COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Homes project tackles housing shortage

Words & pics supplied by Castle Vale Community Housing

As the sector continues to battle a national housing shortage, Castle Vale Community Housing (CVCH) is delivering a project which aims to buck the trend and provide low-income earners with safe, affordable homes.

A partnership with Miller Homes has resulted in the acquisition and development of 42 properties in Sutton Coldfield – 24 affordable homes for rent and 18 for shared ownership.

Dave Livesey, Director of Development and Asset Management at CVCH, said: “As a community landlord we are very conscious of the lack of affordable housing in the area and are duty bound to provide as much support as we can.”

Since being established in 2015, The Pioneer Group has built a nationally recognised reputation for community regeneration that is resident led, delivering homes for CVCH.

This latest project on Rectory Road in Sutton Coldfield follows similar CVCH successful schemes on Station Road in Stechford, Webster Court in Erdington and Farnborough Road in Castle Vale. The initial rental properties will be let through Birmingham City Council.

“Our plan is to increase our stock number by over 10 per cent by 2027,” adds Dave.

“This represents the single biggest development programme for the Pioneer Group since its creation and affirms our commitment to doing our bit to addressing the housing crisis.”

Alastair Parsons, Area Sales Director for Miller Homes Midlands, said: “We are delighted to work with The Pioneer Group to deliver affordable homes in the desirable setting of Sutton Coldfield.

“Once the location of a former Ministry of Defence (MOD) office building, we are proud to have regenerated the site into a range of energy efficient new homes.

“Building communities is at the heart of what we do at Miller Homes and we hope the new residents will enjoy their new homes for many years to come.”

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: The power of community

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
I am sometimes asked what difference community-led organisations really make? Especially given the scale of today’s challenges, such as, the cost-of-living crisis. Events recently held across Erdington start to shed some light on this.

In Wyrley Birch we celebrated the first birthday of Witton Lakes Eco Hub.  It is a shining example of how over many years, local residents and volunteers overcame huge obstacles, and with grit and determination helped to create this wonderful community facility.

Once the site of a derelict building and a rubbish dump, it is now a thriving community hub where residents can enjoy a drink or join in a wide range of activities. Local school children are learning about the environment and a network of community partners will provide advice and practical tips to reduce energy use and fuel bills.

In contrast, a community meeting held at Six Ways Baptist Church regarding HMO’s & exempt accommodation raised serious concerns from residents on issues including crime, antisocial behaviour, and safety. There was palpable anger amongst residents.


 
I’m not certain a strong, local community anchor will have prevented the problems from arising, however, I am confident that these issues will have been raised earlier, with options and possible solutions explored with stakeholders. Maybe this will provide the impetus to create a strong local voice.

At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are huge advocates of communities playing a leading role in shaping their neighbourhoods, and believe more decisions should be taken locally. We continue to make the case for this, and take our message to national and local politicians.

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

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Property upgrades will reduce costs

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group

We are very pleased to announce that Castle Vale Community Housing is receiving help from a Government scheme to help reduce the environmental impact of our homes. CVCH will be matching the Governments grant on works that will help drive down costs to our tenants. This will result in a total of £1.4 million being spent to upgrade 77 homes on Castle Vale.

Works will include installation of underfloor, loft and cavity wall insulation, solar panels and ventilation systems. The wellbeing of our tenants is our priority and these improvements will not only support people through what is currently a difficult time financially but is part of our wider social responsibility to reduce our organisational carbon footprint – playing our small part in saving the planet.

The properties have been specially selected for energy efficiency works as they are some of our worst performing homes – meaning tenants energy bills can be greatly reduced. The works will ensure the homes achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of at least a C – helping to reduce the carbon emissions, make them warmer and prevent damp and mould issues from arising.

It is becoming more and more important that homes are as sustainable as they can be with environmental issues and energy concerns having a far greater impact on daily life than ever before.

Work on the 77 properties is expected to start April 2024 and run until June 2025.

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

The Pioneer Group and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: WLCA nominated in Community Inspiration Awards 2023 – voting open until 30 June

Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) has been shortlisted in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023 for the Environment Champion Award, which recognises an individual or organisation that has been helping to make positive improvements to the environment.

Voting closes on 30 June, with the winners to be announced at a special award ceremony held on 8 September.

To vote for Witton Lodge Community Association in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023, click here.

The Community Inspiration Awards is an annual event organised by Community Foundation, to celebrate and recognised the ‘outstanding contributions made by members of the community, staff from public sector organisations, charities, and businesses whose efforts have made a positive difference and has inspired others.’

Afzal Hussain, WLCA Chief Officer said “We are absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for the Environment Champion Award in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023.

“This nomination means so much to all our team and volunteers and we would be grateful if you could spare a minute to cast your vote for Witton Lodge Community Association!”

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

To vote for Witton Lodge Community Association in the Community Inspiration Awards 2023, click here.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Compassionate Communities project will help break down death stigma

Words & pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

Compass Support, the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, has been granted funding through BVSC on behalf of Birmingham City Council as part of its Compassionate Communities project to work with local individuals and groups to help break down the walls surrounding death, so people can talk more openly and constructively about dying by creating Community Connectors.

The Community Connectors help support residents who may otherwise feel isolated including people at the end-of-life stage, their carers and also those who may have recently lost a loved one.

The Compassionate Communities team have created an engaged, accessible route to go out into the local community to find these Community Connectors. So far, the team have delivered 8 training workshops, organised 13 awareness sessions and trained over 50 Community Connectors.

Isobel Hayward, Health and Wellbeing Project Organiser from Compass Support, said “The Compassionate Communities scheme was bought to us through Birmingham City Council, as facilitators of compassion, to bring it to anyone in the community that engages with people.

“We have loved running workshops on how to approach death and end of life, and going forward people will know who to call for help with bereavement, end of life, and financial support.

“Our awareness sessions on end of life are completely free and open to community groups and individuals.

“The people of Birmingham have been recognised for their compassion in the way communities have supported each other during some of the most difficult times, crowning Birmingham the UK’s first Compassionate City.”

If you would like more information on Compassionate Communities or think that you could be a Community Connector, please email us at: [email protected] or telephone 0121 748 8111.

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: “Our volunteers are simply incredible” – a thank you to volunteers from Compass Support

Words & pics supplied by Compass Support

The teams at Compass Support have been paying tribute to the special and wonderful volunteers that continue to give their time and energy to helping those in need. Volunteers Week takes place 1-7 June every year and is the chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and say thank you.

As part of Volunteers Week 2023, teams at The Sanctuary, Castle Vale have been recognising those who are dedicated to supporting the residents of Castle Vale and the wider community.

A special social media campaign showcased the efforts and contribution of volunteers in helping to deliver community activities across Castle Vale and surrounding areas.

Health and Wellbeing Project Lead for Compass Support, Leonie Hammond, said: “Our volunteers are simply incredible, they give valuable time each week to deliver activities and assist others to build new friendships and learn new skills.”

Volunteering has several key benefits for individuals, including better mental health, improved self-esteem and a greater sense of wellbeing.

If you would like to know more about volunteering opportunities with Compass Support please call 0121 748 8111.

For more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk 

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Spring into summer with the return of Perry Common Festival – Sat 29 April

Words & pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

The wait is nearly over – after a four-year absence the Spring into Summer Festival returns to Perry Common this weekend.

Perry Common will come alive on Saturday April 29 as local residents come together to enjoy community spirit at its finest.

This year’s event has a lot to live up to but promises to be one to revel in with a range of activities planned to occupy the crowds.

Highlights include a super slide, bouncy castle, donkey rides and a football cage.

There will also be a number of stalls manned by partner organisations like The Net Pentecostal Church, St Martin’s Church, The Friends of Witton Lakes and Boss Gardens.

Established in 2010, Spring into Summer has become a much-loved community celebration in Perry Common with the event regularly attracting hundreds of visitors.

Paul Tse, Flourishing Community Development Officer at Witton Lodge Community Association, has co-ordinated the 2023 version.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Spring into Summer has been missing for four years but it is now back and we are expecting an eager and excited crowd for next weekend’s extravaganza,” he said.

“The event captures and celebrates the vibrant community spirit that exists in Perry Common.”

Spring into Summer 2023 takes place from 12-3pm on The Ring, Witton Lodge Road, Perry Common, B23 5JD.

Perry Common Spring into Summer Festival / Saturday 29 April 2023

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: WLCA celebrate “significant achievement” with over 200 affordable and social housing properties

Words by Steve Sharma / Pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) is celebrating a “significant achievement” after its portfolio of properties for rent surpassed 200.

The Perry Common based community landlord has been tireless in its attempts to provide affordable and social housing which meets the needs of local people.

In 2017, the Association set up a subsidiary, Witton Lodge Community Homes (WLCH), to develop its housing and community asset development aspirations.

Targeting empty properties to bring them back into use, WLCH works with Birmingham City Council and other stakeholders to explore opportunities for new build development which can also provide affordable housing solutions.

This new milestone underlines the commitment and progress Witton Lodge has made to realising its long-term goals.

WLCH Chief Officer, Afzal Hussain, said: “Our asset base of social, affordable and market rent homes has enabled the Association to invest in communities and transform neighbourhoods in Erdington and across North Birmingham.

“This is a significant achievement for us and the community led housing movement, as what really sets us apart from others is that our developments are shaped by local people and go with the grain of communities.”

Having achieved registered provider status with Homes England, WLCH can apply directly for funding to develop and manage properties.

The Association’s Homes and Assets Development Manager, Gareth Hopkins, said: “We have aspirations to do even more. When we purchase properties they often need a lot of investment, so we aim to retrofit and refurbish them to a really high standard.

“We are proud to be investing in our properties and working towards local and national carbon zero targets and helping our tenants save money on their energy bills.

“Given the cost of living crisis, this is obviously good for our tenants and good for the environment.”

Witton Lodge Community Association started life in 1994, established by local residents, in response to plans to demolish the Perry Common estate.

From then on, the community landlord has supported local residents through the demolition of the old estate and the rebuilding of the new – keeping the local community at the centre of the process and ensuring local people influence decisions.

WLCH continues to work with Birmingham City Council to tackle the city’s ongoing housing crisis.

In February 2021 there were over 17,000 applicants on Birmingham City Council’s housing waiting list, the local authority area within which WLCH deliver their services. In addition, there are more 9,000 empty properties in the city.

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: NBER Business Engagement & Growth workshop at Perry Common Community Hall

Words by Steve Sharma / Pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

The latest North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Group Business Engagement & Growth workshop provided invaluable insight into the importance of strategic marketing and branding.

Hosted by Witton Lodge Community Association and held at Perry Common Community Hall in January, attendees learned how to coordinate and implement outbound and partner marketing as well as the value of Public Relations and Branding.

A series of presentations also examined why effective marketing is a crucial part of any business plan and how emotions and meaning behind branding have an enormous impact on the success of marketing.

Formed in response to Covid-19 to support both businesses and individuals recover from the pandemic, the latest NB:ER workshop was part of the group’s continuing commitment to ‘creating effective routes into skills training and sustainable jobs for those currently facing barriers and/or exclusion.’

Guest speakers included Lyndsey Thomas and Heidi Salmons from IM Properties and Winvic Construction, who engaged with the audience to draw out the concept and power of branding.

“It was a pleasure to deliver and be a part of the latest NB:ER Business Engagement & Growth workshop talking to attendees about how consistent and genuine marketing, branding and social value are essential components of a successful business,” said Lyndsey.

“The attendees were really engaged and interacted throughout our session asking considered questions and making valuable connections with other small businesses during networking in between presentations and after the session – a well organised event by the NB:ER team!”

Emma Rhymes from Winvic Construction talked about how to use CSR and Social Value to grow your business while Linda Jones, from the Salus Fatigue Foundation, spoke about the journey of a local successful enterprise.

NB:ER coordinator, Jobeda Shahed, said feedback from those attending the workshop was very positive.

“It was great to see so many people taking part, with many commenting on how they picked up useful tips on how to create meaningful and impactful marketing,” she said.

“Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the event, especially our partners for their great presentations.”

The North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Group is formed of businesses and institutions with a vested interest in North Birmingham, including Aston Villa Foundation, IM Properties, BMET, and Witton Lodge Community Association.

The NB:ER Task Force is chaired by Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who took over the role after the passing of Jack Dromey MP – who was a ‘driving force’ behind the group’s inception.

NB:ER is further endorsed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority, who are a member organisation to the group.

For more on the North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Group & Plan, visit www.northbirminghameconomicrecovery.co.uk

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Local residents send out over 300 presents through WLCA Christmas Gifts Appeal

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

Over the festive season, local residents sent out over 300 presents to families and children in Perry Common – donated and distributed through the Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) Christmas Gifts Appeal.

To help fight the hardship many have been facing this year, and to help every child in Perry Common wake up to a gift on Christmas morning, in November last year WLCA began asking friends and neighbours to clear out their cupboards and donate unwanted or forgotten toys.

Donation boxes were established at the Witton Lakes Eco Hub, Perry Common Community Hall, Sycamore Court, and the Health and Wellbeing Hub on Erdington High Street – with kind hearted people from all across Erdington leaving good-as-new toys and gifts.

Local groups also joined in on the seasonal charity drive, with members of the Slimming World club that meet twice a week at Highcroft Community Centre also donating ‘anything they could spare’ to the Christmas Gifts Appeal.

Staff from WLCA and a team of local elves (volunteers) then set about wrapping everything in time for Christmas Day and delivering the presents across the Perry Common community.

In total, over 300 gifts were sent out to families – including boxed games for children, cuddly toys, and clothes to keep you warm over the winter months.

One local woman and grandmother, Jane Gaskin, donated over 20 gifts to the Christmas Gifts Appeal, with people responding by recognising her goodwill as “a Christmas miracle” and how she “always have had a heart of gold”.

Her daughter, Naomi Smith, added: “Well done mom, I’m glad you have been able to help some families who may need it this Christmas, and that the cupboard under the stairs is no longer a death trap of toys waiting to bury me and the cats!”

Jane Gaskin responded: “I don’t know about Christmas miracle I just don’t think kids should go without and if I can help I will.”

Over the festive season, the team at WLCA also put together 100 ‘Winter Warmer packs’ to help older residents fight the fuel crisis and stay safe and warm this winter – as well as organising a special ‘free festive lunch’ for local volunteers, in partnership with the Aston Vila Foundation.

WLCA further supported Wilson Stuart School as their pupils made a special visit to the Witton Lakes Eco Hub to get into the festive spirit by decorating the community centre’s Christmas tree.

A spokesperson from WLCA said: “We would like to send a massive heartfelt thankyou to EVERYONE who donated toys and gifts to our Christmas Gift Appeal.

“We have been overwhelmed with the kindness of local residents whose generosity will allow us to bring festive cheer to families and children in need.”

Steve Sharma, WLCA Communications and Marketing Coordinator, added: “The generosity of local residents supporting our Christmas Gifts Appeal has been overwhelming. Thanks to them, families who are struggling will wake up with gifts for their children on Christmas Day. It really does showcase community spirit at its best.

“Our volunteers have also been magnificent, putting the Winter Warmer packs together and distributing them to the elderly and vulnerable.

“A special mention must also go to pupils from Wilson Stuart School who visited the Witton Lakes Eco Hub to decorate our Christmas Tree and did such a brilliant job.”

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