NEWS: Erdington’s city councillors announced as local election results declared

Words by Ed King

Voters across Erdington have decided their next council representatives, as the results of the local elections were announced today.

Winning the Castle Vale Ward, Labour’s Ray Goodwin was “blown away” by the support he received from local voters – beating The Green Party’s John Macefield by a narrow 44 votes, but with a confident 233 lead over the Local Conservative candidate Tyrese Romain.

He told Erdington Local: “I’m absolutely blown away; this is absolutely amazing. I did wonder if I should stand, but as many people know it was Jack’s (Dromey, Erdington’s recently deceased MP) last wishes was that I stand, and it was really important that I did. So, in my mind I did it for Jack. And Jack, I won it for you as well.”

The Green Party also picked up many new votes in the Gravelly Hill Ward, where newly standing candidate Siobhan Harper-Nunes achieved 363 votes – beating the Local Conservative candidate into second place by 35 votes.

Although not enough to take the ward from Labour’s Mick Brown, who has traditionally held a strong lead in Gravelly Hill, The Green Party’s endorsement from local voters shows a significant move away from previous local election – with Labour losing over 400 votes from the 2018 results.

Green party candidate Siobhan Harper-Nunes told: “Of course, I am disappointed but really not surprised.

“I have loved every minute of the Gravelly Hill campaign, meeting people, getting to grips with local issues and of course solving problems.

“We have gained a lot of support and the Green Party has made a footprint across the city. At local elections people must vote for the candidate they believe in and it’s clear, their belief is still unanimously with the sitting councillor.

“My work as a Green Party advocate has only just begun and I will still be around pushing forward on green issues.”

Labour continued to clean up across the constituency, with both candidates in Stockland Green – Jane Jones and Amar Khan – successfully retaining the ward for the party, although losing hundreds of votes from the 2018 elections.

Local Conservatives’ new Stockland Green candidate, Estelle Murphy – who moved into politics after successfully campaigning to save Short Heath Playing Fields – was voted in third, and the only front runner candidate to improve on her counterpart’s performance in the 2018 elections.

She told: “This has been a brilliant learning curve as a first innings and I’m looking forward to what I can achieve in the next four years.”

Elsewhere across the constituency, Perry Common was won by Labour’s Jilly Bermingham, who beat the Conservative candidate Rachael Okello with a 204 vote lead.

Whilst Pype Hayes was won by Labour’s Basharat Mahmood, beating Local Conservative Clifton Welch by 91 votes – mirroring the closely fought contest in the 2018 local elections.

Cllr Robert Alden and Cllr Gareth Moore retained the Erdington Ward with a confident majority, the largest in the constituency, collectively beating Labour’s Suriyah Bi and Basharat Mahmood by 1189 votes.

Speaking to Erdington Local after the announcement, Cllr Alden said: “It’s a huge honour to represent the people of Erdington, something I’ve been delighted to do for almost 20 years.

“Erdington’s an incredible place and we’ll keep doing all we can to represent the people of Erdington.”

Cllr Gareth Moore added: “The responses, over the last few weeks on the campaign trail, have been really positive and people are grateful for the work Robert (Alden) and I have been doing in Erdington and it’s great to see that reflected in the result today.”

But the shock of the day came in Kingstanding, as Labour and Local Conservatives split the ward with one candidate winning for each party – Rick Payne taking 1286 votes for the Local Conservatives, and Des Hughes receiving 1350 for Labour.

Whilst both candidates were saddened their running mates would not be join them in local office, each were firm that they would work together for the good of Kingstanding.

Local Conservative Rick Payne told: “I just want to thank all the people of Kingstanding who have put their trust in me to represent them as a councillor.

“And I will work with who I have to work with to get the best for Kingstanding.”

Labour’s Des Hughes, who was elected Kingstanding councillor in 2015 but lost the ward the following year, added: “I’m delighted that the electors in Kingstanding have given me the opportunity to represent them again, which I look forward to doing with enthusiasm and vigour.

“I do regret that my college, Naz Rasheed, isn’t able to join me. But ultimately, we’ve (Rick Payne, Local Conservatives) got our political differences, but the objective is to serve the residents of Kingstanding and that’s what counts.”

NEWS: Over 400 trees planted on Bleak Hill Park for Covid-19 Memorial Woodland

Words & pics by Ed King

Planting began today for the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland in Bleak Hill Park, marking the physical beginning of a project that was first proposed by Short Heath Fields Trusts (SHFT) back in March 2021.

Acting as a natural epitaph for those who lost their lives to Covid-19, the Memorial Woodland on Bleak Hill Park will feature over 400 trees – donated by the Woodland Trust, as part of their ‘free trees’ initiative to support local community groups and encourage more urban tree planting.

Short Heath Fields Trust wanted to create a living, breathing monument for those being remembered, attaching the following strapline to the Memorial Woodland: ‘Time to grieve in place to breathe.’

Estelle Murphy from Short Heath Field Trust, who is also works in palliative and end of life care, explained: “Working with our local community, we realised there are people who have lost loved ones, and lost time with their loved ones, and we wanted to give them somewhere they could come and remember the good things.

“We’ve got three absolutely stunning, beautiful benches for people to sit on – they’re all made out of recycled plastic.

“We’ve got some ornamental cherry trees coming that will sit behind them, and we’re planting a flowerbed at the front as a focal point. People will be able to sit here in the sun and look down the full length of Bleak Hill Park.

“We’ve also got some fruit trees coming from a nursery in Solihull. There is a large bat population on Bleak Hill Park and Short Heath Playing Fields, so we want the fruit trees to also encourage the insects for the bats to feed off.

“Especially now we’re coming out of Covid restrictions, we’ve all enjoyed these green spaces and now it’s time we give a bit back.”

Members of the Short Heath Fields Trust, who have organised the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland with help from the wider community, were out on Bleak Hill Park 10am this morning – planting the 420 saplings that will define the boundary of the commemorative woodland.

Philomena Toney, who lives on Short Heath Road and is part of local litter pickers the Short Heath Wombles, told Erdington Local:

“I’m here planting trees for this good cause, for a place where we can come along, sit down, and think of our loved ones. We’re really doing it for the people who have died or those who lost loved ones over Covid, it’s important to remember them.

“And it’s good for the community to come together; I must have planted about 100 tress this morning, but luckily we got the good weather.”

Originally presented to Birmingham City Council in March 2021, plans for the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland on Bleak Hill Park were initially green lit by the Local Authority – but organisers ran into difficulties gaining access to the park or securing the initially promised support from the city.

The sudden deaths of both Cllr Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey MP, who had been working with Short Heath Fields Trust to progress the project, then put the involvement of the wider City Council on permanent hold.

Funding was eventually secured from the National Lottery to support the project, with the Woodland Trust stepping in to supply the young trees – as part of their ‘Free Trees for Schools and Communities’ initiative.

Applications for further groups wanting to access trees from the Woodland Trust can be made from 4 April, with more details available through their website.

Visiting Bleak Hill Park to help get the trees in the ground for the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland, Dan Pike, Marketing Manager for the Woodland Trust, told Erdington Local:

“We have an initiative where we want to give everyone in the UK the opportunity to plant at least one tree. Things like today are really important, because it’s trees in urban settings.

“You wouldn’t necessarily think about how important trees are if you live in a city, but things like this (Covid-19 Memorial Woodland) help with the climate, helps encourage nature, and it brings communities together and gives groups like this (SHFT) the chance to do something really special.”

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com

For more on the Woodland Trust visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

EXPLOITED: Erdington Councillor Robert Alden warns selective licencing is a ‘blunt tool’ against the ‘toxic’ rise in Exempt Accommodation

Words & original photography by Ed King

Erdington Councillor Robert Alden has called selective licensing a “blunt tool” in tackling the “toxic situation” caused by Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham, as it “simply displaces the problem to other parts (of the city).”

In a letter written to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee on Friday, 28 January, the Erdington ward representative and Leader of Birmingham’s Conservatives called for “the ability to impose city wide selective licensing before severe problems appear”, warning anything less would leave officials “forever chasing the issue around the city.”

28 January marks the last date for evidence submissions to the LUHC Committee, who are currently leading an inquiry into Exempt Accommodation – following widespread reports of how the supported housing loophole is manipulated by providers.

Cllr Alden’s letter also offered a further list of solutions to the LUHC Committee’s Exempt Accommodation inquiry, including reforms to the UK’s planning laws and benefit system to stop “perverse incentives for unscrupulous landlords to offer this type of accommodation”.

He further suggested “the provision and development of supported housing” should be “the remit of local councils, based on a duty to assess local need” – giving priority to “those who cannot remain in their local area due to exceptional circumstances (e.g., escaping domestic violence)”.

Cllr Alden’s concerns over Exempt Accommodation are mirrored by many across the community, people who have watched the suburbs they grew up become shattered and hostile.

And whilst the problems may lie heavier from one postcode to another, fears are the systemic ills will only continue to spread.

Estelle Murphy from Short Heath Residents Action Group explained: “There are a lot of issues surrounding HMO’s and Exempt properties. The dire conditions people are forced to live in and the effects to the surrounding area can be extremely distressing and stressful to all concerned.

“My worry is that unless legislation is changed, what is one area’s problem today, like Stockland Green, will be another area’s problem tomorrow. Once one area becomes blocked to them (Exempt Accommodation providers) they just move somewhere else.”

Exempt Accommodation began in 1995, identifying local housing for tenants needing ‘care, support and supervision’ – from people on bail to those escaping domestic violence – that could bypass existing rent regulations.

The legislation opened up the commercial market to offer shared social housing, but also allowed private landlords to jump over the Housing Benefit restrictions and charge a surplus to the Local Authority – who would in turn seek reimbursement from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

In Birmingham, Exempt Accommodation providers have been found to charge over £200 per week for a tenant living in accommodation Birmingham City Council would cap at £50-100.

Recognising the cost implications of the current system in his letter to the LUHC Committee, Cllr Alden further added:

“In Birmingham the average Local Housing allowance shared accommodation rate is £57.34, the social housing general needs average weekly rent for Birmingham is £95.05 yet the Birmingham average exempt housing rent is around £200 per a week and they are able to charge this by simply providing one hour of unregulated support a week.

“With 22,000 individuals in Birmingham currently placed in exempt accommodation, this is a cost to the treasury of £228.8m per year just in Birmingham.”

Alden’s letter continues to challenge a “a lack of cooperation between local authorities”, which has seen people from other cities moved into Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham – often exacerbating neighbourhood issues over crime, infrastructure, streets safety, and litter.

He states: “Exempt accommodation, as currently operated, serves neither its users or local communities well. It also fails to deliver value for money for the taxpayer with all the associated problems driving up costs across different public sector organisations.

“Existing planning laws and problems with the Benefits system combine to create a toxic situation where local neighbourhoods are becoming unrecognisable, with rising crime and ASB and loss of family housing whilst trapping ex-offenders and drug users in a vicious cycle and increasing pressure on public services from the police to waste collections.”

Erdington’s neighbouring ward of Stockland Green is one of the most affected suburbs in the UK by Exempt Accommodation, with the number of citywide claimants reportedly doubling in the past three years alone.

Stockland Green Councillor Josh Jones had been working on a plan to tackle the Exempt Accommodation crisis with the recently deceased Jack Dromey MP, outlining “action points… back in the summer of 2020”.

He told Erdington Local: “Exempt Accommodation is not something that’s going to be solved easily. It needs to be attacked in multiple ways.

“There needs to be mandatory licensing for all rented accommodation, whether that’s in the private sector or registered social landlord sector.

“The housing regulator needs to staffed better than they currently are, there needs to be… in every region round the country, particularly where there are big cities, there needs to be an office with additional staff put there to properly regulate the sector.

“Too many people are looking at Exempt Accommodation in isolation, it needs a whole holistic approach to deal with it – it needs to look at the NHS, community policing, mental health funding, and housing in general. It needs to be a whole area and a whole sector approach.”

But the sharp end of the supported living stick is also hurting tenants, often leaving vulnerable people living dangerous accommodation.

A current Slade Road resident, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear their housing provider would evict them, told Erdington Local:

“I have a chronic health condition and was registered homeless, eventually being moved up to Birmingham from London.

“They (the housing provider) don’t care about the welfare of their tenants; they’re only interested in money. They get around £233 per week from me living here.

“We only get two hours of heating a day and there is a list of improvements that need to be done – including allowing a fire exit at the back of the building – that have not been looked at in months.

“Plus, there is a couple living here and the police have been called out several times over domestic violence. But they’re both aggressive.

“Sometimes I have to lock myself in my room; it’s not a safe place to live.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, we want to hear your side of the story – email: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: West Midlands Mayor urges campaigners to ‘keep lobbying’ to save Short Heath Playing Fields

Words & pics Ed King

During a visit to Short Heath Playing Fields on Saturday 11 December, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street urged campaigners to “keep lobbying, to keep making their voice heard” – as the battle to save the beloved parkland continues.

Short Heath Playing Fields had been earmarked for a new housing estate of potentially over 84 three to five bedroom homes, to help support the city’s social housing agenda.

But in a recent surprise U-turn, Birmingham City Council deemed the site unviable and gave the green space back to the Education Department.

Andy Street had previously visited local residents fighting to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ in April this year, returning on Saturday to congratulate the campaigners – but also to warn against a possible private sale.

Despite a welcome win for Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT), the formalised group fighting save the playing fields, the Council’s shift could mean the parkland is now sold on the commercial market.

A previous statement from Birmingham City Council explained if the land was not developed by the city: “the options are limited and stark…

“With the current demand for land by house developers, it is anticipated that the land would be sold relatively soon to a private developer.”

An advocate of building on brownfield over greenfield sites, Mr Street explained:

“The first thing to say is that it’s really good news that their (Council) own plans for development are not going ahead, and the campaigners deserve huge credit for getting a change of heart there. But then I would say there is still another campaign to be run to make sure it doesn’t get sold off for development.

“So, what I hope will happen is that it moves into the Parks Department and can then be developed, as the team on the ground here have said, as a facility for the community. I hope that the Council will still see that is the right thing to do.

“(Now campaigners should) keep lobbying, to keep making their voice heard – particularly as this is the year of elections in Birmingham so it’s really important. I think we’ve already seen the power; the power of a community voice is really symbolic.

“Very clearly, we’ve got a huge housing challenge in the West Midlands. We all know that. But the good news is that we’re steadily choosing individual brownfield sites to be developed one after another and the policy remains absolutely to win Government funding we can use to close the viability gaps on individual brownfield sites.”

Erdington Ward councillor Robert Alden opposed the development on Short Heath Playing Fields when it was first identified in the Birmingham Development Plan.

Joining Andy Street on the playing fields, he told Erdington Local:

“This is a great first victory, but it is very much only the beginning, not the end.

“There’s a long battle ahead – residents have been brilliant at coming together and now it’s really clear the Council need to move this into the Parks Department rather than the Education Department, guarantee it won’t be sold, and allow the residents here to take ownership of this site and put it into use just like the local community wants.

“It’s been absolutely brilliant to see the way people have come together; you look at some of the events, like the Halloween Trail they had, the Sports Day in the summer, the clean ups being organised by the local community.

“This is exactly what Erdington and North Birmingham are about – a community coming together to stand up for what they believe in.”

Having grown from a Facebook campaign to an official lobbying body, the local residents that make up Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT) are celebratory of the Council’s recent decision – but mirror the concern of the West Midlands Mayor and Erdington Ward Councillor.

Stephen Hughes from SHFT told: “(I am) extremely proud of my community, to see them today… it’s emotional, it’s always emotional. But it’s important that they’re still behind us, they’re still 100% backing everything we do.

“And moving forward that’s going to be crucial, because we want to make sure this (the playing fields) remain a green space and doesn’t become anything other than that.”

Also from SHFT, Estelle Murphy added: “I’m nervously hopeful; nervous that the Council won’t listen to us and give us the time to explore the opportunity for sport here, hopeful that they will.

“(The community are) very pleased we’ve got though the first part of the battle. They’re hoping that we’re going to keep on, which we will. We won’t back down. We’ll be there until the bitter end.

“There are no houses on here yet.”

Short Heath Fields Trust are continuing to explore uses for the playing fields, following on from previous community events organised there – alongside a focus on sport, health and wellbeing.

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com

Andy Street, Robert Alden, Short Heath Fields Trust, Stephen Hughes, Estelle Murphy, Birmingham City Council, Short Heath Playing Fields, Active Arts Castle Vale, Review Publishing, Erdington, Erdington High Street, Ed King, Ed King 2210, Erdington, Birmingham, Erdington Local, newspaper, feature, Sutton Coldfield Local, Local Newspapers, showcase, news

NEWS: Memorial Christmas tree planted outside EF Edwards on Gravelly Hill

Words & pics by Ed King

A memorial Christmas tree has been planed in the front garden of EF Edwards on Gravelly Hill, in an act of remembrance for local people who have lost loved ones.

The long serving Erdington funeral directors, which has been helping local families through difficult times since 1966, are inviting people to decorate the tree with special silver star decorations – each carrying the names of departed friends and family members.

There is no charge, and the person being remembered with a star on the memorial tree did not need to be laid to rest by EF Edwards.

“We’d like to support the whole community and everyone who may be dealing with grief,” explained EF Edwards Funeral Manger, Lisa Hodge.

“The stars on the tree can help people, especially at this time of year, remember their loved ones and do something a bit more proactive. It can give people who are grieving something to focus on.

“It’s important to acknowledge that grief is a natural process and people have different ways in which they greave and how they get through that process – if we can do something that makes that a little bit easier then that’s what we’re here to do.”

Before Covid, EF Edwards would hold an annual memorial service at St Michael’s Church in Boldmere and display a memorial tree inside their Erdington based funeral home.

But due to the widespread impact of coronavirus and other illnesses, this year EF Edwards are reaching out to the wider community and planting a permanent memorial tree in their front garden.

“We always did a yearly memorial service around this time of year,” continued Lisa, “where we invited people to send in stars with the names of their loved ones which we would place on a tree within the branch.

“This year we want to extend that to the wider community and offer more people the chance to remember their loved ones, by putting stars on a tree outside at the front.

“The fact that it’s a tree that will remain here permanently will give back to both the community and the environment. It gives people the opportunity to pay their respects to friends, family, and loved ones they have lost – no matter how long ago it was.

“We’d like people to come back year after year in remembrance too, as the tree will keep growing and be a permanent fixture on our front garden.”

The perennial winter fir was donated by Short Heath Fields Trust, who are themselves in the process of building a Covid memorial woodland on Bleak Hill Park.

Estelle Murphy from Short Heath Trust delivered and planted the tree at EF Edwards on Thursday 9 December.

Outside of her role with the Trust, Estelle also works in palliative and end of life care and helps people come to terms with grief in her professional world.

Estelle told Erdington Local: “We were contacted by Lisa at EF Edwards and given the fact we’re in the process of building a living memorial for Covid we were more than happy to jump in and help.

“It’s important that people have time to heal, and everybody does it differently.

“The impact on a community from organisations like EF Edwards is vastly important; it’s where the community come when they need help in finding somewhere for their loved ones to be.

“It’s about finding somewhere they can remember their loved ones; funeral homes like EF Edwards are the bridge between the two.”

If you would like to have a loved on remembered on the memorial tree, contact EF Edwards on 0121 373 0300 or click here to visit their website.

EXCLUSIVE: Local campaigners ‘ready to take on any private developer’ after Council halt housing plans for Short Heath Playing Fields

Words & pics by Ed King

In a surprise U-turn, Birmingham City Council have halted their housing plans for Short Heath Playing Fields – returning the site back to the Education Department.

In an email to Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT) from the Birmingham Leader’s office, sent on Thursday 25 November, Cllr Ward informed them Birmingham City Council no longer saw the site as viable for their proposed development of 84 houses.

The news was met with relief and hope, from a community that have been locking horns with Birmingham City Council for over a year to keep the green space for public use – from regular dog walking and sporting activities, to organised events such as the recent ‘pumpkin hunt’ which saw families from Kingstanding to Castle Vale come together on the parkland.

But local campaigners are “ready to take on any private developer”, as moving the land back into the Education Department portfolio could end up with a quick sale in the commercial market and planning applications to build even more houses on their “beloved fields”.

In previous statements made by Birmingham City Council, if the fiercely fought over green space was no longer earmarked for development by Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT): ‘it is anticipated that the land would be sold relatively soon to a private developer.’

In the same message, Birmingham City Council went on to state:

“It is known that private developers would look to maximise the density of any site as far as possible, it is also a known and demonstrable fact that homes delivered by private developers are almost all of a smaller size than any BMHT designed homes, therefore the likelihood is that there would be in excess of 84 homes on the site, and should that developer seek to build apartments on a low rise form, would again most likely exceed 100 plus homes and apartments.”

After receiving the email from the Birmingham Leader, Short Heath Fields Trust told Erdington Local:

“This is a huge win for us all. We at Short Heath Fields Trust are delighted by the news that the Council will not be building on our green space.

“We know this is a battle won, but not the war. We would like to know the results of the environmental surveys and the more detailed look into the grounds actual viability for development which we know we’re undertaken.

“We have taken on Birmingham City Council with its huge legal department and we are more than ready to take on any private developers if needed.

“We will continue to make sure the community gets a say in what happens at our beloved fields. To try to bring the community’s vision of the return of sports for all and to see it given back to the community.

“Considering the Council haven’t paid a penny for this parkland it should be put into the parks department not education, as that is where it belongs, so this community can keep using and enjoying it instead of generations past, present, and future having to keep fighting for it.”

The campaign to save ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ began in August 2020, after a contentious period of initial public consultation which many claim they were unaware of.

Starting with a Facebook page and online petition, local residents eventually formalised into Short Heath Fields Trust – following a community protest that grabbed the attention of politicians from both sides of the aisle.

Leader of the Birmingham Conservative Party and Erdington Ward councillor, Robert Alden, joined local residents in their protest against the Council’s plans – having been already fighting the proposed development from Birmingham’s corridors of power.

Cllr Alden told Erdington Local: “The decision of the Council to finally listen to the thousands of residents locally who have been calling for the site to be saved is a welcome one. Short Heath Playing Fields is a green lung in our area that needs to be preserved.

“However, residents will not forget that the Leader of the Council and the Labour MP stood in front of residents telling them the site had to be built on.

“Therefore, residents will rightly be concerned that the City Council will simply decide to change their minds again next summer, after the all-out council elections.

“That is exactly what they did with Burford Road Playing Fields, Kingstanding, in 2018. They claimed they were saved going into the 2018 elections and then agreed to build on them in 2019.

“Residents can rest assured we will continue to fight and keep the pressure on the Council to preserve Short Heath Road Playing Fields and other green spaces locally.

Erdington MP Jack Dromey has also been heavily involved in the campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’, responding to the growing concerns of local residents, meeting regularly with SHFT, and using his position to broker meetings with Birmingham Council Leader Ian Ward.

On hearing the land was being given back to the Education Department, Jack Dromey said:

“The campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields has been a strong, community-led campaign and the news that Birmingham City Council will not be building houses on the site will be welcomed by the campaigners.

“Since I was first approached about the issue two years ago, I have been working with all those concerned to try and find a way forward that the local community can support, and I’d like to thank everyone involved for the constructive way in what has sometimes been difficult discussions.

“I will continue to work closely with campaigners and the community on the future of Short Heath Playing Fields, that are near and dear to the heart of the local community.”

Despite various alternatives being proposed by SHFT, including putting sports facilities on Short Heath Playing Fields and a list of surrounding brownfield sites on which to develop social housing, the fate of the green space seemed sealed.

During a meeting with local residents on Friday 20 August, the Birmingham Council Leader reiterated the likelihood of a private sale if the land could not be developed by BMHT – urging residents to accept the Council’s proposal.

At the same meeting, Cllr Ward also announced the number of proposed houses to be built would be reduced to 66 from the 84, to make way for ‘a green corridor’ connecting Short Heath Road to Bleak Hill Park.

Commitments were also made of reinvesting up to £1millon from the development back into the local community for health, wellbeing, and sports facilities.

However, if the land is sold to a private developer the size and scope of any development remains to be seen – alongside any possible reparations to the local community.

Erdington Local has approached Birmingham City Council for comment.

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com

For more on the fight to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ click here to visit the campaign’s Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521

NEWS: Two arrested over suspicion of attempted murder after attack in Springthorpe Green

Words by Ed King / Pics by Lisa Smith & Estelle Murphy

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder following a vicious attack in Springthorpe Green, Tyburn, at around 5.20pm on Saturday 28th August.

The quiet Erdington suburb became filled with emergency services yesterday afternoon, as armed police and ambulance crews responded to an alert – alongside Dog Control Units and a police helicopter circling above the local area.

West Midlands Police reported a 30-year-old was attacked with a knife and suffered serious wounds at the scene.

After being receiving ‘emergency first aid’ from responding officers the victim is now in a stable condition in hospital – his injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

The offenders reportedly fled the scene in a vehicle.

Following some ‘quick-time enquiries and intelligence checks’, investigating officers later spotted a van that was believed to be linked to the stabbing.

West Midlands Police further report the van ‘failed to stop for our officers before being abandoned in Chester Road. Two men ran from the vehicle but were arrested following a foot chase.’

Residents were told to stay in their homes as West Midlands Police blocked off the garages at end of The Feldings, Sprinthorpe Green – beginning an immediate investigation into the attack.

Locals trying to drive home were asked to leave their cars outside of the crime scene.

Eyewitnesses and local residents saw a body on the floor and what appeared to be bank notes strewn across the ground, with police on the scene unable to give further information.

Local resident, John Dale, told Erdington Local: “The guy had been… well he’d been stabbed, when we came here. And he was at the top there, and the armed police, they followed us to… where they’re parked up now.

“There was money all over the floor. £20 notes. But they seemed to think it was counterfeit or something, but they was all over the floor.”

Jean, another local resident, who was drying her hair at the time but looked out of here window to see the disturbance, confirmed there seemed to be bank notes on the floor.

Two men aged 22 and 23 remain in custody for questioning, having been arrested for attempted murder.

Superintendent Paul Minor from West Midlands Police said: “The victim has suffered serious wounds from what is believed to be a knife and is lucky to be alive.

“Our armed police attended the scene and performed emergency fast aid (an advanced from of first aid) to stem the bleeding before paramedics arrived.

“Our enquiries quickly led us to identify a vehicle we believe was connected to the stabbing and around an hour later we had arrested two suspects. That’s brilliant work from all the officers involved.”

West Midlands Police are e appealing for witnesses who’ve not yet spoken to them to come forward.

Anyone with information can message West Midlands Police on Live Chat via www.west-midlands.police.uk/contact-us/live-chat

People can also call 101 quoting crime ref 20/1708818/21 – or the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

NEWS: Police swarm on The Feldings, Springthorpe Green as residents told to say in their homes

NEWS: Police swarm on The Feldings, Springthorpe Green as residents told to say in their homes

Words and pics by Lisa Smith & Estelle Murphy – reporting from the scene.

Following an incident this afternoon, police and emergency services swarmed across The Feldings, Sringthorpe Green investigating a potentially serious crime committed earlier today.

At around 5-6pm on Saturday 28th August, the quiet Erdington suburb was awash with uniformed police officers and Dog Control Units all attending the scene, along with local ambulances crews and a police helicopter circling above the local area and Pype Hayes Park.

Residents were told to stay in their homes as West Midlands Police began investigating an unconfirmed incident that had taken place at the scene – blocking off the garages at end of The Feldings, that neighbour the grounds of the Hollyfield Sports and Conference Centre.

Motorists who were trying to return home were stopped by officers still investigating the scene.

Eyewitnesses and local residents saw a body on the floor and what appeared to be bank notes strewn across the ground, with police on the scene unable to give further information.

Local resident, John Dale, told Erdington Local: “The guy had been… well he’d been stabbed, when we came here. And he was at the top there, and the armed police, they followed us to… where they’re parked up now.

“There was money all over the floor. £20 notes. But they seemed to think it was counterfeit or something, but they was all over the floor.”

Jean, another local resident, who was drying her hair at the time but looked out of here window to see the disturbance, confirmed there seemed to be bank notes on the floor.

Speaking to an Erdington Local correspondent as events unfolded at the scene, Jean witnessed: “There are now what look like incident police at the scene… the helicopter has left, I’m not sure on (the status of) the victim.

“Another neighbour was with him before the police or the ambulance came.”

According to a motorist driving up the Chester Road during the time, armed police were also seen stopping someone in a white Audi near the scene – although it remains unclear if the incidents are related.

Erdington Local contacted West Midlands Police who were unable to comment at the time, with no further reports issued by emergency services.

FEATURE: “This is the beginning of a conversation… not the end.” Council Leader promises to “work with” the local community on Short Heath playing fields housing development

Words & pics by Ed King

Just over a year ago, the campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ began in earnest – as a community galvanised to challenge Council plans for a new housing development on the beloved green space.

After the original blueprint was scrapped, and a community counter proposal deemed unviable, a ‘compromise’ is now back on the table – as Council Leader Ian Ward met face to face with local residents to present the city’s latest plans.

Council Leader Ian Ward promised the city would “work with” the local community over the proposed Short Heath playing fields housing development, stating “this is only the beginning of a conversation with you, the local community; it is not the end of that conversation.”

Addressing local residents at a public meeting on Friday 20 August, held on the green space earmarked for development, the Council Leader also stressed homes built on the site becoming HMOs “just wouldn’t happen.”

Promises for a ‘green corridor’ connecting Short Heath Road to Bleak Hill Park were reiterated, alongside a potential £1million investment for ‘off-site provision for sports and recreation’ including ‘new football pitches and a small changing room.’

Brokered and chaired by Jack Dromey and Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT), the Leader’s public address follows a year of negotiations between local campaigners and the Erdington MP – who brought the concerns of residents direct to the Leader’s office.

Over an emotive three hours, around 50 people took time off on a Friday afternoon to debate with Council officials – voicing worries over infrastructure, traffic, parking, public safety, the strain on local services, and the irreversible loss of parkland used by young and old across the community.

Alongside Short Heath Fields Trust, several community groups attended the meeting including Erdington Litter Busters, Short Heath Wombles, and Short Heath Residents Action Group.

Concern the 3-5 bedroom houses could end up becoming HMOs was a hot topic, as 50% of the proposed estate would be sold on the commercial housing market.

Stockland Green, one of the wards the playing fields sit in, already has one of the highest numbers of HMOs in the city – with residents and action groups alike crying out for Council intervention.

Both Council Leader Ian Ward and Head of Housing Development Colette McCann made assurances no new houses built on Short Heath playing fields would be granted HMO licence.

Cllr Ward told Erdington Local: “We have what’s called an article 4 direction in place in the case of HMOs, so you’d have to apply for planning consent to covert a property into a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO).

“It would be absurd for the planning authority to grant half the homes on this site to become HMOs, that just wouldn’t happen.”

Colette McCann added: “Homeowners buying our new build schemes tend to be first time buyers… we try and support first time buyers as much as we can through that sales process.

“The type of properties we’re building – family, 2,3, and sometimes 4 beds – don’t necessarily lend themselves to that type of provision anyway (HMOs).”

Cllr Ward addressed the crowd and answered questions before making himself available to individuals for a further two hours, then touring the site with SHFT Chair Stephen Hughes and Estelle Murphy from the Short Heath Residents Action Group (SHRAG).

The Council Leader was further “happy to look at” a list of brownfield sites that could potentially offset the number of houses built on the playing fields.

Estelle Murphy had previously submitted a portfolio of brownfield site alternatives to the Council’s Housing Development Team, although this had not yet reached the Leader’s office.

Cllr Ward requested Ms Murphy resubmit this list directly to him, with Erdington MP Jack Dromey also asking to see it.

After opening the meeting by praising the campaign for being “one of the best examples in Birmingham of local people saying, ‘damn it, we’re not going to have our world changed without having a say,’” Jack Dromey also stayed on the playing fields to talk directly to residents.

He told Erdington Local: “The important thing about today was the community was able to have its say. There’s a recognition on behalf of the community that has seen movement from the Council, but there’s also concern that the Council need to go further at the next stages.

“I think it’s absolutely right that people were able to have their say; I think it’s welcome that Ian Ward, as Leader, came personally to hear their concerns.

“I believe it’s not beyond the ability of man or woman to construct an outcome that delivers both badly needed homes and green space and better facilities for the community.”

But the community’s response was led largely by anger and upset, with many hoping for more significant cuts in the number of houses from Birmingham City Council’s original plans.

The Council’s recognition the site could end up in the hands of private property developers, who could look to maximise profits by building even more houses on the green space, was a further concern.

In his address, the Council Leader stated: “One way or another we are going to have to reach a compromise about what we are going to do on this site. If we don’t, I envisage what the Council will end up doing is selling the land to a private developer.

“I’d like to avoid that; I’d like to work with you (the community) to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Josette and Derek Loughead, who live on Short Heath Road, told Erdington Local: “We’re being hung over a barrel – basically, if you moan, we’re going to take the whole park. And we’re going to give you a little ‘corridor’ that people are just going to dump stuff in (fly tipping).

“Plus, the people down there lose their park (Bleak Hill Park) to the playing fields – so really they’re just robbing peter to pay Paul.”

Local resident Shelia Appleby, who’s house overlooks the playing fields, and who engaged in a passionate debate with the Council Leader, had prepared a handwritten letter – asking Cllr Ward to ‘be a man’ and not ‘take away our park and breathing space’, especially as the area is so close to the spaghetti junction.

Shelia is a founding member of the Short Heath Wombles, a group of retired residents who clear litter from the playing fields in their own time.

Her letter went on to say: ‘Even with the pandemic, you would not cut the grass for people to come to the park or give kids a play area for ball games.

‘It is a human right to breath fresh air. People need houses but there are brownfield sites for you to build on.

‘When you have taken this park and Brum’s green lungs, and left us with concrete jungles, they are gone forever.’

Erdington ward Councillor Robert Alden also expressed concerns over the Council’s revised plans, having challenged the proposed developments even before a local campaign was formalised.

He told Erdington Local: “The Council’s latest proposal to still build on Short Heath Playing Fields is a huge betrayal of the Erdington community. They have spent a year claiming they wanted to hear resident’s alternatives yet have rejected everything the community has put forward.

“Now it is clear they were secretly using the consultation time to finalise Labour’s plans to build on the fields. Residents are rightly saying they feel conned by Birmingham City Council now.”

But the battle to ’Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ is set to continue, with all sides recognising more negotiation needs to happen.

In a statement from the Short Heath Fields Trust, Stephen Hughes told Erdington Local: “Short Heath Fields Trust made a promise to the community to get their voices heard and today they made themselves heard.

“There was an obvious disappointment shown to the proposal put forward by Ian Ward at the meeting, showing that only a fifth of the land being a ‘Green Corridor’ is not enough green space being saved.

“What is important is that Ian Ward said any land saved would be safe and made part of Bleakhill Park and would not be built on in the future. Also, that this is a starting point for the Trust to continue to work and negotiate to find a compromise all parties will be able to live with.”

In a statement from Short Heath Residents Action Group, Estelle Murphy added: “The Council’s reduction to 66 houses is welcomed as a step in the right direction, but for our community that step isn’t far enough. That piece of parkland is essential to their health and wellbeing.

“The proposal put forward by the Council has alarmed many residents feeling it would worsen many already existing problems and hot spots in the area and bring more crime with it.

“We are worried that without investing in the people already living in the area and solving existing issues, adding more people to the area will only make things worse.”

PICTURE GALLERY: Council Leader meets local residents on Short Heath playing fields

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com

For more on the fight to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ click here to visit the campaign’s Facebook page.

EXCLUSIVE: Council reduce housing plans for Short Heath playing fields – following a year long campaign from local residents

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King and Estelle Murphy

Birmingham City Council are pulling back on their plans for a new housing estate on Short Heath playing fields, cutting 18 houses from the originally proposed development of 84 – Erdington Local can exclusively reveal.

Following over 12 months of a fiercely fought campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’, Council Leader Ian Ward is meeting with local residents today to explain the new plans face to face – which will see a 21% reduction in new homes being built on the site.

Tensions have run high over the past twelve months, as friends and neighbours became community campaigners to stop the Council building on the beloved green space – used by young and old across the area for social activities.

Birmingham City Council have been identifying sites across the city for new houses as part of their Birmingham Development Plan (BDP) – responding to a housing crisis which could see tens of thousands of families without a home in the next decade.

However, residents of Erdington, Perry Common, and Stockland Green – the three wards that embrace the playing fields – have been fighting to have their voices heard after the original public consultation was heavily criticised.

In the revised proposal, Birmingham City Council are also promising up to £1million investment into remaining the green space and neighbouring Bleak Hill Park – earmarked for health, wellbeing, and sports facilities.

In an update sent to Erdington Local direct from the Council Leader’s office, the new development plans will include ‘off-site provision for sports and recreation to a maximum value of £1milllion.’

The possible seven figure sum now on the table will be used for ‘a green corridor leading from Short Heath Road down to Bleak Hill Park’ and ‘new football pitches and a small changing room.’

In the original development plans, the playing fields were to be used for 84 houses – with money outlined for sports and education but no clear reinvestment into the local community.

In a message directly to local residents, Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward said: “I want to thank the residents of Erdington for engaging with us.

“We’re determined to provide more high quality affordable homes for the people of Birmingham, but we understand the need to work with communities, so we’ve listened and our new proposal takes into account the feedback we received to the original plans for this site.

“In Erdington and across the city, there’s a clear and urgent need for new social rented homes. Hopefully the new proposals can deliver some of those homes while also retaining green space and providing leisure facilities.

“This is a growing city and the Birmingham Development Plan, adopted in January 2017, forecasts a population increase of around 156,000 people by 2031.

“That means 89,000 additional homes, with 51,000 of these to be built within the city boundary, so sites like Short Heath are key to helping us meet this need.”

Spearheaded by Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT), local residents who formalised as a trust earlier this year, the campaign has attracted the attention of several high ranking public officials – with Erdington Councillor and Leader of Birmingham Conservatives Robert Alden attending several public meetings on the site and offering continued support.

Recently re-elected Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Andy Street, also made a personal visit to the playing fields, promising to “do everything I (he) can” to save the green space, adding “it’s not even a debate whether houses should or should not be built – I cannot understand why they would be built here. It cannot happen.”

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington has also been in talks with SHFT for over 12months, acting as a mediator between campaigners and Council – bringing the concerns of local residents directly to the Leader’s office.

He told Erdington Local: “The open spaces of Short Heath are near and dear to the local community and local people have been rightly concerned.

“They recognise that the Council must build badly needed homes but wanted a say in the future of Short Heath.

“I have worked with them and Council Leader Ian Ward to arrive at a way forward that sees new homes and better facilities for the community, preserving the integrity of Short Heath.

“The Council must continue to listen and move further but real progress has been made.”

However, Short Heath Fields Trust and many across the community were hoping for a more significant reduction in the number of new houses to be built – understanding a compromise must be reached but wanting more of the green field site to remain accessible to local residents.

There is also growing concern over the strain any new houses will put on the local infrastructure, such as GP surgeries and schools.

Chair of Short Heath Fields Trust, Stephen Hughes, told Erdington Local: “Obviously we are disappointed with the Council’s proposal, we want far more for our community. But today is a chance for our community to have its say and we hope to be heard at last.

“Going forward we will continue the Trust’s work to establish Bleak Hill Park as part of the community and bring it to the same standard as surrounding parks, as a member of Birmingham Open Spaces Forum.”

Estelle Murphy, from the recently formed Short Heath Residents Action Group, added: “Short Heath Residents Action Group will be there to ask the questions those unable to attend today have sent in.

“Once we have gauged the feeling of all interested parties, we will decide exactly what our next move as an Action Group will be – to save this parkland and over other issues than effect our community.”

Council Leader Ian Ward introduces new plans for housing on Short Heath playing fields

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com/

For more on the fight to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ click here to visit the campaign’s Facebook page