Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cycle Speedway

As local councillors we were concerned when we learned that the Birmingham Monarchs were having problems with the track in Perry Hall park especially when they failed the cycle speedway inspection. As soon as we were aware of the problem we contacted the Monarchs to find out how we could help.

We will be working to try and come up with a package of funding from the council and other organisations such as Sports England to make sure that the club is kept up and running.

There are a number of reasons why it is important to keep the club running.

Firstly, the Monarchs have a long history within Perry Barr and Birmingham and are the only club in the Birmingham area. They have a hard working team at the club that are committed to the sport.

Secondly, we have a number of young people hanging around street corners complaining that they don’t have anything to do. We have been working actively to provide more facilities for our young people in Perry Barr allowing them to have a variety of activities to choose from within the ward. Cycle speedway will have a part to play as one of those range of activities.

Thirdly, the Birmingham Brummies motorcycle speedway will be returning to Perry Barr in Birmingham and although they are different there is a link between the two sports. It would be a major disappointment to see the cycle speedway finish just as motorcycle speedway is returning.

The Leisure, Sport and Culture Overview and Scrutiny committee will be doing a review that will be looking into Sports Development within Birmingham taking into account the Olympics in 2012. The committee have identified the need for more sports facilities for our young people to promote overall health, fitness and well being.

We will also be looking at how feasible it is to get the BMX track in Perry Park up and running again.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Christmas!

I was pleased to take part in the Aston schools' carol concert at Aston Parish Church last week.

Groups of young people from primary and secondary schools throughout Aston and Nechells sang songs. This ranged from the gospel sounds of Heartlands High to a brave stab at a Partridge in a Pear Tree from a primary school in Aston. It was a wonderful multi-ethnic celebration of a special season.

Birmingham has been slandered this year as people continue to recycle the story of how Christmas was renamed Winterval several years ago. Very few of these reports make it clear that Winterval was abandoned and that, indeed, the current administration of the city council has made a point of restoring Christmas.

Indeed at the last council meeting it was a Muslim councillor who proposed the motion of "Happy Christmas" to the people of Birmingham.

Following the Aston Carol service the local councillors were at the inauguration of the new priest of St John's Church, Perry Barr, in the evening, Rev Crispin Palling.

Our colleague Ray Hassall is a cabinet member for leisure and during the speeches he made a point of emphasising the Birmingham is celebrating Christmas again.

So a happy Christmas to all in Perry Barr!


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tree removals

This is a list of roadside trees due for removal in the ward. If you see any other tree being removed please let us know as we should have been notified of all removals. With one exception they are all dead or dying.

47/49 Curbar Road
178/180 Curbar Road
14 Curbar Road (said to have outgrown location)
subway, Booths Lane
111 Booths Lane
45 Cramlington Road

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

First zone charge petitions go in

I submitted the first 200 signatures from the petition against the congestion charge zoning to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority today (Monday). Another 500 will be submitted to the City Council today.

They have been coming in fast and we can submit further tranches in January.

Simultaneously the Liberal Democrat group, which I lead, submitted a motion calling, amongst other things, for an alternative and workable scheme of road pricing to be submitted to the government. The government is determined the West Midlands will pioneer road charging outside London and its spokespeople, Advantage West Midlands, stated on Saturday in the Birmingham Post: "It is not a case of if but when. We are determined to be in the first wave of trials". So much for consultation!

We also continue to stress that the current public transport plans are misconceived. Buses need to take people where they want to go and need to be safe and pleasant. Continuous investment in our own A34 Walsall Road (ie plumping a Metro on top of buslanes and red route) is not going to help local people get to jobs on the A38 corridor, for instance. To do so you have to walk up the steep hill in the city centre to change buses. What nonsense, especially for professionals who may be carrying laptops late at night!

There was no chance of our motion being accepted as it was critical of the PTA leadership for its handling of the Gridlock or Growth so-called consultation and, quite seriously, of the lack of accountability of the way very large sums of money is being spent on consultants. They were asking for another £1 million today.

But we got some promises of a proper PTA debate on the matter and a good look at alternatives in the New Year. The new Centro/PTA chief executive Geoff Inskip is a bright spark, poached from Manchester, and is beginning to sort out some of the problems he has inherited. I sat on the recruitment panel. He stressed that he recognises the need for a great deal more thought about the nature of road pricing and also how investment is attracted into public transport beyond the £2 billion on offer from the government.

On the subject of congestion zones, I stressed that Gridlock or Growth had failed to offer any feasible schemes of road charging for this region. Its best idea is the congestion zones and they would be a disaster, particularly in the way they would hit the poorer suburbs of north Birmingham.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thornbridge Avenue bus shelters

One of the local papers reports the police plans for a dispersal order on Thornbridge Avenue. The aim is to target those gangs of young people who are causing a nuisance or worse - not those that are just hanging around with their friends.

A few weeks ago a new bus shelter was installed outside Bamfylde Place and the glass repeatedly smashed.

Centro should replace it with plastic - I was there when they agreed this policy - but have sent me a letter saying it has only been smashed once. So I'll be getting back to them on this.

I saw it smashed once and local residents and traders say it was smashed at least once more.


Dangerous dog-owners and some good news

The first piece of good news is that the police have interviewed someone about the dog attack in Perry Hall Park.

At the police neighbourhood meeting at Rocky Lane Methodist Church, on Thursday night the police were at pains to stress that there is no exceptional dog problem in the park.

Certainly concern about men with dogs is being reported quite widely now, not by any means just in this park. One or two residents have stated they have heard dog fighting in the park. That does not mean it is organised or routine.

There's been a lot of media coverage of the attack this week after the family decided to release a picture of Harvinder's injuries. Radio WM turned up at 7am on Tuesday morning in the half light, dragging Jon out of bed for an interview, and were a little spooked by seeing the park in this light.

The truth is it is a beautiful park, enhanced recently both by the river widening project and by the exceptional voluntary work of Norman Ball.

And the good news...The new park warden has been appointed and will undertake a couple of weeks induction before beginning full time duties in the park. He is said to be enthusiastic about his role and we all look forward to him bringing fresh ideas to this facility.

ASBOs for dumpers?

This was the idea we raised at the ward committee on Monday night with residents from the Witton end of the ward.

We were all disgusted by the state of one of the streets in the area when we are on it about ten days ago. I'm not going to name it but residents are all getting leaflets through their doors from the environmental warden.

It's not as if this is a road that's been neglected. It's been spring-cleaned and had plenty of attention from the environmental warden. The problem is there's one or two residents down there who think they can simply dump all their rubbish on the pavement. There was an enormous pile of household rubbish - not even in black bags.

So we've asked for action to be escalated. Video surveillance can be used to catch dumpers. Why not an ASBO? They're used for every other kind of public nuisance.


Queslett Road

The rapid development of the new housing estate at the St Margaret's site is causing problems.

The developers have put in their "own" set of traffic lights, granted to them by the planning inspector, blocking off Booths Lane.

This has, local residents reckon, doubled the traffic trying to turn on the Queslett Road using the opening facing Nova Court, causing not just chaos but hazards, in particular when traffic from the Scott Arms direction accelerates towards the new lights.

We had a meeting about this earlier this year with cabinet member Len Gregory and it was agreed a second set of lights would go in at Nova Court. The problem is the city council is lagging behind the developers who are proceeding at a rate of knots.

We'd asked - and thought we'd got - some temporary lights at this junction but this has turned out be impractical. I've now asked for measures to slow the traffic on the Queslett Road and also some decent markings and signs to reduce some of the confusion.

The only good news is that the manager in charge on the Birmingham side doesn't hide away so by the time it was raised on Monday night at the ward committee we had an answer and at least some assurances that new measures would be looked at. It was, understandably, raised again on Thursday night at the annual general meeting of the Booths Farm Neighbourhood Forum.