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

LOCAL Q&A: John Hodgkiss, Erdington Town Centre Manager

Pics by Connor Pope & Ed King

John Hodgkiss was appointed Erdington Town Centre Manager in August 2022, after his longstanding predecessor, Terry Guest, left the role. Responsible for delivering the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) agenda, and supporting the businesses that finance the EBID, the position stands between the retail community and local stakeholders and blue light services.

Now a year in post, Erdington Local caught up with John Hodgkiss to look back at the last 12 months and sneak a peek at the next.

___________

What have been the biggest challenges facing Erdington High Street?

Like every town centre in the county, the cost of living crisis has continued to cause uncertainty for retailers and shoppers on the High Street.

This all comes at a time when town centres are moving in a new direction in the Post Covid era, such as becoming a home for community projects and charities able to connect more widely with those who need help.

The biggest challenge facing Erdington High Street has proven to be the raising level of crime and anti-social behaviour. To really be able to continue growing footfall and attract inward investment, it is vital that we work hard to reduce crime which will in turn change people’s perception of Erdington High Street, enabling us to do so much more when marketing the town centre in the future.

 

And what have been the main highlights and achievements from your time as Town Centre Manager?

The main highlight has been working with some of Erdington’s great charity projects. I haven’t worked in a town before with such a strong community as in Erdington. There is so much great work going on out there. Erdington is most certainly a leader in this field, but more work needs to be done here in getting the word out about these organisations, not only to Erdington residents, but Birmingham-wide.

The Christmas, Easter, and Jazz & Blues Festival events were great fun, and they were opportunities to welcome visitors from outside Erdington and showcase the town.

Another highlight has been applying for and securing funds over and above what we receive via BID levy in order to pay for extra events this winter and to employ a second Street Warden to patrol the High Street.

 

We agree, especially the Jazz & Blues Festival gigs at Oikos – any more events like this planned?

We’re really pleased with how the Birmingham Jazz and Blues gigs turned out. Despite the awful weather, the town pulled together to make sure the show went on.

It was the first time that Erdington had taken part in the city-wide festival. The feedback was extremely positive with great attendance. We have already been asked to take part again next year, so let’s hope we can make it even bigger and better in 2024 and attract people from all over Birmingham to attend.

 

As we head out of summer and into autumn and winter, are there any seasonal events in the pipeline – over Halloween or Christmas for example?

Believe it or not, we have been working on Christmas for a few weeks now, recruiting community members and volunteers to help make Christmas in Erdington even bigger and better this year.

We were really pleased with the turnout for the switch-on last year, but we aim to improve in 2023 and put on a great switch-on as well as other events throughout December.

November and December are crucial times for retail, so we want to work alongside retailers to bring in as many shoppers possible, reminding local residents and shoppers further afield that they can get so much of their Christmas shopping in Erdington.

 

The EBID was reinstated for its next five year tenure a few months before you took over, do you feel it is making headway on its campaign promises – to tackle crime, encourage higher footfall, and promote Erdington to a wider audience?

These issues are still those that are the most important to deliver for Erdington during the lifetime of this EBID tenure and it’s very evident how these goals are ultimately linked, with a ‘knock-on’ effect on each other.

As mentioned, crime is still the biggest issue facing Erdington at the moment. By recently employing a new Street Warden, we hope to see a decrease in anti-social behaviour and crime, making full use of the Public Space Protection Order.

Through getting to grips with crime, we would expect greater footfall, bringing back those shoppers who have been concerned to visit the High Street more recently. At this time, it is vital that we continue communicating the positives about Erdington far and wide and encourage shoppers to revisit and enjoy Erdington Town Centre. Therefore, it’s essential that these three promises stay at the top of the list for delivery.

 

The EBID recently helped set up meetings between the retail community, local police teams, and elected officials, to draft a 10 point plan for the High Street – can you update our readers on this?

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 latest meeting took place in May and the next I believe is to go ahead in October (later confirmed to be scheduled for 19 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.

We will continue to apply for extra funding where we can ‘step-up’ what the EBID is able to do in order to achieve lower crime rates in Erdington.

 

You have a strong history of working with BIDs in London and the West Midlands, do you feel they work well with other local stakeholders – such as the Council and police?

BIDs can certainly work well and closely with other stakeholders, but it is important to clarify that BIDs are here to provide services over and above what public sector organisations are funded to provide.

The EBID brings in just over 100k per year, so we’re working hard at the moment to apply for as much extra funding as possible to deal with the crime situation and make sure that we also deliver the projects outlined and voted for in the business plan. Unfortunately, we are unable to ‘pick up’ funding shortages of others.

 

You mentioned to Erdington Local before that you were keen to establish Erdington High Street as and LGBTQ+ ‘safe space’, can you tell us any more about this ambition?

This came up in response to the report that there was a lack of grass roots LGBTQ+ support in North Birmingham and the fact the team at the Recovery Foundation had launched an LGBTQ+ support programme, ‘Rainbow Minds Matter’.

Together, we want to highlight the fact that Erdington is safe and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community by highlighting the safe spaces throughout the High Street. This is a project we will be working on in the near future to get the message of diversity and inclusivity across.

 

Are there any other aims for the EBID in the next twelve months?

Looking at the next 12 months, tackling crime will continue as a priority, evaluating the improvement on the High Street over this time.

We will continue reporting on the many positives regarding Erdington Town Centre, enhance our events programme, and increase a higher percentage of shoppers from outside Birmingham.

Another important aim is to attract new retailers, both national and independent into Erdington Town Centre.

 

If you could wave a magic wand and change any aspect of Erdington High Street overnight, what would you want to see when you woke up in the morning?

I would love to see Erdington as leading the way in what a quickly evolving British town centre looks like. So many town centres are in a transition period at the moment due to many external and economic pressures not experienced to this extent before.

The exemplary community projects are here in Erdington already, so an ambition would be to have an Erdington Community Hub with a home on the High Street, to bring together as many opportunities and assistance together for the community together in one place and the perfect way to shout about everything Erdington!

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or visit the EBID Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ErdingtonTownCentre

(Ed’s note: This LOCAL Q&A was first submitted to Erdington Local before the announcement of any Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

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

OPINION: Making Erdington High Street a safer and more exciting place to visit

Words by John Hodgkiss, Erdington BID & Town Centre Manager

Our focus this summer has been to tackle both retail crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre.

We are delighted to welcome a new Street Warden to Erdington. They will be working closely with the existing Warden, John, patrolling the BID area to improve the current crime situation in Erdington which in turn will allow us to attract future inward investment into the Town Centre.

By concentrating on safety and security in Erdington and tackling this problem now will enable us to welcome new visitors to the High Street, as well as welcome back those who have not visited for some time.

By putting the fundamentals such as crime reduction in place, we can actively try and attract both new independent and national retailers on to Erdington High Street. It will also mean that footfall will increase as a result, making Erdington a far more positive economic prospect for investment.

With £19,000 extra funding secured this month, we will use this effectively to promote and market Erdington over the winter and festive season, with events to attract regular and new visitors alike.

If you have any suggestions on what events you would like to see hosted by the BID this winter, then please contact the BID on [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you! 

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

(Ed’s note: This column was first submitted to the Erdington Local newspaper on 4 September, before the announcement of a Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

NEWS: Erdington BID enlists second Street Warden to tackle crime on High Street

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) has enlisted a second Street Warden to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour on Erdington High Street.

Camran Montgomery-Ashiq is already getting on with the job, patrolling the retail district alongside existing Street Warden, John Lynch – with both men managed by longstanding local firm, Euro Guard Security.

Familiar with the problems facing Erdington’s retailers, Camran has family directly affected by the shoplifters and anti-social behaviour turning so many shoppers away.

“My brother is one of the managers on the High Street,” told Camran. “He introduced me to John (Lynch) who told me about the role and the company (Euro Guard Security) and I was interested.

“It’s life, people are going to shoplift and we’re here to stop them. But hopefully we’ll get the High Street back to how it used to be.”

Seeing two Street Wardens on Erdington High Street will be a welcome sight to many local retailers and residents. It also gives long needed support to John Lynch, who many regard as the only real defence against crime on the High Street.

“It makes me feel safer,” admits Lynch, “because I don’t get any support from the police. Now when it does get into a situation, I’ve got someone to back me up.”

Fulfilling part of the mandate that got the EBID re-elected in November 2021, the extra Street Warden is one step both the Erdington BID and Euro Guard Security are taking to turn the tide of criminality in the area.

Euro Guard Security Operations Manager, William Byrne, told Erdington Local: “First and foremost it was important to get another Street Warden along with John, due to the high risk in Erdington with things that are going on.

“The whole point of brining the wardens onto the (High) street is to make everybody’s environment a safer place to work, and a safer place to be in. Hopefully, if we can bring some of that to the High Street we may then increase the footfall which will in turn benefit the shops.”

And with many of retailers relying on them in the absence of more police presence, Byrne recognises “having the Street Wardens is an integral part of keeping Erdington safe.”

John Hodgkiss, Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, added: “From the beginning of this year the (EBID) board recognised that crime and anti-social behaviour was one of the biggest – if the not biggest – issues facing Erdington Town Centre. So, back in February we started consulting with BID levy payers and the public, and we realised that we really needed to do something to tackle these major issues.

“It’s great to now have Cam on board to enhance all the great work that John (Lynch – original Street Warden) does, and to have support and help for him.”

“It’s (crime on the High Street) basically one of our biggest problems; we want to improve inward investment into Erdington Town Centre, we want to increase footfall, we want to bring new retailers in, and one of the only ways that we’re actually going to do this is if we tackle the crime issue and start getting the positives in.

“The BID essentially a private sector organisation, and our levy payers are paying over and above on their business rates to pay for these enhanced services (Street Wardens).

“But it would be nice to have some extra help from the public sector.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

NEWS: New York’s The Hitman Blues Band pack out Oikos Café as citywide Jazz & Blues Festival comes to Erdington

Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope

Last weekend, hundreds of music lovers packed out Oikos Cafe in July to watch homegrown and international acts perform as part of the citywide Jazz & Blues Festival.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the main Saturday stage was set for New York based The Hitman Blues Band, playing two sets of modern/alt blues, including originals ‘Bad, Bad Man’, ‘Not My Circus Not My Monkey’ and “the track that got us touring in the UK” – ‘Angel in the Shadows’.

Classic covers were also on the set list, Including Dylan’s folk anthem ‘Time They Are A-Changing’ and Willie Dixon’s blues standard ‘Hoot Koochy Man’ – all given a firm Hitman twist. The UK’s Honeyman Hickling Blues Band were also on the afternoon bill.

Originally planned to be held outside on and around the Village Green, the bad weather forced the live gigs into the upstairs room at Oikos café. But in a space usually reserved for church services and community groups, the musicianship, comradery, and comedy made it feel like Saturday night at Ronnie Scotts.

Regaling stories of broken hearts, relationship battles, and pet tortoises who might survive the tour due to poor merchandise sales, Russell ‘Hitman’ Alexander had the room devouring every word and chord change – with superb support from keys, a horn section, percussion, and vocal harmonies.

“Thank you all for coming out, we really appreciate it,” exclaimed charismatic front man at the end of the final set, with many sticking around for signed CDs and photos with the band.

After a short break, Oikos then welcomed the UK’s own Honeyman Hickling Blues Band, serving up a second slice of the Blue & Jazz Festival pie.

Earlier in the weekend, local trombonist Clive the Slide headlined the Erdington Arts Forum run Evening of Creativity – bringing another rafter packing crowd to Oikos Café, as part of the citywide annual event.

Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, who brought the Saturday Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival to Oikos, told: “Today has been fantastic, hundreds of people came out to welcome international musicians and a citywide music festival into Erdington.

“The Hitman Blues Band travelled all the way from New York to play in Erdington, delivering two incredible sets – alongside the UK’s amazing Honeyman Hickling Blues Band. Erdington High Street can be a vibrant and exciting place with a generous and supporting community, and we (EBID) want to keep bringing acts and events here to celebrate that.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden (Conservative) were also in the crowd on Saturday afternoon.

Cllr Moore said “it was great to have the Jazz festival here on Erdington High Street and to see so many people enjoying the events. Thank you to the Jazz Festival, volunteers, the Erdington BID manager and Oikos for all their hard work.”

Cllr Alden said: “We will be working with the Erdington Town Centre Manager to try and bring the festival back and expand the shows in future years.”

Pastor Dan Mandley from Oikos Café and Church added: “Wonderful to have such a wonderful event come to Erdington. Great bands and great atmosphere. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival.”

Look out for a special PICTURE GALLERY feature on the gigs with The HItman Blues Band and Honeyman Hickling Blues Band at Oikos Cafe – in the next print edition of Erdington Local, out from 1 August.

For more on The Hitman Blues Band visit www.hitmanbluesband.com

For more form the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID
For more from Oikos Café and Church visit www.oikoschurch.co.uk

For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

NEWS: Over 200 register for community meeting to address ‘common concerns’ over crime and housing

Words & pics by Estelle Murphy

(This is an extended article from the one first published in the Erdington Local July newspaper)

Were you at this community meeting? We’d love to hear about it – please email: [email protected]

Over 200 people registered for a community meeting on 20 June to address ‘common concerns’ affecting Erdington locals, including crime, HMOs, and exempt housing.

Promoted under the banner ‘strong community breeds safe neighbourhoods’ the meeting further aimed to “show the positive side” of local governance and encourage “a better understanding” between the public and those in power.

Organised by Gravelly Hill resident Roger O’Kelly, the meeting packed out the hall at Six Ways Baptist Church – leaving standing room only as people turned up in droves to hear from senior officials from Birmingham City Council (BCC) and West Midlands Police (WMP).

After introductions from Roger O’Kelly and Naziah Rasheed, who helped arrange speakers for the event alongside Gravelly Hill Councillor Mick Brown, the first question came before anyone got up to speak.

A woman from the eager crowd asked: “how many of the panel live in Erdington please?” Getting no answer, she continued: “…I thought so.”

James Fox, Senior Enforcement Officer (Planning) at BCC, began by walking the crowd through the planning and enforcement process. With many arguing the Council should do more to curb the rise of unruly social housing, Mr Fox surmised the Local Authority have “a duty to investigate reports, but are not duty bound to enforce that report”.

Deborah Moseley (Housing) talked about licensing for HMOs, stating there are 314 currently in Erdington, Gravelly Hill, and Stockland Green.

Then Yvonne Cowley (Supported Exempt Accommodation Team) explained the “minimal support” that Exempt Accommodation provide to receive extra money from housing vulnerable people, and later admitted “we (BCC) do not know what that looks like” when pressed by local campaigner Dawn Edwards.

Crime was the next on the now heated agenda, with Assistant Police & Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil talking about the work being done by WMP and brining new community police officers to Erdington. Mr McNeil also challenged the Exempt Accommodation in Erdington, stating many are run by organised criminals and calling for a vetting scheme for landlords.

Erdington’s Police Inspector Shameem Ahmed then discussed how the local police teams dealt with reports over HMO’s and Exempt Accommodation, and how they were tackling crime on Erdington High Street – admitting until people felt safe it wasn’t enough and asking people to come forward with their intelligence.

Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, voiced concerns over higher local crime rates than the police realised – despite the Erdington ward being promised extra patrols on the High Street and a pop up police station scheduled for February.

And after one man demanded “what are you doing about the blatant drug dealing on the High Street?”, Sergeant Ahmed responded she would arrange for him to join police on patrol and see for himself.

Rounding off the meeting was Reg Banks from Neighbourhood Watch, speaking about the benefits of the scheme and how to get involved.

Organiser of the well attended community meeting, Roger O’Kelly, told Erdington Local: “We are delighted with the huge turnout, this lively event sends a clear message that Erdington wants to see more success by our local authorities in dealing with low-level crime and exerting greater control over exempt accommodation.”

“We are delighted with the huge turnout… this lively event sends a clear message that Erdington wants to see more success by our local authorities in dealing with low-level crime and exerting greater control over Exempt Accommodation.

“The point of the meeting was to bring understanding of the challenges.

“We achieved that somewhat. After today, we will work with Councillor Mick Brown of Gravelly Hill, Community Support and Development Officer Rachel West of BCC and Rev Chris Seeley of St Chad’s to establish a formal community organisation.

“The flawed financial model around HMOs, which favours enterprise, risks letting Erdington slide further into destitution and casting it as the Skid Row of Great Britain.”

Were you at this community meeting? Did you feel the issues were addressed well, or did you think the speakers left more questions than answers?

Whatever your thoughts, we’d love to hear them – please email: [email protected]

NEWS: ‘Residential conversion opportunity’ could bring 47 social housing units to Erdington High Street

Words & pics by Ed King

An expansive office and retail block on Erdington High Street is being sold as a ‘residential conversion opportunity’, which could potentially bring over 47 social housing units to Erdington High Street.

The 0.715 Acre Site sits on the corner of Newman Road and Erdington High Street, with three floors of potential development, and already houses the retails outlets Farmfoods and Istanbul Market.

On the market for £1,399,000 through the Online Property Agency (OPA), the ‘huge corner plot’ is further described by the OPA as an ‘exciting residential conversion opportunity’ which ‘already boasts planning for conversion into 23 apartments’.

However, Erdington Local has learned the current owner was invited by Birmingham City Council (BCC) to amend their planning application to house potentially over 47 units – if the development would include social housing.

This is further reflected by the OPA who, at the time of writing, state the property has ‘Potential For 47 Units +’ subject to further planningapproval.

Although the initial planning application was for 23 apartments, originally registered in November 2021, any amendment to include social housing could green light nearly 50 homes for vulnerable or displaced people in an area already blighted by reports of street crime and anti-social behaviour.

Located at 224 – 232 High Street, Erdington, the ‘applicant’ on the property’s existing planning proposals is UVSC Erdington Ltd – a company registered at the same address and with the same directors as Urban Village Healthcare, and registered at Companies House in April 2021 just over six months before the planning application was submitted.

Urban Village Healthcare have a history of multi-million pound developments, including a £10.8m scheme to convert Rubery’s oldest pub, the Cock Inn, into a care home with ‘64 ensuite bedrooms with communal facilities’.

Local residents have raised concerns over any development housing vulnerable people in the area, with one stating “more social housing would be a red flag on Erdington High Street, but putting a care home in that building would be even worse. Look at it, it’s like a prison.”

Erdington Councillor Robert Alden (Conservative) shares the fears raised by people in his ward. He told Erdington Local: “It was already hugely concerning to see this site being given permission for 23 flats as the location is totally unsuitable for decent quality housing.

“Now we are told, despite a previous application for 43 flats being refused, the Council have suggested someone should apply for 47 flats! The previous application was refused in part due to 43 flats having insufficient natural light in the flats to be habitable. Now even more are being considered.

“When you consider that the current 23 proposed flats are barely of sufficient room sizes it is clear a doubling of them to 47 flats would be totally unacceptable.

“47 flats would likely have poor quality of life for tenants and not be habitable, it is clear the Council should reject any such application as being unsuitable”.

Erdington Local has contacted Birmingham City Council and Urban Village Healthcare for comment.

NEWS: Oikos Café to host international artists as part of Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival – on Saturday 22 July

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival

Oikos Café and Church will play host to an international array of musical artists on Saturday 22 July, as part of the citywide Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival 2023.

Brought to Erdington by the Business Improvement District (EBID), this year’s festival will see New York based Hitman Blues Band and UK’s Honeyboy Hickling Blues Band perform two free to access live shows at the Erdington High Street venue.

Formed in 1989 by Russell ‘Hitman Alexander, The Hitman Blues Band have recorded six studio albums and one live album since their debut LP, Blooztown, was first released in 2000 on Nerus Records – featuring a special aprearance from Ray Alexander on two of the album track.

Their latest and seventh full length release – Not My Circus, Not My Monkey – was released in March 2021, produced and engineered at New York’s Parcheesi Studios.

Honeyboy Hickling is a renowned UK harmonica player, singer, and songwriter, having spent over 30 years touring and performing with artists including legendary blues guitarist Bo Diddly, rock guitarist Steve Marriot (Small Faces, Humble Pie), and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Thistlethwaites (The Saw Doctors, The Waterboys).

Both events at Oikos Café and Church will be free to attend and open to people of all ages, with The Hitman Blues Band scheduled to perform at 12noon and Honeyboy Hickling Blues Band at 2:30pm – both gigs on Saturday 22 July.

Dan Mandley, pastor at Okios Church, told Erdington Local: “Events like this are great for the community of Erdington.

“It’s an opportunity to bring people together from across our diverse community to enjoy live music and food. We get to showcase what a great place Erdington is.”

Erdington Town Centre and EBID Manger, John Hodgkiss, added: “We are delighted to be welcoming two international Jazz and Blues acts to Erdington in July.

“It’s the first time that Erdington has taken part in the Birmingham wide Jazz and Blues Festival, so we want to make it a memorable day, inviting the whole community to the free event.

“We have already received some great feedback on social media and it’s pretty evident that there are quite a few Jazz fans in Erdington. It’s also a great excuse to do some summer shopping in the town centre.”

Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival has been running for 39 years, organised by rock photographer, jazz musician, and early Black Sabbath band manager, Jim Simpson, who has close ties to Erdington.

Performance times at Oikos Café & Church on Saturday 22 July will: The Hitman Blues Band at 12noon + Honeyboy Hickling Blues Band at 2:30pm.

For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival 2023, running from 14 July to 23 July –  including full listings for this year’s event, visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

NEWS: Last tickets available for community meeting on 20 June, after ‘huge response’ from local residents

Words by Ed King

Organisers of a community meeting to address ‘issues of common concern’ across the Erdington constituency are encouraging people to book their free place quickly if they want to attend – as only the last few free tickets are available, following a “huge response” from local residents.

Set for 20 June at Six Ways Baptist Church, Erdington, the meeting will start at 7pm – with teas and coffees available to welcome people from 6:30pm.

To secure your free ticket, simply email your name and contact information to the organisers at [email protected]

Organisers are hoping the 20 June meeting will also be a chance to ”show the positive side” of local governance and encourage “a better understanding” of issues that affect many in the community.

Three key topics will be on the agenda: understanding the HMOs and exempt accommodation model, what steps the local police are taking to tackle low-level crime and anti-social behaviour, and how the long running Neighbourhood Watch scheme can be an effective support for local resoidents and communities.

With a focus on positive discussions and strengthening links between the local community and authorities, the message from the meeting organisers is simple: ‘strong community breeds safe neighbourhoods’.

The first speakers will be from Birmingham City Council (BCC) addressing concerns over HMOs and exempt accommodation. They will include BCC’s Senior Enforcement Officer, James Fox, and Veronica Cowley and Deborah Moseley from the BCC housing team.

Talking about crime in the constituency will be West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Tom McNeil, and Erdington’s Police Inspector Shameem Ahmed.

There will also be an address from Reg Banks from Neighbourhood Watch West Midlands, explaining how the long established national network can be an effective way to support communities on a local level.

Chaired by Reverend Goshawk, from Six ways Baptist Church, there will also be a chance for a Q&A session after each section – giving members of the public the chance to ask questions directly to the speakers in attendance.

Although a non-political meeting, there will also be local councillors attending including Cllr Mick Brown (Gravelly Hill, Labour) and Cllr Robert Alden (Erdington, Conservative) – however they will not be asked to address the audience directly.

There will also be a designated time for ‘free discussion with officials’ from 9:05-9:30pm after the main meeting – allowing time for members of the public to engage with the local representatives in attendance.

Organisers have asked Erdington Local to extend a thank you to both councillors for their support, and to Cllr Mick Brown specifically for arranging the council officers who will be presenting to the public and fielding questions.

Further thanks go to local resident Naziah Rasheed, who helped plan and publicise the event and through her network engaged the speakers from the police, and Gravelly Hill resident Karen Hannah for her input on the topics of discussion and for helping to promote the meeting.

Roger O’Kelly, coordinator of the meeting and an extensive local Neighbourhood Watch group, told Erdington Local: “We have had a huge response to this initiative and look forward to meeting the many local residents who wish to gain a better understanding of how our authorities are facing the challenges presented by the twin issues of HMOs and tackling crime.

“We have places left. To book, please drop us a line at [email protected].”

Anyone wishing to attend the 20 June meeting can register for their free place by emailing: [email protected]