VOX POP: Remembering Jack – “He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

VOX POP quotes & pics taken by Claire Taylor / Intro words & pics by Ed King

Soon after the announcement of Jack Dromey’s death on Friday 7 January, flowers and messages of remembrance started to appear outside his constituency office on Mason Road. – with further tributes flooding social media.

Many were in shock at the sudden and unexpected news, sharing their stories and grief both online and off.

Erdington Local took to the High Street he fiercely championed and asked for comment from some of his constituents – for our weekly VOX POP.

(Ed’s note… we used the headline quote to show how Jack Dromey was perceived, by many, as a ‘local man’ – despite being born in Middlesex. The full quote is the last in the VOX POP, which we felt was a testament to the fervour with which Jack represented his Birmingham constituency.)

Holding a position where concerns and complaints were part of the day to day, Jack Dromey heard first hand about the issues affecting people across Erdington – with many looking to his office for answers.

From large scale employment strategies to supporting school fundraisers and independent retailers, the ‘to-do-list’ in the local MPs office was often as varied as it was unending. But as Erdington’s elected voice in Parliament, it was down to Jack Dromey and his colleagues to work through it with tireless dedication.

When Erdington Local asked for comments on Jack Dromey’s death, and life, many people had many things to say – but not all were comfortable having their condolences captured on camera.

Thank you to everyone who stopped to share thier thoughts and stories with us, and to all who agreed to be featured in the article.

Remembering Jack memorial service on Sunday 16 January

A wider public memorial service is being organised by the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce on Sunday 16 January, to be held outside the Co-op supermarket on Erdington High Street from 1:30/2pm.

Speakers will include colleagues from Jack’s constituency office, alongside figureheads from local organisations and community support groups such as Witton Lodge Community Association, Urban Devotion, Erdington Street Pastors, and Spitfire Advice and Support Services.

Jack Dromey’s political peers will also be attending, with further public condolences and remembrance coming from Liam Byrne MP (Hodge Hill), Jess Phillips MP (Yardley), Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Hollyhead, Birmingham Conservatives Leader Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington), and Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End).

The memorial for Jack Dromey is open to all members of the public – with the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce inviting people to gather by the Co-op from 1:30pm, with the service scheduled to begin at 2pm.

A spokesperson for the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce told Erdington Local:

“On behalf of the people of Erdington, partners of the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force have come together to organise this tribute event for Jack.

“His legacy went beyond politics. His tireless campaigning on behalf of constituents touched so many lives so we wanted to create a fitting tribute to a man who was progressive and impactful in positively changing lives and communities.

“It’s a chance for the people of Erdington to pay their respects to Jack, to reflect on his work and to share memories of him.

“It should be a great occasion, celebrating the life of a man whose commitment to improving lives made him a hero for the community he served with such passion and honesty.”

Here are a few more memories and messages of condolences from people on Erdington High Street.

Harriet Spencer, Oikos Café, Erdington High Street

“He used to come relatively frequently into Oikos and he would always order a strawberry milkshake, which we used to love.

“He was such a champion of the café and enjoyed that we were hear and all the things we did, especially the music event. It’s really a shock to the area and all of us.”

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Christine Scarl, Pype Hayes

“I heard that he had died… its such a shame. He was really good at letting us know what was going on in the area, we would always be getting the leaflets through the door and everything. It’s such a shame.”

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Pat Wandby, Stockland Green

“I’m sad that Jack Dromey died… it was a shock, he was a nice chap and he always seemed to be fighting for the workers – to help them keep their jobs.

“Like with the HP Sauce factory, which should never have been closed. And he was always fighting for the Jag (Jaguar Land Rover, Castle Bromwich) and other industries.

“He came to our house once over an issue with some garages at the back… I did have a moan at him about Stockland Green and the potholes on the road, by the chip shop. But since then it’s been done.”

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Vera, Holly Lane, Erdington

“He passed away, bless him. He did a lot for Erdington, as out local MP. He did a lot for Jaguar and everything else.

“He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

If you have something to say about any of the issues raised in this VOX POP (or anything else you want to tell us about) please email: mystory@erdingotnlocal.com

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

VOX POP: Would you like more art, music, and events on Erdington High Street?

Pics & quotes taken by Claire Taylor / Intro by Ed King

Erdington High Street was once one of the busiest in Birmingham. But even before Covid closed shops and businesses across the country, Erdington’s central vein of commerce was already getting clogged – with many local shoppers put off by an increase in antisocial behaviour and street crime.

Recently, there have been more hopes dashed as Erdington missed out on two multi million pound pots of Government funding that would have kickstarted major regeneration of the High Street – being rejected for the Future High Street Fund on Boxing Day 2020, then the Levelling Up Fund in October last year.

And whilst more banks move out and budget shops move in, those responsible for promoting Erdington’s business community continue to try and turn an increasingly troubling tide – with the recently reinstated Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) allotting ‘£20000 towards marketing, events and promotion’ from their annual budget.

But whilst Westminster side steps Erdington’s ambitions and recognised national chains hover on the side lines, the local arts community has been making an impact – with creative events and community projects bringing crowds and attention to the waning High Street.

In October 2021, the global phenomenal and ‘living puppet’ Little Amal visited Erdington High Street, as she came through selected places in the UK at the end of her 8,000m walk across the world – raising awareness for the plight of child refugees and displaced people.

Hundreds of people gathered on Erdington High Street in celebration and solidarity, joining Little Amal as she walked from the Co-op supermarket to Central Square Shopping Centre.

To read/see more about Little Amal’s visit to Erdington click here.

So, can art and creative activity help breath life back into Erdington High Street? Are the creative industries picking up the slack from a distant Government and nervous national brands?

Or do these events bring more problems to an already strained shopping hub, distracting people’s attention from the shelves and taking footfall out of the shops and onto the pavement?

Erdington Local’s VOX POP reporter, Claire Taylor, went onto the High Street to ask local shops and shoppers alike… would you like more art, music, and events on Erdington High Street?

Pete and Pat Ferrans, Erdington

“We came to the puppet one (Little Amal), the big walking puppet one, and thought that was great. Anything that would bring people to the High Street. If its that, or a food fair, or a farmer’s market.”

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Raven Dixon, Erdington

“I’m a creative person; I’d love to see more arts and events on the High Street.

“I can’t think off hand of any specific events, but what was really great is when the big puppet (Little Amal) came – everybody was talking about it, including people who don’t normally come to Erdington. More high-profile stuff like that.”

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Daniel Byrne, Erdington

“I think they’re a good idea. You know when there was the big doll (Little Amal) here, I saw that. I was up there (car park above Wilton Market) watching it, I’d love to see more things like that.

“But anything that livens it (High Street) up is good, like music – I love seeing people playing, I give them a bit of money every now and again. I love to see it.”

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Nancy Singh, clothing stall – Wilton Market

“I would like to see more events; it encourages people to come here when they see things happening on the High Street. Music, or whatever people like and will bring them here.”

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Kevin Boustead, The Wilton Cobbler – Wilton Market

“I like having the events, but it just takes everyone out of the (Wilton) market. I’ve been here for 30 years next month; we want to bring people into the market.

“What you’ve got to do is to get the people, the general public, not to be frightened to come into Erdington. They can still be scare stiff of the High Street.”

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Sohrab Hesari, Aster Alterations

“I like the events on the High Street. I think music events would be better, and food events, for the High Street. Better for the public.

“Better for me too, when she came (Little Amal) it brought more people into the shop.”

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Aparna Binoop, New Oscott

“More events would benefit the High Street, for sure. I would like to see some areas made specially for people, so they can gather around and play.”

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Caitlin Wood, Erdington

“Definitely. It would be really nice if there were more live music events, I always thought that would be good. But it would be good if there was a venue for 18-30 year olds.”

If you have something to say about any of the issues raised in this VOX POP (or anything else you want to tell us about) please email: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: Erdington Business Improvement District voted back for another five year term

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington Business Improvement District has been successfully voted back for another five year term, receiving a landside endorsement from High Street retailers and the local business community.

With voting taking place over the last four weeks, Friday 12 November saw the final results counted – returning nearly 74% in favour for renewing the Erdington BID, with 45 of the 61 votes cast by local businesses saying ‘yes’.

Erdington BID represents businesses from Six Ways to Edwards Road, charging members 1.75% of the rateable value of their business to help promote commerce in the area – as well as tackling civic concerns such as street safety, crime, and fly tipping.

Erdington BID has also become a voice for the local business community, one able to challenge Birmingham City Council and Government over issues that affect Erdington High Street and local traders.

Recently, Erdington missed out on two multi-million pound funds from central government to regenerate the High Street – being rejected for the Levelling Up Fund in October, and the Future High Streets Fund back in January.

But local stakeholders, including Erdington BID, remain committed to finding other ways of attracting the long fought for financing to transform the High Street.

Terry Guest has been Erdington Town Centre and BID Manager since assuming the role back in 2011, successfully taking the BID into it’s now fourth term and generating over £100,000 per annum for investment into the High Street.

Following the results of the vote, Terry told Erdington Local: “I’ve been greatly encouraged this week by the number of businesses that offered support face to face, but you never know how these things are going to turn out.

“Walking down the High Street I am struck by how many shops we’ve got that are full; we don’t have a lot of empty shops and I think our percentage (of empty units), around 4%, is one of the lowest in the country. So, we must be doing something right.

“We’ve now attracted Poundstretcher to the High Street, in a massive unit that used to be occupied by New Look. So, it shows that shops here (on Erdington High Street) aren’t staying empty for very long.

When asked if he had a message for local businesses that took part in the vote, Terry added:

“A great big thank you – a great big thank you whether you voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it’s a democracy and if you voted ‘no’ we’d like to engage you and find out if we can do things better.”

Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden also sits as Director of the Erdington BID.

Cllr Robert Alden said: “The Town Centre Manager Terry Guest does a huge amount of work for Erdington and the size of this ballot, almost 74% in favour of a further term, demonstrates just how highly his work and the BID is viewed locally in Erdington.

“The BID brings in around £100,000 of funding ringfenced to Erdington High Street area, every year. It was therefore vital that this was renewed to ensure that measures like the additional security continued going forward.

“The BID is a key part of the ongoing efforts to try and improve and regenerate Erdington High Street and to make it safer for residents.”

During the campaign to renew the Erdington BID, plans for the next five years were outlined if the vote was successful – with extra policing and increased High Street security very much a priority.

Robert added: “Looking ahead over the next five year term a key focus is going to be on trying to help regenerate Erdington and make the High Street cleaner, safer and more welcoming. To support existing businesses and to attract further ones into Erdington.

“Erdington is an amazing place with a brilliant community and we will keep doing all we can to help the BID deliver for local businesses and residents”.

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

INTERVIEW: Terry Guest – Erdington BID & Town Centre Manager

Words & pics by Ed King

“The main plan and priority have to be now… increased security, we have to emphasise to the police and the Council the importance of providing the necessary security for this High Street and the support for our Warden.”

On Friday 12 November the future of the Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) will be known, as voting to renew the organisation finishes on Thursday this week.

Over the past month, local shop owners and businesses have been casting paper ballots ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – a vote which if successfully passed will see the Erdington BID in place for another half decade.

Each business that falls within the catchment area – which stretches from Six Ways to Edwards Road, including all shops on Erdington High Street and Sutton New Road – pays 1.75% of their rateable value to finance the BID, which stands as ‘a partnership between the business community and other local stakeholders… helping to sustain Erdington as a vibrant urban village.’

Initially voted in by local businesses in 2007, Erdington BID’s current five year term is set to expire in July 2022.

Terry Guest has been Erdington BID & Town Centre Manager since assuming the roll in 2011. He explained the organisation’s responsibilities:

“It’s twofold these days. One of the things that the BID has always done is put the basics in place – such as security, the Christmas lights, hanging baskets.

“But the BID has also done its own projects, such as the garden area we created next to the library – that was a project that proved very popular.

“One of the things I’m keen to do is to expand that green aspect of the High Street… so that anyone there can actually sit down and relax and have something of a more pleasant view than just concrete.

“There’s that sort of basic thing. But the other side of it now is that the BID has become more of a voice – a voice with the Government and a voice with the Council. And we need that now more than ever.”

Erdington High Street has recently seen applications rejected for two multi-million pounds pots of Government investment, missing out on the Levelling Up Fund in October and the Future High Street Fund back in January.

If successful, each application would have seen over £50m pumped into the High Street from the private and public sector.

Terry added: “We’ve been behind both the Levelling Up Fund and Future High Streets Fund applications, which have failed so far – but we’re not stopping at that. In the future, what the BID is evolving into, and has been for some time, is to be a voice with the Government and the Council.

“Which is important, because we know that both governments and councils recognise BIDs – and that’s becoming a larger part of it, where we have to make our voice be heard and get the best deal for businesses.”

But the fate of the Erdington BID still hangs in the balance, as local businesses ultimately vote and pay for the organisation’s next five years – a levy of around £116,000 per annum. And as in any election there are mandates and manifestos.

“One is policing,” explained Terry. “We’ve been involved very heavily in getting a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) put in place for the High Street – which, when we’ve got that in, allow us, allows anyone, to contact the police to remove anyone who is causing anti-social behaviour. Drug deals, minor crime, and so on.

“We’ve seen since 2018, when the last PSPO was cancelled, that really the aspect of working with the police is incredibly important. As it is with the Council, such as the state of the roads and pavements, the fly tipping and so on – a big portion of my job (as Town Centre Manager) these days is walking up and down the High Street taking photos of rubbish, then reporting it to the Council.”

Fly tipping and anti-social behaviour are problems raised by people across the constituency. But what can the Erdington BID do to tackle these issues on the High Street?

“What I think the BID has done… and I had evidence about this in an email from Birmingham City Council this morning about the PSPO, is that the BID has been very active in raising these issues and perhaps now getting some results.

“We’ve had a few incidents on the High Street recently which has caused me to react to the slowness of the police and Council to act in this (reinstating the PSPO).

“We are now at the stage where the Council have issued a press release and a notice of public consultation about the PSPO

“So, we’re at that stage, we will go into a public consultation about this. Not quick enough for me, whenever it is.

“I pressed the councillors about this, and I was told it could be pushed towards the end of the year.

“The original promise, by the Council earlier in the year, is that this would be done and dusted by the 30 September. To me it’s three years too late, not three months too late.”

But Erdington BID does more than tackle crime and disorder on the High Street, as the organisation allots £20000 per annum to ‘marketing, events, and promotion’ – including the long standing Christmas lights switch on.

“What we’ve also taken to doing in the last few years is sponsoring other people’s events,” explained Terry.

“So, when Oikos Café have a street event we’ve sponsored that in the past. When St Barnabas Church have their village fayre in the middle of the summer – before lockdown – we sponsored that as well. So, there’s number of ways we can promote ourselves.

“This year we’re not going to have a Christmas lights switch on… I would have had to order the lights a few months ago, when our futures were all in doubt; we didn’t know if we were going to get another lockdown so we had to abandon that.

“But there is a proviso in the business plan that if we have money somewhere that we can’t spend, then we’ll put it somewhere else.

“For instance, it’s about time we had some new litter bins on the High Street – we could perhaps finance that if we haven’t got the event money (for the Christmas lights switch on).”

But the main priority for the Erdington BID, if re-elected this week, remains a firm hand on crime and disorder – seeing anti-social behaviour on the High Street as a systemic problem.

“The main plan and priority have to be now… increased security, we have to emphasise to the police and the Council the importance of providing the necessary security for this High Street and the support for our Warden.

“The ideal is that we want daily police patrols back on the High Street and our Warden in support of those, rather than him being so proactive.

“I’m keen to get the High Street looking greener than it is; I’m keen to get more awareness of the High Steet out to the shoppers.

“But the shoppers need to feel it’s a safe place to walk up and down, or a safe place to sit on a bench and have a cup of coffee and enjoy the scenery.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

NEWS: Erdington businesses to vote on future of Business Improvement District

Words & pics by Ed King

The future of the Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) hangs in the balance as local businesses vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for another five year term.

Local shop owners and businesses within the catchment area have until November 11 to cast their vote – which will decide future of the Erdington BID after June 2022.

Erdington BID represents businesses from Six Ways to Edwards Road, including all shops fronts on Erdington High Street and Sutton New Road.

Charging members 1.75% of the rateable value of their business, if re-elected the Erdington BID expects to generate £116,000 per year from 2022 to 2027 to help promote and support commerce in the area.

In Erdington BID’s five year forecast, if re-elected the organisation would allocate an annual sum of £26000 towards security, £20000 towards marketing, events and promotion, and £8000 to keeping the streets clean.

£42700 per annum would be spent on Erdington BID itself, paying for a ‘town centre manager, admin, finance, and business support’. A further £3000 each year would be used to pay back Birmingham City Council for loans to cover ‘renewal expenses’.

Terry Guest, Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, told Erdington Local: “Priorities over the next five years will be to continue to make the town centre a safe and secure place to visit and shop.

“If successful, the BID will increase our warden presence in the area to six days from five, increase shops radio coverage for greater security, and to work with the local police and council to renew the Public Space Protection Order for the area, which empowers police to remove potentially threatening groups and troublemakers.

“We will also continue to press for town centre improvements to modernise the High Street and to work with the council, property owners and developers to that end – and to ensure that funding for such projects will be sought.

“We are also looking at increasing green areas in the town centre – a look at the garden next to the library – projected by the BID – which shows what can be done in small spaces.

“Above all, we will continue to work with ou business owners to ensure that Erdington town centre gets the best deal in creating a quality local High Street fit for the future.”

But opinion on the High Street is split, with business owners divided over whether Erdington BID warrants the annual six figure sum.

In a recent survey conducted by Erdington Local, nine out of 18 business confirmed they would vote ‘yes’ to grant Erdington BID another five year term – with the remaining nine unsure or voting ‘no’.

When the same businesses were asked if the Erdington BID ‘adds value to the High Street’ five answered ‘yes’. Six answered ‘yes’ when asked if Erdington BID was ‘helpful to business during the COVID lockdowns?’

Terry Guest added: “I think we maintained a good working relationship with businesses during the lockdown periods, not forgetting that a large number of our retailers were qualified to remain open and trading.

“The job of the BID during the lockdowns was to ensure that the town centre was a healthy place to visit, and with the help of the council, we were able to do that.

“We also worked with businesses in ensuring that all funding help was available to them – and we had a near 100% success rate with that.”

Further concerns were raised from local business about applications made for multi-million pound investment into Erdington, such as the failed Future High Street Fund and the pending Levelling Up Fund bids.

The Future High Street Fund would have seen up to £13m coming from Government and invested directly into Erdington High Steet.

But due to the final submission being deemed “not eligible” by the then Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall, Erdington lost out on what many believed was a strong application.

More recently, an application has been made to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund which would see £12.7million coming into Erdington.

But some local businesses are wary, with one shop owner stating: “I’ve been here for years and heard countless promises about investment into the High Street… but I’m still looking at the same cracked windows and flaking paint.”

When asked about the pending application, Terry Guest said: “I have to be confident of us getting the Levelling Up award, because the original application contained factors which have been scrutinised and amended – so I am looking forward to a positive result.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

NEWS: “Furious local parents and residents” stand up against plans to turn Cross Key pub into ‘stepping stone’ hostel

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

The campaign to stop the Cross Keys pub being turned into a hostel has been given a boost after top private school Highclare have formally objected to the controversial plan.

Furious local parents and residents” have complained about the Fairfield Fox Ltd application to create a 15 bedroom hostel for homeless people, despite the building bordering a senior school and overlooking two nurseries.

Birmingham City Council is currently considering the application and should either reject or approve the plan by the end of September.

Independent senior school and sixth form Highclare borders the Cross Keys and normally has more than 200 children, whose parents pay £4,410 a term, on site.

Headmaster Dr Richard Luker told Erdington Local his school did not want to have a hostel as its neighbour.

He said: “I can confirm the school has lodged an objection to the planning application and we await the outcome of the due process.”

Osbourne Nursery and Moonstone Children’s Day Centre are both overlooked by the proposed hostel, which could have a large turnover of guests as it will be a ‘stepping stone’ for homeless people before they get permanent accommodation.

Erdington Councillor Robert Alden is leading the campaign against the hostel.

He said: “This will be an absolute scandal if planning consent is given for this hostel which is surrounded by schools and nurseries.

The amount of children walking past the hostel every day alone should be enough of a reason for this to be refused. The prospect of drug paraphernalia and needles on the street is another major worry.

We have had hundreds of furious local parents and residents get in touch about this hostel application, they are rightly worried about the impact on the area and the dangers to local children.

The building overlooks a nursery’s playground, borders another school and is opposite a children’s day centre – the developer should withdraw the application immediately.”

Cllr Alden fears if a hostel is approved then plans for a reinvigoration of the High Street could also be in danger.

He added: “The Cross Keys is surrounded by listed buildings, including Highclare School and the Abbey, the shops opposite are a heritage asset and it sits in the heart of historic Erdington; a hostel is wholly inappropriate.

And the building is on the approach to Erdington Train Station, if it should become a blight then that effectively cuts off half of the town.”

Cllr Alden believes the application for a hostel is due to the loopholes in housing rules which creates massive profits for companies housing vulnerable people.

There is a lot of money to be made through hostels and HMOs and Erdington has enough of these properties. Our opposition is not about stopping the homeless getting homes, Birmingham City Council has accommodation for the homeless, this is just totally the wrong place.”

Fairfield Fox Ltd revealed its plans for a hostel in a document submitted to the council, despite their pleas for it ‘to remain confidential’ details have been made public.

The document reveals the hostel managers will seek regular meetings with local police concerning what happens in the property.

The document states: ‘There will be two full time and two part time staff. All occupants will be of low risk and requiring accommodation due to being homeless. This could be due to being evicted from previous accommodation or being unemployed.

‘The intention is to provide emergency housing and support to individuals and provides a stepping stone whilst more permanent accommodation is sought.’

Prospect Housing and Vanguard Direct will run the hostel on a rolling five year lease.

The Cross Keys’ public consultation closes on June 16 – to object email Faisal.Agha@birmingham.gov.uk quoting the application number: 2020/02902/PA

NEWS: Erdington MP Jack Dromey saves local art spaces from immediate eviction

Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan / Original photography by Ed King & Sylvia Chan

Erdington MP, Jack Dromey, has prevented the immediate eviction of two charity art groups from the old Central Square shopping centre on Erdington High Street.

The Cube and Active Arts Castle Vale are both known for dynamic engagement through the arts in the community – including painting, crafts, music, exhibition spaces, drama, and facilitating workshops and performances for well-being.

Both organisations were renting units at Central Square through East Street Arts, a Leeds born charity that works with landlords ‘to change the lack of infrastructure available for artists living and working’ in major cities across the UK – turning longstanding, empty commercial properties into vibrant art studios and spaces with more affordable rent.

Then on 25th June, The Cube and Active Arts Castle Vale were both given only three weeks to completely vacate their premises by Godwin Developers – in preparation for demolition of the whole of the Central Square, as part of Erdington High Street’s redevelopment plans. However, other businesses such as M S Fruits or the St Vincent’s charity shop were given extended leases of up to one year despite being on the same site.

After the art organisations got in contact with the Erdington MP’s office, Jack Dromey intervened directly in talks with Godwin Developments – who in turn agreed to extend the lease the same as the other businesses. Dromey announced on Twitter that: ‘This helps to protect the valuable arts community that thrives in Erdington.’

After contacting the constituency office, Jack Dromey MP told Erdington Local: “As soon as I heard The Cube and Active Arts Castle Vale were facing eviction at three weeks notice I knew I had to act immediately and contacted Godwin Developments, who recently acquired the site.

My discussion with the new owners of Central Square was a constructive one. I said that it was a sense of pride for Erdington that, in one of Britain’s poorest constituencies, local artists demonstrate how our community is rich in talent. I also brought home how those marvellous projects mean so much to the health and wellbeing of Erdington’s best.”

Active Arts Castle Vale work on art and community focused projects across the constituency, having converted the old Russell’s Furniture Store at Central Square into the Secret Arts Studio Space – ‘a place for artists to create their own work and have a safe space to test out ideas.’

Housing an ensemble of painters, illustrators, musicians, writers, and broadcasters, the Secret Arts Studio Space has been a growing success story for local artists – with new members lining up for affordable art studios in the heart of Erdington.

Leaving Central Square would have been a huge blow to the community of artists we have at the Secret Arts Studio Space,” explains Claire Marshall – Project Director at Active Arts, “it’s increasingly difficult for local artists to find affordable and accessible art space, and what we’d built up here – with help from East Street Arts – would have been totally turned on its head.

We know we’ll have to leave Central Square at some point to make way for the regeneration plan, which will be amazing for Erdington, and we’re getting support from people like Councillor Robert Alden and Terry Guest (Erdington Business Improvement District) to find an exciting new home.

But the eviction deadline from the developers was too hard and too fast – luckily as soon as we reached out to the MP’s office, Jack Dromey acted immediately and brokered us the time we needed. It’s a fantastic relief to all the artists here.”

As soon as the news came through regarding the eviction, The Cube were shaken too – desperately trying to sell the majority of their desks, computers, and pianos, in preparation for a drastic and fast move. They contacted every artist they knew to collect their work.

Heather Rowland, one of the co-founders of The Cube, said: “It was shocking when we were told we needed to move, but now we’re all so delighted. It would have been so much work to move out of there. I’ve been doing this for 12 years now. We’ve had a great time. I thought that was the end the Cube.”

But upon learning that The Cube can stay where they are, Heather also breathed a sigh of relief: “It’s lovely to think that we’ll still be here at Christmas. I know we’ve got to move out some time.”

Normally, The Cube is open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday 10am-3pm. Asking for a small donation, The Cube offers free or affordable space to a multitude of groups, allowing them to use their crafting facilities. It also hosts many accomplished local artists such as multi-media artists Cristelle Jones, Andy Spencer, and Ty Ford.

Central Square’s planned demolition contributes to the development of Erdington High Street – as part of the Future High Streets project – which, according to the .gov website should ‘encourage vibrant town centres where people live, shop, use services, and spend their leisure time.’

To find out more about The Cube, visit www.facebook.com/thecubeinthesquare

To find out more about Active Arts Castle Vale and the Secret Arts Space Studios, visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/secret-arts-studio-space

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FEATURE: Objections to hostel at old Cross Keys pub, amidst fears for neighbouring schools and public safety

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King & courtesy of Councillor Robert Alden

The battle to stop the old Cross Keys pub being turned into a hostel could be the turning point for the High Street’s future redevelopment, Erdington Local can report.

The developers have been challenged by Erdington councillor Robert Alden of trying “sneak” through the latest application whilst people are preoccupied by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, instead of being a discreet process, the Fairfield Fox Ltd application has become a touchstone issue with concerned residents inundating the public consultation with objections. The prospect of a hostel being opened so close to three schools has stoked fears in the community that these new residents will spark a crimewave in the area including a rise in violence, theft, and sexual assaults.

Erdington councillor Robert Alden, who is spearheading the campaign to prevent the application, believes children could be at risk if the hostel is approved.

He said: “The area is already saturated with this kind of accommodation and so cannot sustain any more being built in the local area.

The site is close to Highclare School, Osborne School, Osborne Nursery, Abbey School and other nurseries which would mean children could be placed at risk from any ASB from the development. It is inappropriate for a hostel to overlook a school.”

He added: “We do not want to lose a pub and community amenity, this proposal would remove a much needed community asset that could easily be used as a pub or restaurant again.

They have had two different applications for variations of HMO and hostel refused. Sadly, the applicant has obviously hoped they could sneak this through without people noticing in the current climate.”

Erdington High Street is on the brink of attracting transformational investment which could bring back the glory days when it was one of Birmingham’s busiest thoroughfares. However, the loss of a landmark public building at one end of the High Street in favour of the hostel could turn off potential investors in the whole area.

Cllr Alden warned: “The proposal is not in keeping with the proposals from the Future High Street Fund application and the City Council Urban Centres framework, nor the Birmingham UDP, so should be rejected.”

Branded ‘notorious’ and ‘a trouble spot’, the last time a pint was pulled at the Cross Keys was in 2018. The pub was forced to close after a melee resulted in a drinker being slashed across the face with a Stanley knife.

Micky Carpenter, who ran the Cross Keys from 2012-2017, told Erdington Local the pub could be a landmark attraction again.

He said: “I believe 110% the Cross Keys could be a landmark pub again; I know personally the pub made good money.

The place had great community spirit with the amount of money we raised for charity in the five years I was there.”

He added: “Yes it had bits of trouble, like most pubs, but licensing will tell you that we handled the pub well.”

Micky, who now owns The Digby on Chester Road and is preparing to own his own gym, believes it would be a tragedy if the Cross Keys was lost to history due to its unique features.

He added: “It’s an amazing old building, still has the old stain glass M&B windows and the original brown and green tiles in the hallway.”

Tony O’Kereke, who now runs The Golden Hind in Kingstanding, joined the Cross Keys as assistant manager in 1999 – taking over as manager in 2003, he left in 2010. In 2004 the pub was awarded the Brewery trade magazine’s West Midlands Community Pub of the Year.

He believes the people of Erdington would back a new Cross Keys if given the chance.

He said: “There is a fantastic community in Erdington who are crying out for a community pub they can call their own and feel safe in.

Now, all you’ve got is the Charlie Hall, the Swan and the Acorn and all those customers who used to use the Cross Keys are still out there.

All you need is a gaffer who would be strict enough to keep the riffraff out and then people would flock back to the Cross Keys.”

Former patrons are determined to see the good times return at the Cross Keys  too – where Erdington folk have been meeting for a pint for more than two centuries.

Frank Hayes said: “There has been a pub on that site for over 200 years.” And Mark Shepherd added: “There is virtually nowhere to go to socialise in Erdington anymore. Keep the Cross Keys as a pub.”

Residents are also getting seriously annoyed about the number of Housing of Multiple Occupancies (HMO) in the area. Fairfield Fox reject any suggestion their hostel will lead to an increase crime or be full of undesirables.

They argued in planning documents: ‘This site will not be housing at any stage people that are alcoholics, drug addicts, paedophiles, ex-offenders with serious criminal records.

‘It is clear that the supply of social rented property for our group range is insufficient to meet the requirements of homeless people and the site will help the right individuals after their assessments to successfully reintegrate back into the community and become successful in running their lives without the need to rely on government funds or criminal activity.’

The Cross Keys’ public consultation closes on June 16 – to object email Faisal.Agha@birmingham.gov.uk quoting the application number: 2020/02902/PA