Welcome to Acocks Green Focus Group’s Website

May 11th, 2009
Conservation Area Collage for Header Pic on Website

Keep ‘em safe – Consultation on Acocks Green’s First Conservation Area coming soon

Welcome to the Website of Acocks Green Focus Group.  We are an active local campaign group in Acocks Green.   We campaign for the fixed physical environment of Acocks Green: both to conserve what is good, and to improve what is not so good.  Our concerns are buildings, trees, street layout and street furniture and green open spaces.    Our  site is regularly updated, below, with new posts of ongoing news and campaigns.   Along the right hand side you will also find some permanent pages about issues of local interest and a set of links to other local websites and to national websites of relevance to our work.

It may be that a particular search term brought you here and you started with the posting with that term in it.  If you live in Acocks Green you will probably find other items to interest you here as well.   Have particular things you are interested in, and no time to look through everything?  Try our search box, top right.

Our latest header pic  is all about our new now that the Glynn Edwards is saved. We need a Conservation Area.  Hand-in-hand with the Birmingham City Council Conservation section and a local Conservation architect we have been working on this.   Scroll down for more details.  This way we really can kick the developers out, and keep our special local buildings, like the ones in our collage above,  safe.

Stop Press: the Conservation Area proposal went in a formal letter to Birmingham City Council on 14 July, with the formally conducted consultations which we ran showing a huge majority in favour.

You can also follow us on Twitter: @AcocksGreenFG


Red Letter Day for Acocks Green’s Post Boxes!

July 26th, 2014

Post Box - neglected - outside 166 The Avenue-1If you live in Acocks Green you may well, at some time in the last few years (decades?) sighed over the state of our post boxes.   Many of our post boxes are around 100 years old.  They are a design classic: street furniture antiques  which have stood the test of time, but post boxes do need painting …

 What was going on?  A member of Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum Executive wrote to Royal Mail, sending an X-Certificate pic of a local post box right in the proposed Conservation Area, as she pointed out, and received an initially decidedly off-hand and snooty response:

I have been advised by the collections team that all post-boxes are on a rolling maintenance plan and each box has a scheduled date. As such the box will only be painted when this time occurs.

Um, when?  Any time this century by any chance?  Further investigation revealed that Royal Mail had an agreement with English Heritage in 2003 that they would paint all of their heritage items every three years.  It didn’t really even take a keen knowledge of local Conservation issues to suggest that this was not happening: just average eyesight.

Two members of Acocks Green Focus Group joined in, and photographed lots more post boxes.  Soon we had quite a little horror show going.  Royal mail Twitter was more sympathetic, and then Sandy at the Acocks Green BID (She manages a fund of money raised by the traders and works on improvements in the village.) stepped in and wrote to her contact at Royal Mail, sending some of the bad news in pics and mentioning again the impending Conservation Area.  Soon the nasty pics were flying around all over the place.  Result.  Thanks Sandy.  Thanks Royal Mail.  See pics below: a couple of  happy befores and afters: first Alexander Road,  Acocks Green, a story in three pictures …

Story of a Post Box: Alexander Road, Acocks Green

Three pictures tell the story of a Post Box: Alexander Road, Acocks Green, late July 2014

We don’t know how old this post box is.  We are going to try to find out.  Most boxes have a ‘cipher’  (Royal initials) below the timetable plate.  This one does not.  This may mean that it is very old, because the ciphers only appeared from 1887 onwards, but that would make it older than the road.  Was it there first?  Was it moved from somewhere else?  Is there another explanation?  Below is the Sherbourne Road box (Next to Acocks Green Railway Station)

Story of a Neglected Post Box-1 (Sherbourne Road)

Post Box, Sherbourne Road, Acocks Green (Next to Railway Station) George V Reign (Late July 2014)

This (above) is the post box that started all the trouble, the one the original email to Royal Mail was about.   It is in the (soon to be – we hope) Conservation Area.   The ‘before’ and ‘after’ speak for themselves!  Look at that lovely red glow on the right.  Eight more boxes are getting this treatment shortly.  Several more have already been done:  if you live in Acocks Green, especially the North side, look out for the red glow on a street near you.

Your local box missed out?  Royal Mail said ten was enough for now,  but they have promised that the rest will be done in the next three years.  Keep watching.  Let us know if this is not happening.

Know your Boxes

The one above  is a George V (5) box.  We know this is so because the ‘G R’ starts for ‘George Rex’ in Latin, or ‘King George in English.  This means we can tell that this one was put up in the time of George V and not his son George VI (6) or there would be a little VI in the middle of the (fancier) initials.  (There’s a George VI box on the corner of Stockfield and Warwick Roads, near the shops there.) In plain English that means the Railway Station box went up between 1910 and 1936, when George V was king.  We are guessing it arrived closer to 1910 than 1936 because of the age of the surrounding buildings, though.

Incidentally, the one which began this post is in The Avenue, Acocks Green.  It is an Edward VII (7) box (1901-1910)   We can tell because  there is an ‘ER’ for ‘Edward Rex’ on it.  Why not ‘Elizabeth Rex?’  It is easy to tell the difference between Elizabeth’s boxes and those of her great-grandfather Edward.   Apart from the more modern styling there is a neat little II (2) between the E. and the R.  Know your boxes!

We are gradually going to try to catalogue all of Acocks Green’s post boxes.  Let’s watch to see that they are taken good care of in the future.

What’s Happening About the Conservation Area?

July 18th, 2014
AGCA Proposed boundary

NB to get a bigger image double-click this one and then use + signs & arrows for fine detail including road names.

As many people will now be aware, Acocks Green has a Conservation Area in the pipe line: see our previous post on Acocks Green’s Conservation Area  for more details.

Consultation at C.A.-1The Consultation and voting process brought in quite a lot of people to see us down at The Glynn Edwards and The City Mission Halls

Consultation at C.A.-2So what has been going on since March 18 when voting closed?  It’s all gone pretty quiet?  Behind the scenes a lot has been happening as the results, which were opened under the watchful eye of Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum were counted and closely scrutinised?

 

 

 

 

 

Consultation at C.A.-3

Here are the final figures:

Inside the boundary: yes 96, no 3

Outside the boundary: yes 18, no 0

In other words we are taking that as a yes! 

Your additional interesting comments have been carefully scrutinised – some people said ‘Please can you include us too!’  Above is the finally proposed boundary line, which is slightly re-drawn from the original one.  Our heritage architectural adviser Joe Holyoak’s  list of proposed properties  to be included within the stricter Article 4 rules are downloadable here

A letter has now gone to Waheed Nazir, Head of Planning and Regeneration formally requesting a Conservation Area.  The letter includes  the plan and proposals, and other data about the history of the area and proposed management of the CA, together with details of how the Consultation was carried out.  Mr Nazir and some committees will be considering all this shortly.

If this goes ahead this will be a first not only for Acocks Green, but for Birmingham.  In the past Conservation Areas have always been proposed by City officers.   This proposal was put forward by local organisations in Acocks Green, and (with guidance from conservation officers and a conservation architect)  steered by them through all the stages, including the drawing up of all the boundaries, the choice of all the properties, the mounting of a formal Consultation and the analysis of this.   This came about after Acocks Green was first promised  a Conservation Area in 2008-9 and then at the credit crunch was told that this could not happen …

Unless you guys put forward a proposal yourselves, but you will have to follow all the rules.

We have put forward a proposal, and we think we have followed all the rules.  Fingers crossed.  Watch this space!  (Note the area is not as large as that described in the Solihull News piece on the link above, but, whilst focusing on a manageable chunk on North Acocks Green, we hope to add a further area on the south-side of the Warwick Road later.)

In the meantime, we have already been able to capitalise on our immanent new status … has anyone noticed the set of local heritage antiques on our Acocks Green streets which are currently looking as though they desperately need some TLC?

Post Box - neglected - Flint Green Rd-3

Edward VII Post Box: Flint Green Road

Post Box - neglected - outside 166 The Avenue-1

Edward VII Box in The Avenue

Noting our impending Conservation Area status Royal Mail has agreed to look into this (Thanks also to Sandy at Acocks Green BID and Tim on @RoyalMail Twitter) and to get some painting done in the next couple of weeks.  For more about this story, and more pics check out our Flickr File on Neglected Acocks Green Post Boxes

 

Acocks Green Ward Elections 2014

May 14th, 2014
Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council – Councillors sitting in the  Council Chamber

STOP PRESS: Acocks Green Lib-Dem hold.  Lib-Dem win for Roger Harmer

Election Results 2014 - autocontrast

Early Post Election Analysis: This is an interesting result, with a respectable majority,  which runs counter to the overall Brum trend, where Labour have been taking seats from the Lib-Dems, though Yardley constituency Lib-Dems have, overall, held up better than elsewhere.   Possibly the lack of a UKIP factor helped here. (Although no doubt there will be more discussion later, perhaps this helped see of longstanding Lib-Dem councillor Paula Smith in Hall Green)    However, the Acocks Green result may come as less of a surprise to seasoned Acocks Green activists, regardless of political colour.  In reality,  and as all the AG candidates would have known, this was always two horse race:  Acocks Green has, for many years, only elected Labour and Lib-Dem councillors.  In  2012, after a hard-fought campaign, Roger Harmer, who won in 2008, lost to Labour’s John O’Shea by 1,993 votes to 2,170: a majority of just 177 for Labour.  Roger Harmer was known for being an active and conscientious councillor, but also Acocks Green resident John O’Shea was already a very well known and familiar figure in Acocks Green and  a regular at many community activities.  Both John and Roger were known for their willingness to lend a hand and for their own internet commentaries on local affairs and politics.   This time around  Labour’s Rachel Seabright obviously worked hard over the election period, and also scored a very respectable vote for a newcomer.   However,  it seems likely that she was hampered by  that relatively unknown status in the area.  We wish her better luck next time she stands in a local election.

