Words & pics by Ed King
On Wednesday 11 January, Castle Vale residents met with Councillor Ray Goodwin (Lab, Castle Vale) to discuss the ‘priorities’ for a new Ward Plan.
Braving a bitterly cold January evening, active locals met with the recently elected Castle Vale councillor at Castle Vale Library – spending nearly two hours identifying key aims and objectives for the North Birmingham estate.
Cllr Goodwin was adamant to involve local residents in any amendments, allowing him to “review, analyse, and build on what I hear” to form a revised a Ward Plan “based on local resident’s views and priorities.”
Since being elected to office in May 2022 Cllr Goodwin has been spearheading local initiatives such as Bin Watch Wednesday and the Pop Up Police Station.
Cllr Goodwin organised Wednesday’s official Ward Forum meeting to revisit the ‘Ward Priorities’ set out in the estate’s 2018-30 Neighbourhood Plan, as presented by the previous Castle Vale councillor Suzzane Webb and the constituency’s late MP Jack Dromey.
Top of the list was ‘Ensuring Castle Vale is safe, clean and green’, with Cllr Goodwin identifying several pots of public sector money that could finance the estate’s parks and open spaces – such as the Future Parks Accelerator Fund and Future Parks Fund.
Cllr Goodwin further reiterated the “very loud and very clear” message from local residents that any park new or children play area must be “disability friendly… and accessible for children with additional needs.”
Other facilities were discussed, including Castle Pool – which was saved from closure by a community asset transfer and inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in November 1981.
Referring to the Castle Vale assets, including the library and football stadium, as the “crown jewels of the estate” Cllr Goodwin assured residents of a “commitment to Castle Pool, despite the (increasing) energy prices… what we want here is a pool for the next 40 years.”
Tackling fly tipping on the estate was also a high priority for residents, with special focus on “dumped shopping trolleys” left on the streets from supermarkets at the Castle Vale Retail Park.
Several options were discussed, including the reintroduction of trolley locks that seize the wheels if removed from a designate area.
The use of the Trolleywise initiative was also recommended, an online report and collection service from Wanzl – the world’s largest shopping trolley manufacturer, although this required buy in from the supermarkets chains in the area.
Of the two supermarkets on the Castle Vale Retail Park, Sainsbury’s were active members of the Trolleywise scheme, but B&M had reportedly refused to engage in either the Wanzl service or any constructive conversation about the problem.
Cllr Goodwin further suggested working with Birmingham City Council’s Regulation and Enforcement department to develop a “carrot and stick” approach to encourage local retailers to properly address the ongoing problem.
Housing on the estate was also a contentious issue, with many residents raising concerns over the properties managed by The Pioneer Group – including inadequate window insulation on some of the older dwellings.
Cllr Goodwin, who is also CEO of Spitfire Advice and Support Services (SASS) – a Castle Vale based charity who ‘provide free, confidential and impartial advice’ for local residents – confirmed a “significant amount of our (SASS) case work is about housing” and agreed “housing needs to be Ward Forum meetings moving forward”.
Praise was given for the Pop Up Police Station initiative, although some residents were keen for more “one to one time” with the attending officers.
Ongoing issues with dogs fouling the streets were aired by several people in the room, with a myriad of suggestions of how to police this on Castle Vale – ultimately ending in the need for culprits to be “held to account… fined” to help end the problem.
Plans to encourage job opportunities for Castle Vale residents were also discussed, citing Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) as one potential employer with whom to forge stronger vocational pathways – with Cllr Goodwin committing to ensure “Castle Vale gets its fair share” of employment opportunities.
Concerns over the potential closure for the JLR Castle Bromwich site – which neighbours the Castle Vale estate – were also raised. Cllr Goodwin committed to being “on the front foot, doing everything I can to stop the plant closing” and to “protect the jobs of people on this estate.”
Another issue discussed at the Ward Forum meeting was the continuation of heavy goods vehicles using Castle Vale as a thoroughfare, with one resident stating: “they should not be driving past school at 9am.”
The success of the Mobile Household Recycling Unit was also celebrated, with Castle Vale receiving collections “once every five weeks” – more in comparison to many areas of the city.
And the need for improved transport links, and the location of a new Castle Vale strain station scheduled for 2030, were also paramount in local people’s concerns – with access to and from Castle Vale for healthcare workers at Good Hope and Heartlands Hospitals referenced as a particular concern.
At the end of the Castle Vale Ward Forum meeting, which ran nearly 30minutes over time, Cllr Goodwin thanked those in attendance and reiterated his hope residents will continue to ask “…what about?” and be vocal about their issues and ambitions for the North Birmingham estate.
A revised Ward Plan for Castle Vale was submitted to Birmingham City Council on Thursday 12 January.
For more on Councillor Goodwin in Castle Vale visit www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale