COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Enterprising Erdington

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
We are delighted that Birmingham City Council has taken the bold decision to invest £2m to help refurbish, and transform the former Erdington Baths into a state-of-the-art Enterprise facility. We’re already turning our attention to the other major funder, the West Midlands Combined Authority to match the Council’s investment, and the signs are encouraging.

So many residents have fond memories of the Baths and we have had huge support from the local community and local businesses to bring this much-loved facility back into use. We remain committed to doing all that we can to make it happen.

As many people know, it is not a straightforward project, given the size, age and state of the building. We have also had to overcome many setbacks, not least, with Erdington missing out on Government investment on three occasions.

Despite this, at Witton Lodge Community Association we remain resolute and optimistic. We have many of the foundations already in place including Planning Approval, expert technical teams, and political support especially from Paulette Hamilton MP and Councillor Robert Alden.

As more and more services move online, we know the physical hubs aren’t the complete answer, and of course we will continue to support our residents to develop their IT skills, none-the-less, we believe this is no substitute for high quality, locally accessible facilities where you can meet and speak to a person face-to-face.

We’re truly fortunate in Erdington, to have many such places including those listed on the Erdington Local ENNS page.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

(Ed’s note: This column was first submitted to the Erdington Local newspaper on 4 September, before the announcement of a Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Unleashing local talent!

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer, Witton Lodge Community Association

We know there are many economic issues and challenges facing our local communities, not least through this current cost-of-living crisis. We also know there is huge talent and untapped potential in Erdington, coupled with major developments that will create hundreds of jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.

At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are passionate about building on the strengths of our local communities, unleashing talent and creating a strong local economy that benefits our residents and local businesses.

The North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Board is a really solid partnership, chaired by Paulette Hamilton MP, and through this Board we’re seeking to build a permanent bridge between jobs, investment and opportunities AND the needs, hopes and aspirations of our local residents.

By way of example, this means working hard to support our local residents into jobs with Amazon, at the Peddimore site. Beyond this, there are many more opportunities with HS2 and other employers in Erdington and North Birmingham.

We also know that some people are keen to setup their own businesses, and locally there just isn’t the space or support available for our budding entrepreneurs. We have been working hard over many years to transform the former Erdington Swimming Baths into a state-of-the-art Enterprise Hub… and we are expecting a positive announcement from Birmingham City Council that will bring this another step closer.

So, if you’re a resident looking for work, wanting to enhance your skills or would like any more information about the enterprise facility, then do get in touch with us.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: The power of community

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
I am sometimes asked what difference community-led organisations really make? Especially given the scale of today’s challenges, such as, the cost-of-living crisis. Events recently held across Erdington start to shed some light on this.

In Wyrley Birch we celebrated the first birthday of Witton Lakes Eco Hub.  It is a shining example of how over many years, local residents and volunteers overcame huge obstacles, and with grit and determination helped to create this wonderful community facility.

Once the site of a derelict building and a rubbish dump, it is now a thriving community hub where residents can enjoy a drink or join in a wide range of activities. Local school children are learning about the environment and a network of community partners will provide advice and practical tips to reduce energy use and fuel bills.

In contrast, a community meeting held at Six Ways Baptist Church regarding HMO’s & exempt accommodation raised serious concerns from residents on issues including crime, antisocial behaviour, and safety. There was palpable anger amongst residents.


 
I’m not certain a strong, local community anchor will have prevented the problems from arising, however, I am confident that these issues will have been raised earlier, with options and possible solutions explored with stakeholders. Maybe this will provide the impetus to create a strong local voice.

At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are huge advocates of communities playing a leading role in shaping their neighbourhoods, and believe more decisions should be taken locally. We continue to make the case for this, and take our message to national and local politicians.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: WLCA nominated in Community Inspiration Awards 2023 – voting open until 30 June

Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) has been shortlisted in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023 for the Environment Champion Award, which recognises an individual or organisation that has been helping to make positive improvements to the environment.

Voting closes on 30 June, with the winners to be announced at a special award ceremony held on 8 September.

To vote for Witton Lodge Community Association in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023, click here.

The Community Inspiration Awards is an annual event organised by Community Foundation, to celebrate and recognised the ‘outstanding contributions made by members of the community, staff from public sector organisations, charities, and businesses whose efforts have made a positive difference and has inspired others.’

Afzal Hussain, WLCA Chief Officer said “We are absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for the Environment Champion Award in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023.

“This nomination means so much to all our team and volunteers and we would be grateful if you could spare a minute to cast your vote for Witton Lodge Community Association!”

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

To vote for Witton Lodge Community Association in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023, click here.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Spring into summer with the return of Perry Common Festival – Sat 29 April

Words & pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

The wait is nearly over – after a four-year absence the Spring into Summer Festival returns to Perry Common this weekend.

Perry Common will come alive on Saturday April 29 as local residents come together to enjoy community spirit at its finest.

This year’s event has a lot to live up to but promises to be one to revel in with a range of activities planned to occupy the crowds.

Highlights include a super slide, bouncy castle, donkey rides and a football cage.

There will also be a number of stalls manned by partner organisations like The Net Pentecostal Church, St Martin’s Church, The Friends of Witton Lakes and Boss Gardens.

Established in 2010, Spring into Summer has become a much-loved community celebration in Perry Common with the event regularly attracting hundreds of visitors.

Paul Tse, Flourishing Community Development Officer at Witton Lodge Community Association, has co-ordinated the 2023 version.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Spring into Summer has been missing for four years but it is now back and we are expecting an eager and excited crowd for next weekend’s extravaganza,” he said.

“The event captures and celebrates the vibrant community spirit that exists in Perry Common.”

Spring into Summer 2023 takes place from 12-3pm on The Ring, Witton Lodge Road, Perry Common, B23 5JD.

Perry Common Spring into Summer Festival / Saturday 29 April 2023

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: WLCA celebrate “significant achievement” with over 200 affordable and social housing properties

Words by Steve Sharma / Pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) is celebrating a “significant achievement” after its portfolio of properties for rent surpassed 200.

The Perry Common based community landlord has been tireless in its attempts to provide affordable and social housing which meets the needs of local people.

In 2017, the Association set up a subsidiary, Witton Lodge Community Homes (WLCH), to develop its housing and community asset development aspirations.

Targeting empty properties to bring them back into use, WLCH works with Birmingham City Council and other stakeholders to explore opportunities for new build development which can also provide affordable housing solutions.

This new milestone underlines the commitment and progress Witton Lodge has made to realising its long-term goals.

WLCH Chief Officer, Afzal Hussain, said: “Our asset base of social, affordable and market rent homes has enabled the Association to invest in communities and transform neighbourhoods in Erdington and across North Birmingham.

“This is a significant achievement for us and the community led housing movement, as what really sets us apart from others is that our developments are shaped by local people and go with the grain of communities.”

Having achieved registered provider status with Homes England, WLCH can apply directly for funding to develop and manage properties.

The Association’s Homes and Assets Development Manager, Gareth Hopkins, said: “We have aspirations to do even more. When we purchase properties they often need a lot of investment, so we aim to retrofit and refurbish them to a really high standard.

“We are proud to be investing in our properties and working towards local and national carbon zero targets and helping our tenants save money on their energy bills.

“Given the cost of living crisis, this is obviously good for our tenants and good for the environment.”

Witton Lodge Community Association started life in 1994, established by local residents, in response to plans to demolish the Perry Common estate.

From then on, the community landlord has supported local residents through the demolition of the old estate and the rebuilding of the new – keeping the local community at the centre of the process and ensuring local people influence decisions.

WLCH continues to work with Birmingham City Council to tackle the city’s ongoing housing crisis.

In February 2021 there were over 17,000 applicants on Birmingham City Council’s housing waiting list, the local authority area within which WLCH deliver their services. In addition, there are more 9,000 empty properties in the city.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Local residents send out over 300 presents through WLCA Christmas Gifts Appeal

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

Over the festive season, local residents sent out over 300 presents to families and children in Perry Common – donated and distributed through the Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) Christmas Gifts Appeal.

To help fight the hardship many have been facing this year, and to help every child in Perry Common wake up to a gift on Christmas morning, in November last year WLCA began asking friends and neighbours to clear out their cupboards and donate unwanted or forgotten toys.

Donation boxes were established at the Witton Lakes Eco Hub, Perry Common Community Hall, Sycamore Court, and the Health and Wellbeing Hub on Erdington High Street – with kind hearted people from all across Erdington leaving good-as-new toys and gifts.

Local groups also joined in on the seasonal charity drive, with members of the Slimming World club that meet twice a week at Highcroft Community Centre also donating ‘anything they could spare’ to the Christmas Gifts Appeal.

Staff from WLCA and a team of local elves (volunteers) then set about wrapping everything in time for Christmas Day and delivering the presents across the Perry Common community.

In total, over 300 gifts were sent out to families – including boxed games for children, cuddly toys, and clothes to keep you warm over the winter months.

One local woman and grandmother, Jane Gaskin, donated over 20 gifts to the Christmas Gifts Appeal, with people responding by recognising her goodwill as “a Christmas miracle” and how she “always have had a heart of gold”.

Her daughter, Naomi Smith, added: “Well done mom, I’m glad you have been able to help some families who may need it this Christmas, and that the cupboard under the stairs is no longer a death trap of toys waiting to bury me and the cats!”

Jane Gaskin responded: “I don’t know about Christmas miracle I just don’t think kids should go without and if I can help I will.”

Over the festive season, the team at WLCA also put together 100 ‘Winter Warmer packs’ to help older residents fight the fuel crisis and stay safe and warm this winter – as well as organising a special ‘free festive lunch’ for local volunteers, in partnership with the Aston Vila Foundation.

WLCA further supported Wilson Stuart School as their pupils made a special visit to the Witton Lakes Eco Hub to get into the festive spirit by decorating the community centre’s Christmas tree.

A spokesperson from WLCA said: “We would like to send a massive heartfelt thankyou to EVERYONE who donated toys and gifts to our Christmas Gift Appeal.

“We have been overwhelmed with the kindness of local residents whose generosity will allow us to bring festive cheer to families and children in need.”

Steve Sharma, WLCA Communications and Marketing Coordinator, added: “The generosity of local residents supporting our Christmas Gifts Appeal has been overwhelming. Thanks to them, families who are struggling will wake up with gifts for their children on Christmas Day. It really does showcase community spirit at its best.

“Our volunteers have also been magnificent, putting the Winter Warmer packs together and distributing them to the elderly and vulnerable.

“A special mention must also go to pupils from Wilson Stuart School who visited the Witton Lakes Eco Hub to decorate our Christmas Tree and did such a brilliant job.”

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: ‘They’re not just our houses, they’re your homes’ – a short walk through the history of the Perry Common Estate

Words by Steve Sharma / Pics supplied by WLCA

Perry Common dates back to the 1920’s when farmland was acquired by Birmingham City Council to re-house families from elsewhere in the city.

The development of the Perry Common Estate provided residents with a spacious 2 or 3-bedroom houses and the added bonus of a front and back garden.

But by the 1980s, these non-brick Boot Houses were in very poor condition with chunks of concrete falling from properties, dampness wreaking havoc with people’s health, and metal supporting frames becoming very weak.

In 1989 a total of 908 families received a letter from the City Council declaring their homes would have to be demolished. The implications of this were devastating but community spirit soon change the course of history,

Passionate residents, united in their fight against the demolition, established Perry Common Residents Association. Shortly after, in 1994, eight of its members became the founding directors of the new Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA).

Twenty-eight years later, WLCA has a long and proud track record of housing and capital asset development and management across the north of the city. The registered landlord is thriving, with a portfolio of 200 homes, providing affordable, safe sanctuary to families across North Birmingham.

In 2017, the Association set up a subsidiary, Witton Lodge Community Homes (WLCH) to progress housing and community asset development aspirations. It pursues a dedicated housing agenda, namely, to provide affordable and social housing which meets the needs of the local community.

WLCH targets such empty properties to bring them back into use while working with the City Council and other stakeholders to explore opportunities for new build development which can provide affordable housing solutions.

In February 2021 there were over 17,000 applicants on Birmingham City Council’s housing waiting list; the local authority area within which we deliver our services. In addition, there are more 9,000 empty properties in the city.

Having achieved registered provider status with Homes England, WLCH can now apply directly for funding to develop and manage properties.

WLCA Homes and Assets Development Manager, Gareth Hopkins, said: “We have invested in our homes to make them more energy efficient. Solar Photovoltaic panels have been installed on 93 of our properties (the remaining properties are not eligible for the SPV Panels) ensuring that our tenants benefit first hand from savings with electricity consumption costs.

“As a renewable source of power, solar energy has an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change, which is critical to protecting humans, wildlife and eco systems.

“We have also installed 132 A Rated Boilers. This has helped our tenants save up to £500 a year on their energy costs. The new boilers are also more energy efficient and help cut carbon footprint. We have also installed new doors and windows to 86 of our properties meaning our homes are more energy efficient.

“We have aspirations to do even more using our planned maintenance programme to replace more boilers (non-gas), doors and windows. When we purchase new properties we will retrofit them with new windows, boilers but also consider improvements such as solar water heating, floor and wall insulation where this is possible.

“We are proud to be investing in our properties and working towards local and national carbon zero targets and helping our Tenants save money on their energy bills.”

For more information on Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

For press and media enquiries call Steve Sharma on 0121 382 1930 or email: steve.sharma@wittonlodge.org.uk

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Supporting job seekers into work with Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Steve Sharma

Witton Lodge Community Association partnered with Erdington Job Centre for its monthly Job Fair, providing support to job seekers in the area.

There was a great range of individuals who attended Wednesday event, either looking for some form of training – with a focus on digital skills – employability support or actual employment.

More than seventy job seekers attended the fair with most of the employment stands busy and lined with people waiting to speak to recruiters representing a range of different industries across North Birmingham.

“The turnout for these events is always great,” said DWP Employer Advisor Kym Marshall.

Not only do these job fairs prove effective in providing training and contact with employers, they also provide an opportunity for job seekers to interview for vacancies.

Witton Lodge’ Employment Coach, Marcia Lewis used her connection with Savers and Cancer Research to set up interviews for some of those attending the Jobs Fair. In total, 15 people were interviewed for Store Assistant positions with Savers and seven for Store Assistant and Customer Service roles with Cancer Research.

“There was an amazing effort from the team,” said Witton Lodge Employability Co-ordinator Melissa Gayle.

“The energy and atmosphere was fantastic and it was great to be part of an event supporting clients.”

DWP Employer Advisor, Michael Davis, added: “These events are periodically held to get job seekers enthusiastic about getting back into work.

He also recalled the story of a man in his 60s who attended a previous job fair event.

“At a previous jobs fair, a man, in his 60s, did not feel confident in the success of his job applications due to his age. However, after engaging with one of the training providers, he joined a course for HGV truck driving and is, now, advancing through the practical stage of the course.”

Charis, a second-year university student, attended Wednesday’s event unsure of which career path she should follow. But after the event, she said she felt “optimistic and encouraged” having spoken to the Witton Lodge team who gave her CV support and secured her an interview with Savers.

“We would like to send a big thank you to Lorraine Brown for trusting Witton Lodge to be part of this Jobs Fair event and to Savers and Cancer Research for taking the time to interview individuals,” added Melissa.

If you’re a job seeker in need of support, please contact the Employment and Skills team at Witton Lodge Community Association on 0121 382 1930

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk