NEWS: Erdington’s Red Lion pub rally round for their longest regular, after heartless thieves steal mobility scooter

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Kevin Smith (Stav)

Big-hearted regulars at Erdington’s Red Lion have helped replace the pub’s longest-serving patron’s mobility scooter – after it was stolen from outside his home.

Alan May, who has been drinking John Smiths bitter at the pub for more than sixty years, was distraught when his mobility scooter was taken by heartless thieves.

Within 24 hours of the Red Lion landlord, Kevin Smith, finding out about the theft Alan was presented with a new scooter in the pub in front of cheering regulars.

Kevin, also known as Stav, told Erdington Local: “Every day Alan comes in and we make sure he has a cob and his pint of John Smith, he has been drinking in here for sixty years and is in his seventies, he is part of the place. He’s got dementia so we look after him the best we can.

“So when he said his scooter had been stolen from outside his house we wanted to do something. We put a sign with ‘some dirty lowlife has stolen Alan’s scooter, let’s buy him a new one’ on the bar and within an hour we had more than £100.

“It was no surprise how generous the regulars were because everyone knows Alan and everyone was upset to hear his scooter had been stolen.”

Kevin, who recently spent five years in a wheelchair, is vice chairman of Birmingham City Football Club’s disabled supporters club AccessiBlues – and got in touch with its founder Steve Portman about getting a new mobility scooter for Alan.

Kevin said: “I phoned Steve and that night he came down with a new scooter. When I offered him the money we had raised, he said we should use it to spend on security at Alan’s house so the new one does not get stolen.

“This is a Villa pub but I’m obviously a big Blues fan, so I was really proud AccessiBlues could come through for Alan – it was a great night when we surprised him with his new scooter.

“I’ve been involved in AccessiBlues for a couple of years now and am really proud of all the good work we do. And not just for Blues fans, we have been working with Brentford Football Club to ensure best practice for disabled supporters.”

AccessiBlues, which is sponsored by Stechford Mobility, were runners up in the 2018 Footballers Supporters Federation Awards #FansForDiversity award and have recently secured charity status.

Alan was overwhelmed with the gesture, he said: “I’m overwhelmed, I can’t believe I got a new scooter so quick, the Red Lion is the best pub around.”

Kevin has been in charge of the Red Lion, which has been serving Erdington locals since 1899, since the summer and is looking forward to the end of lockdown to get back to normal.

He said: “We have been here three months and the week before the latest lockdown was our best yet, the regulars have been brilliant.

“The Red Lion is everything a pub should be, it is part of the community and we are hoping to be serving locals drinks for many a year to come yet.”

To find out more about the Red Lion in Erdington, visit www.redlionerdington.co.uk

For more on AccessiBlues, visit www.stechfordmobility.co.uk/news/accessiblues

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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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