Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tower Hill question



Jon Hunt tabled a question to Cabinet member Cllr Tahir Ali on Tuesday about the problems at the Tower Hill junction and the reason why a 30mph zone has been rejected here. The answer speaks for itself. There is no recognition that the measures taken have not stopped the illegal u-turns:



Road safety


Could the Cabinet Member indicate if he has definitely ruled out consideration of a 30mph zone on the Walsall Road in the vicinity of Tower Hill, as requested in a residents’ petition of autumn 2012, noting the evidence of strong pedestrian use of the road at this point and that alternative attempts to tweak road safety at this junction seem to have proved counterproductive?


Speed limits on all principal roads are reviewed periodically to determine the appropriate speed limit for traffic. This assessment includes analysis of various factors including measured speeds and accident history.

The A34 route along Walsall Road was assessed in 2011 as part of a city-wide review of speed limits. This particular length of Walsall Road around was assessed again this year following safety concerns being raised. On both occasions when weighed against the criteria governing the setting of speed limits, the professional assessment has been that 40mph is the appropriate speed limit. As part of the latter assessment, the view of West Midlands Police as the enforcement authority was sought and they agreed with the assessment.

The other changes recently made at the junction were primarily to prevent a specific safety issue where drivers were illegally u-turning and near misses were being reported on a pedestrian crossing as a result. Those changes remove that conflict and whilst I understand it may have resulted slight increases in traffic queuing in peak times for one particular manoeuvre (turning right in to Beeches Road), I believe in terms of pedestrian safety this has been a positive change.

Last posting on this topic - July

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Swimming pool at scrutiny

Finally the swimming pool petition has had its day at committee - at the city council's districts and public engagement  scrutiny committee yesterday.

City head of sport Steve Hollinsworth tabled a report on the proposals for the pool and Cllr Jon Hunt, chair of Friends of Beeches Pool, explained the background and how the petition came to be, and asked a series of questions. Jon pointed out the pool had been built originally in Great Barr because of a public campaign - and that in fact it serves a large cachment area from Great Barr to Aston and including 18 schools.
There was also an impassioned speech from the floor from one of our campaigners Allan Ball, who stressed the lifesaving benefits of swimming.
Committee members stressed that a petition of 10,000 signatures should not be ignored and promised to keep an eye on future progress.
Steve explained that Beeches Pool would go into the "future framework contract" with a number of other pools, probably across the north of the city. A report confirming the contract is set to go to city cabinet later this month.
Under the deal, which is similar to the one in place in Harborne, contractors will have to provide minimum opening hours, maximum fees, full repairs and protection of clubs and their times.
 Jon Hunt asked four questions:
1/ There had been problems at Harborne with the swimming club and these partly centred on the right of the club to run its own learn to swim programmes.
2/ Was there a risk the pool could be moth-balled if the contractor decided the repair bill was too high or something happened requiring major repairs?
3/ Was there a risk the pool could be moth-balled if the contractor decided it could not make enough money?
4/ What would be done about involving the community, especially given the huge amount of good will revealed by the campaign to save the pool?
 Steve replied.
1/ Yes Harborne and the swimming club had not worked out. There are a series of meetings planned with the ASA and the clubs about future arrangements over the next few weeks. It appears they are looking for a deal on learn to swim meaning the pools themselves undertake the basic learn to swim - but at some point children can transfer to the swimming clubs for advanced coaching.
2/ The contractors are liable under the contract to keep the pools in good repair for the 15 years of the contract It was recognised there could be significant costs at Beeches and these were being offset by the new builds and other capital investment in the other pools in the area.
3/ Under the contract, the contractors would have to keep the pool open.
In response to 2 and 3, Steve said the contractors would face financial penalties if they decided they could no longer run a pool.
"They cannot withdraw from the site without our permission. It would be a significant contract change."
The council believes that private contractors are much better able to market facilities and encourage use than the council. 
4/ Steve promised future public involvement, saying that pools would have user groups and management boards.
There was also a contribution from Oscott councillor Keith Linnecor and some discussion about getting investment from "planning gain", for instance from the site of the former Booths Lane golf course.
You can watch the full discussion here:

More Flashbacks to the campaign last winter:
Karen Hamilton, Jon Hunt and Allan Ball on the first day of campaigning

Friday, August 22, 2014

Swimming pool campaign - official response

Breaking news: this is the report that will go to a scrutiny committee on the 2nd in response to our petition. It's mainly positive - seems like good news. Cllr Jon Hunt will be attending to speak for the campaign.

The report includes the following: "The specification includes: -
 Minimum opening hours
 The protection of clubs and their times
 Maximum fees and charges
 Full repairing lease."


" The Leisure Framework is on target to deliver new packages of facilities by April 2015,
including the management of Beeches Pool, to provide the council with a sustainable
leisure service for the future.
In addition to the new builds it is anticipated that contractors will also invest in the existing
facility stock to make them more welcoming and cost effective to operate over the life of
the contract; resulting in an improved customer experience for residents."

What questions should be asked?

Beeches Pool Scrutiny report (This will give you the download for a pdf file from the city council website)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tower Hill traffic lights

Vigil for victims of Tower Hill accident
Quite a few residents have complained about the removal of the right turn filter light at the Walsall Road/Beeches Road junction.

Jon Hunt met the engineers responsible at the site recently to explain the problems it has caused.

The removal was done following the campaign we led for improved safety at this junction (watch for new signs etc). The engineers say it will deter drivers from performing illegal u-turns because they have to be more cautious.

They say that drivers still have the same amount of time to do the right turn - as the southbound traffic is still stopped in the same way.

Unfortunately they failed to tell anyone what they proposed to do - especially the ward councillors. We had to put two and two together when the filter light mysteriously disappeared and let off a few "fireworks" to find out what was happening.

Following Jon's site meeting it was agreed that more time could be allowed for “right turning” here in the afternoon rush hour as southbound traffic on the Walsall Road is not heavy. But they will not agree to reinstate the filter light.

Following our campaign last year, the engineers have agreed there are problems caused by illegal u-turns and large numbers of pedestrians. But they have currently rejected our proposal for a 30mph zone. They’ve agreed a new speed camera would help but can’t guarantee when it will go in.

* Update. We've agreed that the engineers should come to the next ward committee meeting to hear residents' concerns and give a full briefing on the work at Tower Hill. This will be on Thursday September 17th at 7pm at Perry Hall Methodist Church, Rocky Lane.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wireless music festival arrangements

By now most affected residents should have had access permits for next week's event in Perry Park (July 4-6th). These allow access to local roads and to parking.

Every household's getting two permits. If you need more you can go to the Alexander Stadium, with ID, and ask for extra.

If you are visiting Perry Barr for the event, welcome! We hope you have a great time. Please respect our neighbourhood and, if you are driving, please use the official car parks.

The festival comprises three separate days of events, with artists, such as Bruno Mars, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams performing in London and Birmingham over the weekend. There are now weekend camping facilities and camping will not be allowed in the local parks.

All local residents, including those not in the parking zones, should have received, on the Focus,by now the helpline number for the event. It is 0207 009 3410. Use the number if there are obstructions  or other problems. By all means let your local councillors know if there are problems and we will try to help if they do not seem to be sorted. Call 0121 240 9689 or email one of us.

There will be tow trucks around over the weekend to enforce parking restrictions. These will be primarily used when parked vehicles cause an obstruction.

The areas that will be barriered, allowing resident only access are, as follows:
Church Road
Cliveden Avenue
Roads off Perry Avenue (but not the Avenue itself)
Rocky Lane, Walsall Road end
Rocky Lane, junction with Baltimore and Coleraine Roads
Kingsdown Avenue
Perry Park Crescent
Fairview Avenue/Gainsborough Road
Tower Hill
Roads between Thornbridge Avenue and the park - ie Monsal Rd, Holmesfield Rd, Longstone Rd, Haddon Rd

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Scrap the Garden Tax - top manifesto pledge

Karen Hamilton inspects some of the green waste left uncollected by the road side because it's in the wrong bags
 Here's our Liberal Democrat  manifesto for Birmingham.

Top of the list is to get rid of the so-called "garden tax", the £35 charge for collecting garden waste.

Its shambolic introduction has seen barely 10% of households signing up, queues for the waste depots and the streets littered with green bags. But even if it had ben managed well, it would lead to big cuts in recycling and large amounts of dumping.

There's a lot more here to do with jobs, education, housing, transport and how the public voice can better be heard in the council. There are new ideas for dealing with private landlords and scrap metal dealers.

Cleaner streets and refuse collection
Devolution and neighbourhood working
Sport and leisure
A public voice
Public protection - landlords, pay day loans, scrap metal dealers
Regeneration, planning and transport
Jobs and education

Music Festival update

There's a public meeting about the music festival in Perry Park on Friday night (May 9th) at 7pm. It's in the Alexander Stadium in the Dennis Howell Suite.

The meeting is being held by the organisers of the event to talk through arrangements for managing the traffic with local residents. As in the past with major events there will be extensive "exclusion zones" and residents will get passes - but visitors will not be able to park in these exclusion zones or get into them.

The event is being held over three days from July 4th to July 6th by Livenation and features major names from the world of pop and dance including Bruno Mars, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams.

One of the problems we've had in the past with major events is stewarding and enforcement. The organisers say they are going to do this better - and bring experience from other cities.

Although the event is three days, each day has its own tickets and there will be no camping in the park.

The organisers have pledged to make substantial contributions to the community in return for inconveniencing us. One community group, directly affected by the event, has already had a £1,000 donation. We're looking at ideas such as new play facilities or doing some work to clean up the lake in Perry Park

As the photo shows, we've been letting residents know. More than 4,000 households will be affected and all have heard from us in the last week.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tower Hill Safety Campaign Update

 It's nearly two years since a fatal accident killed one woman and nearly killed a pregnant woman too at the Tower Hill junction of Walsall Road. The driver involved was later jailed for dangerous driving.

The event shocked the community and although the incident was the fault of a reckless and irresponsible driver, it also highlighted some long-standing safety issues at this junction.

So we started by collecting a petition and submitting it to the council, calling specifically for a 30mph zone at this busy junction.

Then in collaboration with the local police and neighbourhood watches we set about gathering more evidence. We were joined in this work by the Child family, relatives of Sarah who died so awfully.

Over several sessions we counted:

  • all the pedestrians using the unprotected crossing by the Co-op;
  • all  the drivers performing illegal u-turns;
  • all the drivers jumping red lights.

We proved that more people crossed the road using the unprotected crossing than the two pelican crossings - and that there were hundreds of them.

We proved that drivers were u-turning onto one of the pelican crossings, terrifying many residents.We even saw a trailer u-turned and swinging wildly towards the bus-stops by the Co-op.

This led to meetings with senior city engineers and the submission of our evidence. The council agreed to organise a professional study of the junction and to investigate "phasing" of the lights to allow an all-red pedestrian phase - giving people more time to cross by the Co-op.

Avril, in turn, continued to campaign and in the autumn organised a march of remembrance, which Jon and Karen were pleased to support (see photos)

Now the council's professional study has confirmed our findings. Pedestrians are at risk and u-turns pose a major hazard (Drivers can easily and safely u-turn south-bound by turning into Tower Hill. The same manoeuvre can be done north-bound although it is trickier).

There is a programme of works and investment agreed (we're awaiting the details) and the junction will be considered for speed cameras when the new digital ones start to be introduced. In addition a proper red phase will be introduced.

Our original petition called for a 30mph zone through Tower Hill and the petition response says there will be a review of the speed limit here.

That's the good news. We're waiting for a full site meeting with the engineers and some of what they propose has seemed baffling. For instance the right turn filter into Beeches Road has been removed. This has annoyed drivers but the engineers say it stops drivers feeling it is safe to u-turn south-bound.

So expect us to be back assessing the effects of the work.

Our last report on this:

From the response to the petition: