Mystery surrounds two near drownings in two days in Pype Hayes Park “after 40 years without incident”

Words & pics by Adam Smith

Mystery surrounds the bizarre near double drowning of two people in two days in Pype Hayes Park lake – despite no one reportedly being fished out the water for “more than forty years.”

Last Friday week, a man was rescued from the water by emergency services and flown by air ambulance to hospital. Then, merely 24hrs later, a woman had to be saved from the lake and was rushed to hospital on the Saturday.

Witnesses claimed the woman had stripped off by the side of the lake, then ran naked into the two metre deep water – during one of the hottest days of the year, as the park was packed with families enjoying an unexpected heatwave.

During both incidents, crowds gathered at the Erdington park to watch the incidents play out as emergency services descended en masse.

Malcolm Moore, who runs the popular Pype Hayes Park Information, News and Views Facebook page, saw the woman being taken away to hospital by an ambulance with a police escort.

He told Erdington Local: “It has been years since anyone was pulled out the pool. For two in two days was really strange, after forty years without an incident like this.

People claimed to have seen the woman run into the water naked and there are some people who think the water should be fenced off, but I cannot see how this would be done.

In the 1974 the body of a care worker who worked at the children’s home was found in the grounds of the park.”

The police diverted the unusually large amount of resources to the park after posts on social media mistakenly claimed one of the incidents was ‘a stabbing.’

Tyburn Police Sergeant, Richard Edkins, wrote to Pype Hayes residents on Monday 21st September to explain the massive amount of police cars and vans at the park over the weekend.

He said: ‘On Friday, the police and the ambulance service were called to the lake in Pype Hayes Park to reports of a person in the lake. The person in question was dealt with by the police and the ambulance service and taken to hospital accordingly.

‘Then, on Saturday, in what appeared to be a very similar incident, the police, fire and ambulance service attended the same lake in Pype Hayes to reports of another person in the lake.

‘The air ambulance attended and landed in the park and the person was again taken to hospital.’

He added: ‘Police have investigated both incidents, speaking to witnesses and to family members of those involved and we are satisfied at this stage that there is no criminal element to either of the incidents and there are no suspicions of foul play. Both the people involved are being treated accordingly at hospital.

‘There is nothing to suggest a link between the two incidents other than that they both happened at the same lake area in the park.’

On Monday Sgt Edkins sent two PCSOs to Pype Hayes to ‘provide reassurance to those who frequent the park.’

He added: ‘On behalf of the police service I would like to thank all of those who called us about the incidents and those who helped the two persons involved as well as those who helped provide witness statements to help our investigation.  

‘The fire and ambulance service also asked us to pass on their thanks to the members of the public and the residents that helped.’

Pype Hayes Councillor Mike Sharpe added: “The emergency services did a great job over the weekend. Two people being rescued in two days is very rare, Pype Hayes Park is really popular and a lot of people use it.”

On average 400 people drown every year in the UK and a further 200 people take their own lives in lakes, canals, and rivers.

Local contacted West Midlands Police and Good Hope Hospital for an update on the condition of the two people rescued from the lake on Thursday and Friday but both organisations refused to give an update.

For more on Pype Hayes Park, visit https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/directory_record/9143/pype_hayes_park

To join the Pype Hayes Park Information, News and Views Facebook page, visit www.facebook.com/PypeHayesPark

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NEWS: John Taylor Hospice helps make ‘special memories’ for Erdington bird of prey enthusiast

Words by Diane Parkes / Pics courtesy of John Taylor Hospice Erdington

John Taylor Hospice in Erdington gave a local family a precious day to remember thanks to a special visit from some feathery friends.

David Gilchrist and his family saw their Erdington garden turned into a bird show when Andy Plant of The Falconry Centre in Hagley brought along a few feathered friends.

It was a dream come true for 65-year-old David when he came face to face with a host of birds of prey including a bald eagle, two owls, an American kestrel, and a peregrine falcon.

David, who has the respiratory condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), has been supported by teams from John Taylor Hospice for two years.

As his condition has progressed, care has been stepped up to meet his needs – including creating special memories.

David’s family had organised a short holiday including a visit to a falconry centre for the life-long bird of prey enthusiast but faced disappointment when David became too poorly to make the trip.

But the team at John Taylor Hospice stepped in to arrange the visit from Andy along with a buffet so that other family members could share this special moment and enjoy the treat.

The event was made possible because David is part of the Personal Health Budget (PHB) project – a scheme in which patients are given control over how they choose to spend health and social care finance.

The scheme has been pioneered in Birmingham by John Taylor Hospice, Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, and Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, working in partnership with Birmingham City Council (via the Better Care Fund). PHBs can be used to fund different services including home care, gardening or laundry and making special memories such as the Falconry event.

David’s daughter, 40-year-old Gemma Grantham, said the personalised care has made all the difference.

I can’t say enough about how much the hospice has helped Dad,” she says. “He was diagnosed nine years ago and we’ve been living with that ever since.

We were put in touch with the hospice two years ago and it has been such a help.

They explained the personal health budget to us and that has meant we’ve been able to access so much extra help. We have been able to have day sits and night visits which have really helped and the people who come can’t do enough for Dad. We’ve seen a real improvement in Dad’s mental health through getting this support.

The last few months have been really difficult as Dad had to go into hospital twice and both times we said goodbye to him – but both times he’s come back to us.

The first time he was having real breathing problems and the second time he had fallen and had to have a hip operation. With COVID-19 we were really worried about him going into hospital but he’s managed well both times.”

And the icing on the cake was the special visit from The Falconry Centre. Prior to the most recent Birmingham lockdown regulations, David was joined in the garden by his family including his three children, Gemma, Andrew and Rachel, and his nine grandchildren to see the birds.

We were all so disappointed when we realised Dad was too poorly to go on holiday,” said Gemma. “So this has been a real treat – not just for Dad but for everyone.

I still can’t believe the hospice has been able to do all of this for Dad. He’s really enjoyed it and I can see what a difference it’s made.”

John Taylor Hospice PHB Project Lead, Jan Hipkiss, said: “It was a real privilege to help David achieve his dream of seeing, once again, the birds of prey he so dearly loves and making this wonderful day come true for him and his family.

Through the personal health budget project we have been able to provide individual care, support and special memories for many patients and their families. This new way of delivering healthcare is ensuring it is the patient who is at the heart of their own decision-making.”

For more about John Taylor Hospice and Personal Health Budgets see www.johntaylorhospice.org.uk

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NEWS: Castle Vale school uniform clothing bank helps hundreds of families facing the new academic year

Words by Rachael Brazier / Pics by Laura Grigg & The Pioneer Group

A staggering 276 families have been spared the cost of school uniforms, thanks to an initiative set up by Compass Support‘s Parent Champions in Castle Vale.

The school uniform clothing bank was opened at The Sanctuary on Tangmere Drive in mid-July, collecting and distributing second-hand items before the start of the new academic year. All services and items are free of charge.

Molly Miles, Volunteer Coordinator from Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, who works with Parent Champions in Castle Vale, says:

I am so proud of Jodi (Dunstan), Jayne (Herbert), Jess (Llewellyn) and Lisa (Pountney) who are helping children and families far and wide. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to support children and families with essential school uniforms in 2021.

The project was planned back in February and was on hold till early July when lockdown eased. It’s a brilliant initiative in terms of both saving money for struggling families, especially those with multiple children, and for sustainability reasons as much of the uniform is in perfectly good condition.”

To help raise awareness of the project and let people know where they can donate unwanted school uniforms, the Parent Champions have set up a Facebook page and are planning to distribute leaflets about their service.

Via the popular social media platform, local families can directly ask for specific uniform requests – which can then be collected by appointment from The Sanctuary community centre in Castle Vale.

Once uniforms and school items have been donated at The Sanctuary they are put into ‘quarantine’, washed, dried, and ironed ready for their new owner. When picking up items, parents and carers will be met by a volunteer – all socially distanced and abiding by government regulations.

Uniforms are available for local schools, including: Chivenor, St Gerards, Topcliffe, Pegasus, and Greenwood Academy. However, families affected by the coronavirus pandemic are donating and collecting from further afield – for example Smith’s Wood Academy in Solihull – as some uniforms come as standard issue.

Boys trousers have been the most donated item, as many teenagers grow out of clothes quickly. Another popular item on the wish list are PE kits – including t-shirts, pumps, and shorts.

And whilst the cost of school uniforms can run into hundreds of pounds per pupil, the Parent Champions initiative aims to reduce some of that financial burden for local residents. 

Jodi Dunstan, one of Compass Support‘s Parent Champions, helps local families with a range of information and advice about activities and services in the local area – alongside the school uniform initiative.

As a result of her hard work at the uniform clothing bank, especially with the added fears and pressures around COVID-19, Jodi Dunstan was nominated for and won a local Facebook competition celebrating community endeavours.

Jodi says: “We are receiving requests from people of all different backgrounds, and we’re so happy to give back to the community. We had one family that needed to kit out a family of seven children – can you imagine the cost?”

We’ll carry on as long as we can as we understand the hardships many families are currently facing. Between us volunteers we have 13 school-aged children of our own. We love being able to help, and just the relief on the parents/carers faces and the joy that uniform that fits brings is phenomenal.”

Any donated items that are not suitable for use are being sent for ‘ragging’ – with any funds generated ploughed back into running the uniform clothing bank initiative.

To find out more about Compass Support’s Parent Champions uniform clothing bank, including information on donating or collecting uniforms, please call (0121) 748 8111

You can also ask to join the private Facebook group, click here or on the hyperlinks in this article.

For more on Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, visit www.compass-support.org.uk

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NEWS: Heartless thieves target Kingstanding charity stealing £20,000 of community equipment

Words by Adam Smith / Pics supplied by Kingstanding Regeneration Trust

A Kingstanding charity is reeling after thieves stole tools worth £20,000 which local youngsters use to clean up pensioners’ gardens.

Burglars used an angle grinder saw to break into Kingstanding Regeneration Trust’s (KRT) shipping container, Dulwich Road, and clear the shelves inside – steeling so much gardening gear they needed a large van to drive it away.

The charity, which is based at Kingstanding Leisure Centre, has now been burgled four times in two years.

Assistant manager Emily Dwyer told Erdington Local: “This is really upsetting. This is the fourth time we have been broken into in two years. We really try and do good work for the community at KRT so it is very sad this keeps happening.

These tools were used to help local young people get back into work and provide a gardening service for the pensioners.”

She added: “In December last year, thieves broke in and stole all our computers. We are waiting to find out what our insurers say about the tools but it will be so hard to get insurance after this latest break-in.

If anyone has any information about our tools or would like to donate to the charity then please contact us on 0121 439 6780.”

KRT was founded 12 years ago and provides training for young people to help them get into work.

The charity also provides a low cost gardening service for pensioners throughout North Birmingham and runs various community projects from the leisure centre.

As part of their ongoing community outreach activities, KRT also helps nurture and develop green spaces – creating eight community gardens in recent years and “greened up” Hawthorn Road by planting trees and shrubbery.

Kingstanding Police Team issued an appeal for information to the public about the theft at KRT.

PCSO Tracy Baker said: “KRT, a local charity based at Kingstanding Leisure Centre, has had their shipping container broken into over the weekend.

The container was full of gardening and power tools worth approximately £20,000. All the tools are used to train young people so they can access employment. The container had three locks on and needed an angle grinder or still saw and a large van to carry all the kit.”

She added: “Please may I ask you report any information you have, especially if you are approached by someone selling tool to us via 101 or our Live Web Chat quoting crime number 20BE/228247Q/20.”

To find out more about Kingstanding Regeneration Trust, visit www.krtbirmimingham.co.uk

For more on the Kingstanding Police team, including non-emergency contact information, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/node/2711b

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NEWS: Shocking new police stats reveal 25% of all crime in Erdington is domestic abuse

Words by Adam Smith

Domestic abuse has increased by a massive 38% in Erdington and now accounts for a quarter of all crime in the area, the latest crime statistics have revealed.

As the latest COVID-19 restrictions take hold there are fears violence at home could rise further, as victims become trapped with their abuser in their home.

Erdington’s top cop, Inspector Haroon Chughtai, promised domestic abuse is now a priority due the huge year on year rise in the crime.

In his September message to Erdington residents Inspector Chughtai outlined the extent of the problem.

He said: ‘Erdington is unfortunately showing a near 8% increase in overall crime, and that is an extra 421 victims of crime. 

‘Domestic abuse sadly contributes a large part to this increase with roughly over one quarter of the overall crime being domestic abuse offences. Domestic abuse continues to show increases with a 38% rise, which is 345 extra victims.’

He added: ‘Domestic abuse remains a force priority and we are determined to bring these numbers down.’

The United Nations described domestic abuse as a ‘shadow pandemic’ after it emerged across the world there had been a 20% increase in the crime during various lockdowns – with victims physically trapped inside abusive households.

During lockdown the UK’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline revealed calls increased by 80%.

Inspector Chughtai described how combatting domestic abuse is a daily battle in Erdington.

He said: ‘Domestic abuse remains a critical force mission, and as such a significant amount of both local and force resources are invested daily into tackling it.

‘For us locally we focus on two key areas. Firstly prioritising pursuing and arresting offenders who are wanted for domestic abuse offences and secondly we identify repeat victim of domestic abuse each month and then take a problem solving approach to work with them and even at times the perpetrators to see what part we can play to break that cycle.

‘Whether that is seeking injunctions/prevention orders, supporting with house moves, signposting help and opportunities etc.’

Inspector Chughtai did also point to a reduction in robberies and burglaries in the latest crime statistics.

He said: ‘Robbery and burglary continue to show good reductions, with robbery showing a 19% reduction with 33 less victims of robbery, house burglaries show a 9% reduction with 28 less victims of burglary.

Under 25 violence shows a 15% reduction, with 23 less victims so far this year.’

Police resources are further being diverted to ensuring Erdington residents comply to the latest ‘rule of six’ COVID-19 restrictions are being obeyed. However, Inspector Chughtai explained fines will be given only as ‘a last resort’.

He said: ‘From the start of this pandemic, specifically around the policing of social distancing, our Chief Constable has been clear that enforcement will be a last resort, we will always look to engage, educate and encourage before we chose to enforce.’

For the latest COVID-19 guidelines visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

And for the local restrictions visit www.gov.uk/guidance/birmingham-sandwell-and-solihull-local-restrictions

For a database of local support services during the coronavirus crisis, provided by the Erdington COVID-19 Taskforce, visit www.erdingtonlocal.com/covid-19-local-support 
__________________

If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse, you can seek help and advice via the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247

For more information visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

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NEWS: North Birmingham Academy headteacher alleys parents’ fears after COVID-19 scare

North Birmingham Academy has been hit by a COVID-19 scare after members of staff tested positive for the virus.

Two teachers were found to be positive and are self-isolating, along with several pupils.

The headteacher of the College Road secondary school, Laura McLauire, wrote to parents to allay fears about a more widespread closures.

Mrs McLaurie wrote: ‘We have been made aware that two members of staff at the academy have unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 and therefore are self-isolating for a period of 10 days.

‘We have since been working closely with Public Health England who advised that individuals who have been in close contact with these members of staff should isolate for 14 days as a precaution.

She added: ‘As one of the affected members of staff has confirmed that they have had no close contact with students and the other colleague had not yet started teaching at the academy, Public Health England confirmed that only members of staff who have had close contact will be required to self-isolate as a precaution.

‘Public Health England are otherwise satisfied as robust safety measures are in place at the academy, including social distancing and the arrangement of students and staff in bubbles to limit contact between individuals, the academy can remain open to all others.

‘Furthermore, please rest assured that we here at the academy are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students and staff, including regular and focused cleaning of our academy, social distancing and ensuring good hand and respiratory hygiene.

She added: ‘I appreciate that upon hearing such news that some parents and carers might naturally feel concerned. However, I would like to reiterate that the health and wellbeing of your child is our number one priority and we will do everything in our power to ensure their safety.’

On Monday, the school informed parents it would be unable to provide face masks to pupils from Tuesday.

The school tweeted: “From tomorrow we will be unable to provide face masks to students. As Birmingham is in local lockdown it is a legal requirement for students to wear a mask unless they have a medical exception. Please ensure all children arrive with a mask for the safety of the whole #NBAFamily”

Parent Kelly Stone angrily replied on Twitter: “Three time’s now my daughter has told you about her asthma and how she struggles with her face mask that isn’t actually a legal requirement in school. Three times she’s been dismissed and is teachers raise their voices, nice one, great role modelling!”

She further told Erdington Local: “We were told about the staff testing positive but there are four children in my daughter’s Year 7 who are off self-isolating which we have not been told about.

As parents we should be kept informed at all times.”

NBA headteacher Mrs McLauire is holding a Q&A today at 4pm on YouTube about all COVID-19 related issues since the school reopened.

To find out more about North Birmingham Academy, visit www.northbirminghamacademy.e-act.org.uk

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NEWS: Kingstanding Police offer free bike security kits following knife point robbery

Words by Adam Smith

Kingstanding Police are offering free cycle security marking after a spate of robberies of mountain bikes from youngsters in the area.

Bike owners are being invited to Kingstanding Police Station this Saturday to get their property marked and be added to a national register which will reunite them with their bike if recovered after being stolen.

Last week, Rebecca Hurley’s child was robbed at knife point for his bike in Dovedale Road.

Appealing for information on Facebook the mother, who shared pictures of the bike and CCTV footage of the robbery, said: “The damage these people have done to my son’s confidence is unbelievable, it’s heart breaking.

They robbed him at knife point just off Dovedale Road. They ragged him around but he’s not hurt just really shook up. They tried to steal his phone as well but he managed to get away on the back of the bike.”

She added: “I have since found out these people had robbed two other boys at knife point in the area.”

The Facebook appeal was successful and the bike was returned to the boy after a woman who had bought it for £35 this weekend got in touch with the family.

Mrs Hurley said: “I can’t thank people enough for sharing my post as he has his bike back. These lads robbed my son for £35! They need to be stopped.”

Throughout the summer there have several other bike thefts from children in Kingstanding and Erdington.

The police have teamed up with national cycle database BikeRegister to help bike owners get their cycles marked with permanent security markings.

In a message to residents, Kingstanding Police team said: “We have obtained a limited number of bike security kits from BikeRegister and you like to offer you the opportunity to pop into Kingstanding Police Station on Saturday, September 19th, whereby, we will apply the kits to your pedal cycle.

We will then register you FREE of charge to our approved provider BikeRegister.”

Anyone interested should email their name, telephone number, address, bike make, model and frame number to kingstanding@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk

Local cyclists will then be given a time slot on Saturday 19th September to visit the station.

How to mark you bike with a BikeRegister kit

To find out more about BikeRegister, visit www.bikeregister.com

For more on the Kingstanding Police team, including non-emergency contact information, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/node/2711b

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NEWS: Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaigners call for ‘common sense’ collaboration with Conservatives and Labour

Words & pics by Ed King

In a rare show of solidarity, the campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ has grabbed the attention of top local politicians from both Labour and Conservatives – Erdington Local can reveal.

In exclusive quotes about the campaign to Erdington Local, both Jack Dromey MP (Labour) and Erdington Councillor Robert Alden (Conservative) came out swinging – with each elected official challenging Birmingham City Council for their disastrous first attempt at a public consultation.

Jack Dromey MP stated: “It is clear the Council have not done a good enough job of consulting with concerned residents, and local people understandably feel that they have been ignored and the sense of anger is palpable.”

Whilst Councillor Robert Alden said: “Short Heath Playing Fields are vital to the local area. They are a green lung in the middle of our community and it is disgraceful that the Labour Council wishes to rip out that green lung that helps clean our air, helps provide residents with an area to go to help exercise and improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

But the two local residents spearheading the campaign, Steve Hughes and Estelle Murphy, want a commitment that Labour and Conservatives will work together on the issue.

In an email to Jack Dromey MP and Councillor Robert Alden, sent earlier this week, the campaigners asked both politicians ‘to write jointly to Councillor Ian Ward’ – expressing their concerns directly to the leader of Birmingham City Council.

Speaking to Erdington Local, Estelle Murphy and Stephen Hughes said in a joint statement: “We have said it before, and we will keep saying it because it is the simple truth, this isn’t political, this is about our community.

We have simply asked two of our communities most influential people, who are in a position, and have both offered their support and help, to join together and work for our local community. Surely that’s just common sense.”

Councillor Robert Alden has previously raised concerns to the Council about the proposed developments on Short Heath Playing Fields – including the lack of a robust public consultation.

The top Birmingham Tory has also met with campaigners, joining them for a day of litter picking and talking directly to local residents.

Jack Dromey MP met with Steve Hughes and Estelle Murphy on Saturday 5th September – the first time the MP’s constituency office has been opened during the coronavirus crisis.

Following the meeting, the MP told Erdington Local: “Steve (Hughes) and Estelle (Murphy) agreed to draw up a proposal on behalf of the community that would then be presented to the Council for consideration.

I will ensure that they are alongside me. Their views, along with those of the local community, will be central to these discussions at every stage.”

As of yet, Erdington Local is unaware of any meeting with the ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ campaigners where both political parties have been present.

The next campaign community meeting, held under COVID-19 safety restrictions, will be held on Short Heath Playing Fields on Saturday 12th September.

To sign the petition to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’, visit: www.change.org/p/birmingham-city-council-birmingham-education-department-bob-beauchamp-jack-dormey-save-short-heath-playing-fields

To further support the Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaign, you can donate through the official GoFundMe fundraising platform: www.gofundme.com/f/save-short-heath-playing-fields

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NEWS: Erdington’s heartbreak as popular Charlie Hall barman, Paul Ralph, is laid to rest

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Adam Smith & Ed King

Erdington’s Barnabas Road fell silent this morning to mark the passing of popular Wetherspoon barman Paul Ralph, as the father of five’s funeral procession passed The Charlie Hall.

Patrons stood in silence as the parade of cars stopped outside the pub, breaking out into a spontaneous round of applause when the funeral cortege moved on.

The procession also stopped in front of the Village Green, where Paul had worked before moving to The Charlie Hall. Crowds of regulars stood outside the busy Stockland Green pub as a mark of respect before the cavalcade of mourners moved on to Sutton Crematorium, where the 41-year-old was laid to rest.

The majority of the 25 strong Wetherspoon staff then celebrated their friend’s life at The Erdington Club, where they released balloons into the sky with personal and heartfelt hand-written messages.

Liza Flynn, who has worked at The Charlie Hall for 20 years and served side by side with Paul for 18 years, said: “It is a sad day as we have so many great memories of Paul.

He was a great colleague and a wonderful father; he idolised his children. He had such a great sense of humour and that is what we all miss about him the most.”

Charlie Hall regular Jim Hughes knew Paul for nearly two decades.

He said: “He was not just a brilliant barman who knew what I wanted before I ordered it but he was so accommodating about everything else.

When I got my smartphone, which wasn’t so smart, he explained everything about it and downloaded what I needed. He was a lovely bloke, which is why I felt I had to come to his funeral today.”

Paul’s sudden death from a heart attack last month sent shockwaves through Erdington and beyond, the founder and chairman of Wetherspoon Tim Martin even paid tribute to his employee who served pints for 18 years for the company.

In a message to Paul’s family, friends, and colleagues, sent through Erdington Local, the pub chain owner said:

I’m extremely sorry to hear the very sad news about Paul. He was an exceptional member of the team for many years, extremely popular with both staff and customers. Our deepest condolences to Paul’s family and friends.”

The loving Tyburn Road husband and father left a gaping hole in his family’s life and those who worked with him.

Charlie Hall 20-year-old barmaid Sian said: “He used to walk his children past our house every day and always tried to make them all wave hello.

He was such a lovely guy; he was always ready with a joke and all us young barmaids used to joke he was like the funny uncle we never had.”

Fellow barmaid Tiegan Patterson, 20, added: “He was 41, so was he was old to all us young barmaids, but he was always ready to help and always had a joke ready to tell.”

Current colleagues, staff and ex-colleagues swapped fond stories about Paul throughout the day and all promised to ensure his memory is never forgotten.

From everyone at Erdington Local, we send Paul’s family and friends our deepest condolences.

Paul Ralph’s family and friends release balloons with hand-written messages of love and loss

To find out more about the Charlie Hall in Erdington, visit www.jdwetherspoon.com/pub-histories/england/west-midlands/the-charlie-hall-erdington

For more on the wider Wetherspoons pub chain, visit www.jdwetherspoon.com

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NEWS: Kingstanding carer ‘appalled’ at Grand Central over limited access to disabled parking

Words by Adam Smith

A flagship of Birmingham’s famous night time economy is unavailable to disabled people and their carers, a furious Kingstanding family have revealed.

Landmark shopping centre and restaurant hotspot Grand Central is available to able bodied people for 24 hours a day, but the lifts and stairs to the NCP car park close at 11pm – leaving only an “agonising and scary” route for disabled and physically impaired people.

Kingstanding carer Nicky Cunningham, whose partner is a wheelchair user, was disgusted when she discovered the lifts from the multi-million pound shopping centre were closed by management at 11pm.

She said: “I wish I could say I was shocked but I am not. But I am appalled. Why would disabled people not want to stay out as long as everyone else?

I am a stand-up comedian and this type of thing makes it impossible for my partner to come and watch me as I can’t dash off in the middle of a set because the car park lifts are closing, it’s like being the crap Cinderella of comedy.”

She added: “The thing is disabled people and their carers probably need to stay out longer just because of how long it takes to get to and get around Birmingham – but we cannot stay in that car park because one dinner served late and we could be stranded.”

The mother-of-one, 41, added: “Birmingham is opening its doors for the world during the Commonwealth Games and disabled athletes will be expected to be treated like everyone else, if this disgrace is not sorted out by then the city will be a laughing stock.”

A physically impaired man, in his 50s, did not realise the lifts were closed from 11pm and was faced with an exhausting and dangerous walk up the car park ramp at around midnight to get back to his car.

The man, who did not want to be named, said: “Grand Central are sending a clear message: ‘Don’t drive to go out in B’ham and park up, if physically impaired, and expect to enjoy the same life as everyone else and be out after 11pm’. It’s a disgrace and it is clearly discriminatory.”

I have had one hip and shoulder replacement and am awaiting another one, so walking up that ramp was agonising and scary because I knew drivers would not see me. It took a long time for me to get to the car, I had to sit for a while and get my breath back.”

The Grand Central NCP car park has 467 spaces and 23 disabled bays and is popular with New Street station passengers, shoppers, and late night revellers.

On NCP‘s website disabled customers are warned: ‘Disabled parking is not recommended if returning to your vehicle after 11:30pm due to shopping centre lifts and stairs closed and the only access is via vehicle entry ramp.’

When approached for comment, NCP directed the issue over shockingly unfair overnight access towards Grand Central – whilst offering other sites for disabled and physically impaired people to access.

A spokesperson for the parking site operator told Erdington Local: “The facilities available for disabled people on this site (Grand Central) are governed by the shopping centre, and they close the lifts and the stairs down at night for safety reasons.

We have clear signage up on site explaining this. NCP does have other car parks in the very near vicinity that are open for all customers to access. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Grand Central opened in 2015 and is what train passengers to Birmingham’s New Street Station first see when they arrive in the city.

Boasting several top class restaurants, designer shops, and until recently a sprawling John Lewis department store, Grand Central, which is linked to the Bullring, is part owned by property giant Hammerson.

Grand Central confirmed lifts to the NCP car park close at 11pm.

A spokesperson for Grand Central told Erdington Local: “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused in this instance and would recommend that customers check the NCP website for more information on opening times and to help plan their visit.

Both the stairs and lifts for the NCP car park are closed between the hours of 11pm and 6am, for safety reasons.

There are signs at the entrance to the car park informing customers of this and also by the lifts.”

To find out more about Bull Ring & Grand Central, visit www.bullring.co.uk

For more on the provision made by NCP for disabled customers, visit www.ncp.co.uk/help-centre/general-enquiry/what-provisions-do-you-have-for-disabled-customers

For a list of Blue Badge parking space from Birmingham City Council, visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/bluebadgeparking

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