NEWS: Erdington community mourns ‘local legend’ and Town Centre Manager Terry Guest

Introduction & pics by Ed King 

Local residents and businesses across Erdington are in mourning for the “local legend” and once Town Centre Manager Terry Guest, after he sadly passed away during the Christmas period.

Having run the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) from 2011 to 2022, and acting at the Town Centre Manger throughout that period, Terry was a well known and respected face on Erdington High Street and beyond.

A local resident and business owner, Terry knew all the good, bad, and bright possibilities Erdington had to offer and worked tirelessly to champion the High Street – from fighting for the rights of local retailers, to supporting the music and art events that continue to bring the High Street together.

On hearing the news of his passing, Erdington Local asked some of the people who worked closely with him to express their condolences – which you can read below.

We would also welcome more thoughts, prayers, pictures, and personal messages from anyone who knew Terry for a wider memorial feature in our February/March newspaper. To get in touch please click here or email edking@erdingtonlocal.com

From everyone at Erdington Local: Terry, you will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and love are with Jill, your wider family, and friends.

Cllr Robert Alden: “It was an honour to call local legend Terry Guest a friend as well as a colleague, having worked with him as BID Manager in my roles as a local Councillor and director of the BID for over a decade.

“Terry in his time as a fellow Erdington resident and first shop keeper and then BID manager for the High Street truly left his mark on the community and helped to make it a better place than would otherwise have been.

“They simply don’t make them like Terry anymore and Erdington is worse off without people like Terry. Our thoughts and prayers and with Jill and the rest of his family and friends at this awful time.”

Cllr Gareth Moore: “Terry Guest was a true stalwart for the High Street for many years and strived to make it a vibrant destination for people to shop and visit.

“I am grateful for all of the considerable effort he put in, working with myself and Robert, to secure improvements for the High Street, some of which are still there today, and to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour which has sadly blighted our local centre for far too long. It was a pleasure to work with him as BID manager and he will be missed by local residents and businesses alike.”

John Lynch, Erdington Street Warden: “Terry did a lot of work on the High Street and a lot of people respected him, and he’ll be sadly missed.

“He lived in Erdington so this was his home as well and he really cared about the High Street; he always did his best to make sure things were OK here and help as many stores and people as he could. He made a difference, a big difference.”

John Hodgkiss, Town Centre Manager: “Terry worked tirelessly to continually improve Erdington Town Centre. He was extremely kind, generous, and was so well loved by all retailers and stakeholders on the High Street. Terry will be greatly missed by everyone in Erdington and all who knew him.”

Paulette Hamilton MP: “I am deeply saddened by the news of Terry Guest’s passing. As the former BID manager, Terry made a lasting impact on Erdington’s Business Improvement District for over a decade.

“He was instrumental in improving the security, environment, and vitality of our High Street, as well as being a strong voice for our local business community.

“He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and worked with him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Claire Marshall, Active Arts: “In one of our last conversations he fondly joked how he loved how out of mad and wild ideas, events would happen.

“Not everyone saw all that he did for the High Street, but he was often quietly supporting local activity and open to thinking about new ways to bring people to shop on the High Street.

“Thank you, Terry, for letting us put on music, crafts, and doing some really bonkers events, and for loving Erdington in a way that it deserves.”

If you would like to contribute any words or pictures to a wider memorial feature for Terry Guest in our Feb/Mar newspaper, please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: Meeting held to tackle “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre

Words & pics by Ed King

A meeting was held last week between West Midlands Police and High Street retailers, looking at ways to tackle the “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre.

In attendance from West Midlands Police were the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, and Chief Superintendent Richard North – alongside Inspector Shameem Ahmed and Seargent Nicola Hooper, who oversee the Erdington police teams.

The meeting was held at St Barnabas Church, Erdington High Street, and was closed off to members of the public.

Representing the local retail community were managers and staff from a handful of High Street businesses including Superdrug, Card Factory, Erdington Pet Centre, The Church Tavern, and BoyleSports UK – the latter petitioning the local police to tackle alleged drug dealing outside their outlet at 210A High Street.

“Why can’t we have a dispersal order?” questioned a senior staff member from BoyleSports UK, asking the police directly what they are doing to challenge the alleged dealers.

“I don’t want these people outside my shop…” she continued, “they need to be gone, they’re a blight on the High Street. It’s relentless, they start dealing from 8am.”

Organised by the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton and Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), last week’s meeting was the continuation of conversations between the High Street business community and law enforcement representatives that began in February this year.

But whilst many retailers welcome any attempts at addressing the issues affecting the High Street, many others have pulled back from the meetings – telling Erdington Local they have stopped engaging with local police or politicians, who they feel are failing to get to grips with the problems or offer any effective solutions.

When the lack of local businesses in attendance was raised at the recent meeting, one longstanding High Street retailer explained: “The shop keepers have been at the first and fourth meetings, and they don’t see any change. What’s the point of calling the police when it takes them over one hour to respond.”

Another retailer supported the frustrations reportedly felt by many High Street businesses, telling the group: “There are no consequences to what they (the shoplifters) do. And there’s a lot of apathy from (High Street) retailers… nothing seems to get done.”

However, Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who’s office invited local business to attend the meeting last week, was resolute that local businesses had been given adequate chance to be involved. She told: “We went to virtually every shop on the High Street… the people who aren’t here don’t want to be here. We can only work with what we’ve got.”

Further addressing the local businesses, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster – who has visited Erdington High Street several times – told: “It’s (crime and anti-social behaviour) endemic… we’re hearing about problems again and again. The issue is not being gripped… for a variety of different explanations.”

He continued: “A big part of the answer is making sure we rebuild community policing… visible policing helps keep families and communities safe,” before warning retailers “don’t underestimate the task” the police had in front of them to tackle crime on Erdington High Street.

Chief Superintendent Richard North also confirmed he had “seen some of the challenges and appreciate the frustrations”, and that he would “defend the officers here who are dealing with crimes across the constituency”.

He further told how West Midlands Police were recruiting new officers, but it would take time to train any incoming staff “up to independent control status”. Although Chief Superintendent Richard North did confirm that “going forward” there should be “more officers” deployed into Erdington.

He added: “As recruitment settles down, we should be in a better position.”

Outside of recruiting and training new police officers, there is also a ’10 Point Plan’ currently being worked through by Birmingham City Council to address issues on the High Street from street lighting to police presence.

Ending the meeting everyone in attendance was invited to comment, with Erdington Ward Councillor Gareth Moore telling: “It’s great that we met today but there needs to be more progression… I don’t want to meet again in a couple of months and be talking about the same things.”

Paulette Hamilton MP added: “I want to be able to walk up and down that High Street and feel as safe as I used to.”

The next meeting, which is open to all retailers in Erdington Town Centre, is scheduled for February 2024.

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your local MP for Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale, I am committed to fighting for the future of Erdington High Street, which faces many challenges. One of the biggest concerns I hear from you is about the impact of gambling on our High Street.

That is why I recently objected to the plans of a betting shop to extend their opening hours as I’m concerned it would fuel crime and anti-social behaviour in our area. I have urged the planning committee to reject this application.

Another issue that I was contacted about was the future of the New Inns Pub, which is a historic landmark and a vital community hub for our area. In response to my letter, I’m glad the owners have confirmed the building will remain a local pub and continues to serve our community for years to come.

I have also invited the West Midlands Chief Constable, to join me for a walk along Erdington High Street. I want him to see and hear the challenges that our local businesses and residents are facing.

Our High Street continues to be let down by the Tory Government, who earlier this year rejected our Levelling Up Fund Bid.

This fund should have helped areas like ours that have been left behind. Instead, affluent areas like the Prime Minister’s own constituency received millions of pounds in funding.

Erdington is my home, and I will continue to fight each and every day for the investment our area deserves.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

NEWS: Erdington MP calls on Police Chief to “walk along Erdington High Street” over fears of “concerning levels of crime”

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton has called on the West Midlands Police Chief Constable to “walk along Erdington High Street” with her, to see firsthand the “concerning levels of crime and anti-social behaviour” that blight Erdington Town Centre.

In an open letter sent earlier this week to the region’s most senior police officer, Ms Hamilton MP raised the alarm over policing in the retail district – stating crime on the High Street was one of the “main reasons constituents contact my office” and that “despite considerable efforts” from both the police and local officials, the MP has “not seen a clear improvement in over a year”.

The letter, addressed to West Midlands Police (WMP) Chief Constable Craig Guildford and dated 21 September, goes on to challenge one of the key promises made by the regional police force – namely that WMP are committed to ‘Providing a service that works for local people’.

In response to this commitment, which is the first of the three ‘strategic pillars’ WMP outline in their official strategy for policing in the region, Ms Hamilton states this promise is “simply not being met when it comes to Erdington High Street”.

The letter concludes with a request for the Chief Constable to “reassure” the Erdington MP “the High Street is a priority” and an invitation to join Ms Hamilton “on a walk along Erdington High Street to discuss the next steps we can take together”.

At the time of writing, the Erdington MP’s office had received not yet received a response from Chief Constable Craig Guildford or WMP about the letter.

Crime and anti-social behaviour on Erdington High Street have long been a concern for local businesses, shoppers, and residents alike – with stores reportedly losing out on thousands a week from aggressive shoplifters, and members of the public telling Erdington Local they are increasing afraid to shop there.

Recently, the Erdington Business Improvement District employed a second Street Warden to help support local businesses and shoppers.

But a perceived lack of uniformed presence on the High Street has left both the private security and retail staff feeling dangerously unsupported, with members of the public also questioning where the police foot patrols have gone.

In West Midlands Police’s official strategy document, published on their website, the regional force declares a ‘new local policing model’ which will present ‘a local, visible police service, delivered in the heart of our diverse communities.’

Under the first heading of ‘Providing a service that works for local people’ – as referenced in the letter from Ms Hamilton MP – West Midlands Police say: ‘People can expect to see more officers spending more time in their local community, understanding and preventing local problems’.

Regarding crime on Erdington High Street specifically, Chief Constable Craig Guildford has previously told Erdington Local: “First and foremost we’re (WMP) absolutely committed to providing the best service we can to the residents, business owners, and any visitors to the High Street in Erdington.”

A meeting to discuss crime on the High Street alongside the local police teams, with local retailers and residents also invited to attend, has been scheduled for 19 October – as arranged by the Erdington MP’s office.

For more from Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton visit www.paulettehamilton.org

To read more about West Midlands Police’s ‘Mission, Vision, Values, Behaviours and Strategy’ visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/about-us/vision-values-strategy

NEWS: Police issue appeal to find man after York Road cash point robbery

Words & pics by Ed King / Pic from CCTV supplied by West Midlands Police

West Midlands Police (WMP) have released an image of a man they want to talk to following a cash point robbery on York Road near Erdington High Street last month.

Earlier today, WMP posted an appeal on their Twitter feed showing the blurry image of a man – presumably taken from CCTV footage – under the heading: “#APPEAL | Do you recognise this man?”

The post continued to state: “We want to speak to him after a man was robbed outside a bank in #Erdington last month.

“At 12.45pm on Wed 2 August, a man was withdrawing money from the ATM (near Erdington) High Street when another man approached and pushed him to the ground, causing injury, before taking the money that had just been withdrawn and making off.

Members of the public are then encouraged to contact West Midlands Police with any information they have, calling the force on 101 or messaging them via their website’s Live Chat facility: www.west-midlands.police.uk/contact-us/live-chat

Anyone contacting police with information about the man in the picture issued by WMP, or the robbery itself, has been asked to quote crime reference number: 20/673861/23

Erdington Local contacted West Midlands Police for any further information about the robbery, who confirmed it took place outside an ATM on York Road ‘near to the High Street’.

The only ATMs Erdington Local could find on York Road belong to Lloyds Bank. A sign fixed to the wall next to the side street cash machines states: ‘Please be vigilant… Thieves operate in this area’.

Erdington High Street was once one of the busiest throughfares in Birmingham, with a vibrant market and retail community, but has been blighted in recent years by street violence, anti-social behaviour, and endemic shoplifting.

Calls for extra police presence have often been made by local businesses and shoppers alike, many of whom are increasingly concerned over safety in the Town Centre.

John Hodgkiss from the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) has been involved in trying to tackle crime in the Town Centre since being appointed as Town Centre Manager in August 2022.

Alongside local elected officials, Mr Hodgkiss instigated meetings earlier this year with local police and stakeholders to draft a 10 point plan to address criminality in the area.

Mr Hodgkiss recently told Erdington Local: “The formation of this 10 point plan dates back to February this year with a public meeting to discuss a way forward with the crime situation in Erdington. The next (meeting) I believe is to go ahead in October.

“The EBID has been involved by offering to take details of crime from retailers on the High Street due to the wide-spread observation that they are unable to get though the 101 non-emergency number to report crime.

“We were also very keen to help with the provision of a ‘pop-up’ police surgery, providing an essential point of contact for those affected by or concerned about crime on the High Street.

“We are still waiting on updates on progression with these projects, which is why we felt it necessary to do what we could in the private sector, by seeking extra funding to employ another Street Warden to help alleviate the worsening situation right now.”

Anyone with information regarding the man in the picture issued by West Midlands Police have been asked to contact the force by calling 101 or via the Live Chat on their website quoting the crime number: 20/673861/23

NEWS: WMP Chief Constable “determined to put more resources” into local policing and build “a higher level of visibility” in areas such as Erdington High Street

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King or taken from live feed of SPCB

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford is “determined to put more resources into local (policing)” and assures local retailers “when our operating model changes there will be a higher level of visibility” and police presence in areas such as Erdington High Street.

Following our feature last week titled ‘Erdington retailers are losing thousands on “lawless” High Street scourged by shoplifters’, Erdington Local met with the region’s most senior police officer to discuss crime in the once busy shopping district.

As part of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board’s (PSCB) monthly meeting, chaired by Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil, the urgent plight of Erdington’s High Streeet retailers was presented directly to the WMP Chief Constable.

Issues including a lack of police presence on the High Street, the Public Space Protection Order, CCTV, and better support for the existing shop security and Erdington Street Warden were all raised – with a particular focus given to shops that report crimes and claim no effective police response.

According to many High Street retailers, repeat and violent offenders are also left unchallenged by local law enforcement – with some shoplifters let go by police who attend the scene, even after being caught on CCTV stealing hundreds of pounds worth of goods and detained by shop security.

(Click here to read more about the experiences of staff working at Peacocks and the Coop on Erdington High Street.)

WMP Chief Constable Craig Guildford responded: “(What) you’ve said about shoplifters being detained does cause me some trouble and I intend to have a deeper look into that.

“Because if a shopkeeper is ringing up, and there’s a shoplifter there to be arrested, that’s being a pain in the backside, we need to go and deal with it.”

He added: “But proportionately. Sometimes if that shoplifter is of a young age, or it’s a lower value item, we may… try and use restorative justice to prevent reoffending. And I also support the officers in doing that.

“But sometimes, from a business owners perspective, that might not be the best thing since sliced bread.”

Many High Street retailers have further told Erdington Local of the problems with using emergency numbers to report crimes to the police, spending “45mins to an hour trying to get through to 101.”

Alongside no immediate response to potentially dangerous situations, one store manager also previously explained:

“One person off that shop floor could allow three of four shoplifters in the shop. I physically can’t do it; I literally can’t leave the shop floor.”

The failings of the 999 and 101 numbers were also on the Strategic Policing and Crime Board agenda, with Chief Constable Craig Guildford “less content with our position on 101s” but looking to introduce “a raft of measures” to improve the service that the force is “moving forward with at pace.”

He also urged larger local retailers to “up their own security” and build a bigger “provision of security to deter some of these offences… to make sure the most resources can be applied to the problem.”

In a Valentines Day meeting with the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) and local retailers, held at the request of Paulette Hamilton MP, Erdington’s then serving Sergeant Simon Wheeler also urged High Street businesses to use 101 to report crime – explaining the numbers of reports can affect how many officers are deployed in an area.

But despite “regular meetings” between the police and Erdington BID “to share concerns and agree approaches”, the 14 February event was the first time several retailers had met either Sergeant Wheeler or the BID’s new Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss – both of whom came into post around six to eight months ago.

When questioned if this was an appropriate amount of time for such representatives to have made contact with local retailers, especially under the shadow of constant complaints around crime on the High Street, Chief Constable Guildford responded:

“I concur with many of the points made. I do run the police force, and eight months does seem like a long time to me too. All I would say is that we’re committed to improving that.

“I definitely need people to report, to ring 999, if there’s a shoplifter detained that’s kicking off or assaulting anybody.

“And at the same time, I’d also encourage (people) to engage the BID and encourage the local businesses to work with the BID as well.

“It sounds like the new person may be able to facilitate more of that.”

FEATURE: Erdington retailers are losing thousands on “lawless” High Street scourged by shoplifters

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King and Studio Creativity

Erdington’s retailers are losing thousands every week as the “lawless” High Street is scourged by shoplifters, many of whom are repeat offenders known to local law enforcement.

“It’s every day,” tells Karen Leavy, store manager at Peacocks on Erdington High Street. “The ones that we know of it could be up to two or three times a day. Then there are one’s that we don’t know of, going to the back of the shop and detagging stock. They are an everyday occurrence as well.

“From 2019 up to last year it’s improved, but we’re still losing about £250 a day.”

Karen’s family have worked in retail for many years and are no strangers to shoplifters, or an underwhelming response from local police teams.

“I previously worked at the Peacocks in Stechford,” continued Karen, “and we had somebody who was shoplifting constantly. He went to court, got a slap on the hand, then he started coming into this store (Erdington) and doing it here.

“They can spit at us, they can kick out at us, they can call us all the names under the sun, but we can’t do anything to them. And he’s literally got away with thousands of pounds worth of stuff.

“I’d given the name to the police, and I’ve never heard anything about it since. My mum worked in the this store many years ago and she got punched full force in the face by a shoplifter, and nothing was done about that.”

Since 2010, policing budgets across the West Midlands have been slashed by Government cuts, with the region losing a reported £175m and 2000 police officers – around 25% of those in active service, and over 50% allocated to community policing.

In a recent meeting organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), at the request of the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, Sargeant Simon Wheeler encouraged local retailers to report every crime to get more officers allocated to the area.

But many local shops still struggle. Karen continues: “I’ve given the information to the police, but it means I’m off the shop floor… I can be on the phone for 45mins to an hour trying to get through.

“One person off that shop floor could allow three of four shoplifters in the shop. I physically can’t do it; I literally can’t leave the shop floor.”

Even for retailers with dedicated shop security the battle is still steeply uphill. At the other end of the High Street, the Coop supermarket is just as plagued by shoplifters as Peacocks, suffering the same pattern in repeat offenders.

Coop manager Ben Hall told Erdington Local: “We haven’t got police presence on the High Street and that’s just enticing criminal behaviour. We get a lot of shoplifters in here and I think it’s rather lawless on the High Street at the moment.

“There was a shoplifter who came in over the space of a week and a half, and stole about £500 worth of bottles of spirits.

“Finally, we caught the man in action, stealing, and we detained him and rang the police. Martin (security guard) went through all the correct procedures, logged it with the police and got a crime reference number, and burnt off all the CCTV footage.

“Then the policeman came and said there was nothing they could do.

“We understand how hard it is for the police, but my staff come in and work their socks off – they go above and beyond for the business. The police should be doing the same thing.”

Like the Coop and Peacocks, to many retailers more police presence on Erdington High Street seems to be the answer. But in the shadow of austerity and with a city to patrol, the argument continues over available resources.

And stuck in the middle is Erdington Street Warden, John Lynch – employed by the EBID, who also provide a radio system for local shops to warn each other of offenders. Having worked on Erdington High Street for years, John is a familiar faced deterrent to many shoplifters in the area.

“It’s got to the point where shops have stopped reporting thefts because they know nothing will come back from it,” tells John, who keeps receiving calls through his radio.

“Like with Peacocks, there was one guy who was robbing them every Sunday – they knew his name, they’ve got CCTV, they reported it, but they’ve never heard anything back to this day.

“Then we had a member of staff who was assaulted in Farmfoods, who was punched in the face. They knew the offender; they knew his name. The man who was assaulted has never heard anything back about that at all.

“The police say people aren’t reporting crime, but they are reporting crimes – they’re constantly reporting crimes, and all they get is a crime reference number, it’s logged, and they never hear anything after that.

“I know the police are busy, but they should focus on the more serious crimes on the High Street,” continues John. “I’m getting complaints on a daily basis about all the drug dealers outside Iceland, so that needs to get looked into.

“And when you’re talking about assault, large thefts, and continuous thefts, those people do need to be dealt with as they’re causing a major problem.”

John has also been the victim of assault, with one man breaking a restraining order to come back to Erdington High Street to steal – having only been out of prison for one week, after serving time for previously assaulting John and a police officer.

“I reported it to the police,” tells John, “the burglary offence and the breach of the restraining order… and to this day I’ve heard nothing back. The store’s heard nothing; I’ve heard nothing.

“They had CCTV footage. All the evidence was there, somebody said they would come and take a statement, but I heard nothing more about it. This was around October last year.”

But despite the imbalance of crime and punishment, there is still a communal desire to see significant change – with a ransacked police force and beleaguered community ultimately wanting the same thing. Law and order.

Plus, existing local legislation such as the Public Space Protection Order (PSBO) can be used to great effect.

Erdington Local recently witnessed officers PC Stiles and PC Bird deescalate a potentially violent clash, using the threat of a fine through the PSBO to remove an aggressive woman from the High Street.

As the offender stormed off, she shouted back at the officers who had successfully moved her on: “that’s why I don’t like coming here.”

Many feel regular communication and information sharing between police, the Street Warden, and the retail community would also go a long way – helping to send a message of ‘no tolerance’ to crime on the High Street.

As Ben at the Coop was quick to add, after highlighting the day to day issues that face his staff, his store, and the High Street at large: “I don’t want to seem like I’m just picking on the police.

“Albin (security) got assaulted by a shoplifter, and the police arrived within seconds and dealt with it fantastically. There also an officer called Dave, and he’s brilliant – I can’t sing his praises high enough.

“But if we can work together and get better police presence on the High Street… and it’s not just for the Coop, it’s for the whole High Street.

“We need to work together.”

NEWS: New Town Centre Manager John Hodgkiss sees “massive potential” in Erdington

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington’s new Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, sees “massive potential” in the once busy North Birmingham High Street and shopping district.

Taking over from Terry Guest this August, Mr Hodgkiss will run the Erdington Business Improvement District for at least the next five year term.

Mr Guest is stepping down after successfully taking the BID to another ballot in November last year – returning nearly 74% in favour for renewing the Erdington business partnership, with 45 of the 61 votes cast by local businesses saying ‘yes’.

Mr Hodgkiss has a longstanding record as a Town Centre Manger, having launched business improvement districts in both the Midlands and London.

Having worked on the Victoria BID in London, his portfolio included many high profile businesses and entrepreneurs – including the Royal Family’s most recognised home, Buckingham Place.

Having launched one on the UK’s first industrial site BIDs in London, and successfully establishing and managing one of the Midlands largest BIDs in West Bromwich, Hodgkiss has a proven track record of building business communities and town centre partnerships.

Now focused on Erdington, with a clear vision to transform the High Street and promote local commerce, the experience Town Centre Manager has high hopes for the once bustling North Birmingham thoroughfare.

John Hodgkiss told Erdington Local: “My job is to make Erdington one of Birmingham’s most enjoyable and exciting satellite centres to be in. I want to make it a safer place, a greener place, and a place that crucially well marketed.

“So, one of my initial aspirations would be to go out and start doing some business visits ASAP – and that will be a good mix between national retailers, independents, as well as other major stakeholders such as the police, emergency services, market traders, and all kinds of people who have a vested interest in making Erdington even better.”

Despite the series of high profile shops and banks leaving Erdington High Street, including Boots – which closed its Erdington store the week he came into post, John Hodgkiss remains optimistic the area’s future.

When asked what attracted him the Erdington, which also has recently missed out two multi million pounds of Government investment to regenerate the High Street, Hodgkiss was keen to focus on the positives.

He added: “The key words for Erdington are ‘massive potential’, and the BID is going to be here for the next five years at least.

“In the past roles I’ve been successful at looking at things like match funding, so although it’s not a never-ending pot of money by any means there is leverage to look at getting money for small projects – but also to keep banging away with money that should still be available through the Conservative government’s Levelling Up agenda. And with a change in leadership might be bigger and more important than ever.

“I feel passionate about making a change in the current economic climate, and I don’t see anywhere with the potential that Erdington has.

“It’s a great place to be, the community is great, there is a retail offer here already – particularly in making day to day living a lot easier.

“And there is scope to bring in new blood to the town, new retailers to the town, new small businesses, and rally drive the local economy forward.”

Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden, who ultimately oversees the Edington BID, was positive about the fresh approach.

He told Erdington Local: “It is great to welcome John as our new town centre manager for Erdington. He comes with previous experience of working in town centres and delivering regeneration in urban areas.

“This is going to be key as we look to work with the Town Centre Manager, BID, and local partners to deliver our plans for transformation of Erdington High Street. We very much look forward to working with John in the years ahead.”

Cllr Gareth Moore was also quick to praise the work of Terry Guest, who has steered the Erdington BID since 2011 – including through the Covid pandemic.

Cllr Moore added: “We would also like to thank Terry Guest, the outgoing town centre manager, who has been a brilliant servant for our area.

“During his time as manager, he has helped support businesses through Covid and been the rock at the heart of Erdington High Street for a decade. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit https://erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk/

VOX POP: How could our new MP make Erdington a better place?

By Claire Taylor & Bianca Parvuceanu

On Friday, 4 March, Paulette Hamilton was voted in as Erdington’s next Member of Parliament – once again securing the long-held Labour seat.

Hamilton will now be the constituency’s voice in Westminster, fighting to get the best for Erdington from central government.

But she will also be championing Erdington within Birmingham City Council, representing the concerns of local residents and businesses over issues such as housing, green spaces, policing, crime, and investment.

Our VOX POP team went onto Erdington High Street to ask people what they wanted our new MP to put on her to-do-list, and what issues they felt needed her immediate attention now she has taken over the all-important representative role.

VOX POP: Gulshan Akhtar

“I’ve literally just moved into the area; I came down from the North West. What I would appreciate is the Council picking up the litter on time and fining the businesses on Slade Road – which is a complete eye sore. I’ve never seen anything like it; it’s a big contrast from the North to the Midlands.

“I was trying to find out who the new MP was. I did try to contact the Council about the regular bin collection too, but I only get an automated response about Covid – which is fine, but you can’t keep using that as an excuse. When I was down here three years ago it was exactly the same and Covid wasn’t around then.”

 

VOX POP: Matthew Korik

“Get the drugs off the street; to really clamp down on it. There’s not too much being done about it and it’s a cancer eating our society. It’s just wrong. If they got it off the streets, there would be less crime too.”

 

VOX POP: Adam Kennedy

“It’s always been a strong Labour seat, so the result isn’t a surprise. But there’s one thing being backed by the Labour Party and another to be actually capable of doing the job. I work in computers, but if you stuck me as a brain surgeon…

“I’d want to see the anti-social elements changed, like the prostitution at the back of the church. And it (Erdington High Street) needs investment, when I was growing up there was an HMV on this road, there was a Dixons, obviously Woolworths before that went. There are no big brands, on this high street its mainly pawnbrokers, charity shops, and bookies. Its need major investment.”

 

VOX POP: John Lynch, Erdington Street Warden

“I’ve not spoke to her yet, hopefully she’ll improve the area – get the funding we need to regenerate the high street, because we’ve been passed over a few times now haven’t we. Hopefully she’ll fight for that and get that again.

“Better shops and more police presence on the Erdington High Street, that would make a big difference too.”

 

VOX POP: Judith Wright, manager – Shelter

“To sort out the High Street, to get the Levelling Up Fund – there’s lots to work on really. On the high street a lot of the shops have alcohol licences that are too long, and that would have had to go through the police – some places can serve until 3am. That would be an easy way to start.

“Then the PSPO needs to include the churchyard and I’m not sure it does anymore. And then just support local businesses really.”

 

VOX POP: Smurf

“You know what, everyone’s got that same thing to say – it’s the HMOs. Not to categorise, not to judge, but there’s a lot of people with mental health issues living in them. There are fights, there’s people taking harder drugs. It should be the HMOs that they’re landing on.”

 

VOX POP: Spiderman

“Stay positive, be happy, love yourself and love others. That’s the magic.”

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

NEWS: High Street Health and Wellbeing Hub sees ‘huge response and demand’ from local residents

Words & pics by Ed King

Launched at the beginning of December, the new Health and Wellbeing Hub on Erdington High Street has already seen a “huge response and demand” from local residents.

Operated by Witton Lodge Community Centre (WLCA), in partnership with NHS Property Services, the Health and Wellbeing Hub offers social support over issues from employment and finance to healthy eating and general wellbeing.

Opening its doors on 1 December, the Health and Wellbeing Hub took over 196 Erdington High St – a building left empty after the Walk-In Centre moved to Northcroft Hospital early this year.

With services running from Monday to Friday, the Erdington Health and Wellbeing Hub offers a range of free to access support – through both drop in and pre-booked sessions with trained advisors.

Debbie Bates, Health & Wellbeing Development Manager at WLCA, told Erdington Local:

“This opportunity; in partnership with NHS Property Services has enabled us to reach and support more local members of our community.

“Since we opened the doors we’ve seen a huge response and demand for non-clinical Social Prescribing services, with a constant stream of people coming in for advice and support.

“Having an additional accessible Hub in the heart of the community; on the high street, will enable us to continue our work with NHS, GP’s, Adult Social Care and our partners to go some way in meeting demand.

“Money, housing and employment are still big concerns, with our benefits advice sessions and housing drop in services on Mondays, Job Club on Tuesdays, and Employment and Skills workshops on Thursdays seeing a lot of interest.

“But often people are looking for more emotional help and a room of friendly faces, which is where our Wellbeing Support, Domestic Violence Support Group and Carers Support sessions on Mondays come in, with additional services being offered around healthy lifestyles in the coming months.”

Primarily based in Perry Common, Witton Lodge Community Association has been delivering social and housing support since being established in 1994.

WLCA also have a proven track record of taking over Council assets the city could no longer run, such as Perry Common Library.

WLCA are also close to completing a new ‘Eco Hub’ at the former park-keepers cottage at Witton Lakes, turning the century old building into ‘a venue which supports, educates and promotes sustainable living… to enhance and encourage the potential for environmentally sustainable lifestyles.’

After successfully launching the Erdington Health and Wellbeing Hub, WLCA have further plans to convert the disused Erdington Swimming Baths into an Enterprise Hub.

Speaking to Erdington Local at the Health and Wellbeing Hub launch, WLCA Chief Officer, Afzal Hussain, told:

“We’re delighted to be in the building and working with the NHS Property Services team, they’ve been excellent.

“They’ve helped to refurbish the facility which means we can come in and start to provide the services – services that are needed now and will be needed in the coming months as people feel some of those pressures associated with the cost of living.

“We’re approaching winter, and the difficulties associated with the pandemic, but also helping people with advice and training, upskilling, and finding work. So, there’ll be a range of services we’ll be providing from here.

“We’re really pleased to bring this building back into use for the community and for local residents, having a Hub right on the High Street is really important. And also, I think it’s a sign of our commitment moving forward to Erdington Town Centre.”

Charlotte Jarvis, Senior Portfolio Optimisation Manager, NHS Property Services, added: “It has been a complete pleasure to work with Witton Lodge in delivering this space.

“Through our social prescribing programme here at NHSPS, we provided the space and then refurbished it to fit the needs of Witton Lodge.

“I was delighted to be invited to the opening today and see not only the space in real life, but also the colleagues and volunteers who deliver the services and most importantly the residents of Erdington who will benefit from this space. I look forward to coming back to see how it develops to continue to support local PCN’s and its patients.”

Also attending the opening were Erdington Ward councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore.

Councillor Alden said: “It’s great to be here at the Erdington Wellbeing Centre opening, and Witton Lodge have done a brilliant job at setting this up and running.

“I think we’ve all seen with Covid how important it is to be supporting people’s social and mental health, as well as their physical health.

“In terms of the future, going forward, with the building being empty this (Health & Wellbeing Hub) is the solution to getting it used.

“And it’s really good that once again Witton Lodge have stepped in to help support Erdington and the surrounding area when perhaps other public services have stepped back.”

Councillor Gareth Moore added: “This will be a valuable lifeline for the local community who, sadly, like many people, have suffered through the pandemic.

“So, hopefully the great work what Witton Lodge has been doing in the area will be amplified through this Hub.”

The Erdington Health and Wellbeing Hub is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. For details on available support please call 0121 827 6295.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk