternoon when it is dark and people may not be back from work. So one tip: leave some lights on during the day if you are not going to get home until after dark. Also make sure all your doors and windows are securely locked and valuables not left visible.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Draining a park, BMX , mountain trails and skate-boarding

Ward committee last night approved the spending of some £20,000 to drain the playing field at Turnberry Park.

This is an exciting project which should lead to the creation of new football pitches and even organised teams for several thousand homes that adjoin this small park.

The park is tucked away alongside the M6 on the Booths Farm estate. Although it has a large flat area which has been used for sports in the summer, for much of the year this area is water-logged. Water flows down from the Great Barr hills and tries to drain away into the culvert that runs alongside the M6.

The money, allocated by the ward councillors from community chest, will pay for professional drainage. The Trehurst community centre can provide a base for organised football teams.

Over the last couple of months we have been running surveys round this neighbourhood and others affected by proposed developments. Support for this project has been overwhelming, approaching 100 per cent.

The committee also had an update about another exciting project - the creation of a new BMX track in Perry Barr Park.

Perry Barr has already been selected as the British entry to host the World BMX Championships in 2012 - just a few months before the Olympics in London. As it is close to the Olympics, Britain is very hopeful we will be successful.

 The new track will replace the old one, which sits just underneath the M6.
Alongside this project, we have been working with Oscott ward councillors to site a skate-board park by the BMX track. Again we have been asking local residents about this project - and responses have been 100 per cent positive.

The city's leisure department has further plans for the site. For by the BMX track is a wood. In fact until 15 years ago it was a tree nursery for the city but it was abandoned and became overgrown. It is now inaccessible.  It runs up to the banks of the motorway and the plans for the site now include creating tracks within these woods for mountain bikers.

All this will need to be linked to the wider park. The woods run up alongside the lake in the park and this will highlight the need to get the lake sorted out.

Karen Hamilton said: "This is all great news. These projects will help improve the environment of our area at the same time as providing activities for young people and children within Perry Barr."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grit bins

A period of silence on this blog doesn't mean nothing's been happening on the ground! Sometimes it means the opposite...that we are too busy!!

The big freeze posed the usual set of problems. It may have been the coldest weather we have had for some time.

As every time, the big concern is: are the gritters out and do we have enough grit-bins.

As some people will remember about five years ago the council slashed the number of grit-bins, leaving some very hilly and tricky roads in Great Barr without bins. This was reversed following the change of administration in 2004 and over about three years new bins were placed. Even better they were placed in consultation with local people on sites where they were needed.

What's emerged this time are one or two new sites, especially on new roads, where bins could be provided. If you had a problem please let us know and we will see if there are any more bins to spare.

Also that people have forgotten how to use them - or that new residents are not familiar with them.

In some places they were under-used. In others they ran out quickly. If it happens again, and your road is icy, please help sprinkle some grit on it! And let somebody know if the bin empties.