Monday, November 26, 2007


Jon Hunt writes:
I'm doing a couple of launches of the new or revamped bus services in my role as bus lead member with the Passenger Transport Authority.

It's timely as for 20 years or so bus use has been declining. I think this may change, automatically, in the near future because rising fuel prices and pinches on household budgets will make people seek out public transport and cut down on vehicle use. I've certainly resolved to use the bus and foot more than in the past. Running round all over the place, I'd got out of the habit of organising to use buses, which can be pretty convenient.

Today, aided by some Latin dancers, was the launch of number 1 service, which doesn't affect Perry Barr but now provides a frequent shopping service to the Town Hall through Moseley and Acocks Green.

Tomorrow Tuesday is the revamped 451 running on the Queslett Road to West Bromwich and Sutton Coldfield and the launch is to be at Asda Queslett at 10am . The key feature here is the revamped buses which, I understand, includes improved CCTV with screens which demonstrate it is really working!

At the same time we launched a big document on buses today at a PTA meeting. Nothing's set in stone but we're working to a new era where all routes are covered by agreements between the passenger authority and the bus companies. We're also working to create a more efficient network, which allows more people to go swiftly to wherever they want to go - not just the end point of some existing bus service.

The key to this is electronic signage and the smartcards that will surface next year for the first time and soon will enable new fare structures - allowing passengers to purchase a single "ticket" to go from one place to the next and also to change buses easily if necessary.

This is important because there's a lot of "turbulence" around at the moment and that's upsetting some existing bus users. For a number of reasons the companies are cutting back some of the smaller services, forcing the PTA to run round and assess the impact and if necessary to purchase subsidised services. In the Queslett Road area one or two passengers have been distressed through the loss of the 655 that ran from Booths Lane to Aldridge. This was carrying an average of two passengers a journey. Now, the Booths Lane estate is right off the Queslett Road and most people will benefit from better 451 services. It is steep and some people may struggle to make the walk and one of the challenges for the future is to ensure we identify these little estates and ensure that there are services to collect such people and get them safely to the main bus network - enabling them to go to all sorts of places.

In the near future, as I stated, the public authorities will get new powers. The bus companies know this and are keen to demonstrate they can provide better services. Hence the Latin dancers - "It Takes Two to Tango!". We're doing what we can to ensure this turns into instant benefits for travellers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Coming up...

We've fallen behind on reporting local issues on this blog. That's not for want of things happening!

We hope to report soon on issues including the following:
-new gating and security schemes;
-ideas for improving street cleansing and bag collection;
-neighbourhood clean ups;
-the proposed Booths Lane development and (substantial) contributions that may arise for improving local facilities.

River Tame and Perry Hall Park

There was some alarm when the Environment Agency announced it wanted to rework the banks of the River Tame south of the central bridge in Perry Hall Park.

We had a useful meeting the park last week with Agency officials and a number of users.

The agency proposes to get the work done over the winter months with a view to stabilising the banks. The earth banks will be replaced with stone banks - as has been done further upstream. By using "natural" rocks, a good wildlife habitat is created with refuges for voles and other animals. Practice in the past has been to wiremesh foundations which prevents access for animals.

This will create a firm line of banks and prevent them encroaching into the river. There was some discussion about maintenance of the banks and concern that regular cutting may destroy bird nests.

Having looked at that part of the river we walked upstream and looked at the lake that was created during the Euro-funded work a couple of years ago. It had been hoped this would become another habitat for birds but it was plagued from the start by dumping. A shale island has silted up but has not sprouted any vegetation. Some of the park users feel that it never will as the river periodically rises over it, sweeping anything away.

So the Agency are going to get one of their experts to look at it and maybe suggest simple planting ideas that could move this lake forward. I think a bed of reeds would create a stable environment. We shall wait and see.

Jon Hunt

Speedway controversy

An application to vary the conditions for the Speedway at the Greyhound Stadium has caused some controversy in the neighbourhood.

Amongst other things the application asks for eight additional Sundays, including four bank holiday weekends. It also asks for the removal of the requirement for noise monitoring that was placed on the organisers.

Speedway was given a two year temporary permission until September 2009. The application has been useful because it has enabled residents to be consulted on their experience of the first season - and, unfortunately, many are not happy at all.

It was hoped that the new speedway format would see less noise impact, especially as there are now developments closer to the stadium than there were originally, such as Nash Square and the UCE (sorry, Birmingham City University) halls of residence.

As well as letters we have received visits at our advice bureaux from groups of residents and have also had some telephone calls.

The following are some of the comments I have submitted to planning on this matter.

Jon Hunt

"Further to my initial comments on this application I would like to reiterate my concern.
I will be forwarding to you today a number of letters I have received from local residents, five objecting to the variation and one supporting it. I understand that a number of petitions have been submitted through a colleague...
In terms of the detail of the application I object to the removal of the requirement for noise monitoring.
I have received some explanation from Speedway of the reasons for the application and hope to discuss this with them more in the near future.
However I am concerned that there should be no extension of the time during which noise from the event may be experienced in the neighbourhood. There should also be no increase in the number of Sundays on which events are held.
The consultation on this application has raised real issues in the neighbourhood about the impact of speedway. Prior to the original application there was of course no experience of the event in its current form. Given that much of this summer was wet and rainy this is quite disappointing and suggests a long dry summer might cause significantly more problems..
An example of comments from residents is: "Although I expected some noise..I was totally unprepared for the sheer volume that would be produced" (400 yds from stadium)
I hope the result of this consultation might be to provoke further work to address and resolve these issues.
Councillor Jon Hunt"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

St Basils Sleep out/Sleep in

The next St Basils Sleep out/Sleep in will be on 30th November. Last year Karen spent a night sleeping rough in Birmingham city centre to raise funding for St Basils.

St Basils work with young people who may be at risk of homelessness or are actually homeless offering them support and advice.

Karen said “Last year, I thought I had an idea what it would be like. I wore 2 pairs of trousers, a t-shirt, jumper, sweatshirt, padded coat, hat and 2 pairs of socks. You could say I went prepared!”

She added “However, it rained heavily for most of the night and though we had a golf umbrella, our layers of cardboard and plastic sheets could not keep out the dampness and the rain eventually got the better of us. I couldn't sleep and was freezing cold for most of the night. I hadn't counted on how wet it was going to be. Everything was damp.

It taught me a lot. As bad as I thought it might be to be homeless, it was actually much worse and my experience was not even a full one as I knew I had a hot bath and comfortable bed waiting for me when I got home. Imagine spending night after night like that? I know I couldn't have done another night. I managed to get over £200 in sponsorship and it renewed my passion for helping people who have become homeless.”

Undeterred Karen will be taking part again this year, with more waterproof clothing!

To take part or to donate see St Basils Sleep Out/Sleep in.