As to the other Acocks Green candidates:  interestingly they, also, all did better for their parties than they, or their colleagues, did in 2012.   This may partly be because the overall local turn-out was better; certainly, in this tense election there were plenty of reminders about it from the main candidates!  However,  maybe in this respect we also did our bit with our on-line interviews of all six candidates,  who all went to some trouble to answer our questions and explain their policies.  We thank them all for their willingness to play the game, and for throwing in some additional and thought-provoking points.

The Focus Group is non-party political and we always aim to work with all our Acocks Green councillors.  We look forward to meeting up again with Roger, and will shortly be extending to him the invitation to the now traditional Focus Group grilling at Acocks Green Costa.  We were already getting Tim at Costa to heat up the grill nice and hot for the winning candidate, whether that was to be Roger or Rachel.

***

May 22nd 2014 is your opportunity to help decide who, out of the six candidates below, gets one of the seats you see pictured above, on Birmingham City Council, for the next four years.  Who do you want to make decisions, and to formulate policy,  for Birmingham and, more especially,  for Acocks Green Ward.  Who is best to fight our corner of the City, and to help care for the appearance and environment of Acocks Green?

Each of the six candidates listed below represents a political party who has selected them to stand to represent Acocks Green as a councillor.   Each one has taken the trouble to answer our topical and locally slanted questions with care – thanks guys!   Click on their name, below their picture,  to read their answers. 

Acocks Green Ward Candidates 2014: what they told us

Amanda Baker - Green PartyAmanda Baker: Green

Eamonn Flynn: TUSCEamonn Flynn: TUSC

Roger Harmer - Lib-Dem

Roger Harmer: Lib-Dem

Charlotte Hodivala: Conservative Charlotte Hodivala: Conservative

Peter Johnson, SDPPeter Johnson: SDP

Rachel SeabrightRachel Seabright: Labour

Your local polling station is open on May 22nd: polls open at 7 am and close at 10 pm.  As you probably know, it is  dead easy to vote, but if you have never done so before the officials will explain the procedure.   (Don’t worry if you have mislaid your polling card – you can still vote!)

If you are new to the are, or to voting,  there is a map of Acocks Green polling station locations here.  It dates  from 2012.   No map appears to have been produced for 2014, but as far as we know the stations are all the same.

Birmingham City Council will be using the Twitter hashtag #brumvotes14  on the day.  The day can also be followed on storify and we will also announce the Acocks Green result as soon as possible afterwards,  as a ‘stop press’ announcement at the top of this page.

Finally, and for those of an historical turn of mind, these are the 2012 Birmingham City Council election results for Acocks Green

Acocks Green’s Proposed Conservation Area

February 23rd, 2014
Boundaries of the Proposed Acocks Green Conservation Area

Boundaries of the Proposed Acocks Green Conservation Area

Acocks Green’s long awaited Conservation Area proposal is finally here and on the table.

You can see the plans and an exhibition about the scheme at three consultation sessions.  Over refreshments,  you will also be able to ask questions and, most importantly, if you live in one of these roads, you can complete a questionnaire giving your views.  Your views are needed.  The Conservation Area cannot go ahead without the majority support  of the residents in the roads inside it.

The three consultations have now taken place.  Missed them all?  You can still find out about the Proposed Conservation Area by reading about it here.  You can still vote (Until Midnight Tuesday 18 March)  by downloading the Acocks Green Conservation Area Consultation – Response Form  and returning to (choice of three):

  • email address jh@joeholyoak.co.uk
  • Acocks Green Neighbourhood mail box, foyer, Acocks Green Library (Inside first doors,  see in  front of you on left)
  • post to AGCAC 101 Hazelwood Road, Acocks Green, Birmingham, B27 6X” 

(Please do not return forms direct to Acocks Green Focus Group or Acocks Green History Society because they are the proposers of this Conservation Area and we need to be able to demonstrate an unbiased and fair recording of the response.)

The Boundary Line

 The boundaries of the proposed  area are shown above.  If you give the map a couple of quick clicks with the mouse it will enlarge for easier viewing.  How to read it?  The line with the yellow border running diagonally across the middle is the railway line.  The two long roads at the top left are Alexander Road (next to and parallel to the railway and then Douglas Road.  Douglas Road is not in the area and only a tiny part of Alexander Road is (to include the Baptist Buildings and the Fire Station).  Otherwise the red line takes in two rows of  shops on Yardley road, crossing the road at Elmdon Road.  Working back towards the railway, you will see Elmdon Road, Malvern Road and The Avenue.  Colwell Walk, running between Elmdon and Malvern is also included.  On the other side of the railway, bottom right hand corner is a small part of Oxford Road. The line moves around to take in ten houses on Station Road and cuts across Dudley Park Road, taking in part of it.  The whole of Sherbourne Road is included, as is Sherbourne Drive.   The line continues round to take in Flint Green Road, Greswolde Park Road and Arden Road.

FAQ’s

Q. Why is this happening? 

Acocks Green has a unique history as a railway suburb, and it has some fine architecture, especially from the period of the  coming of the railway.   These points both need recognising.  More recently, as many people will recall, there have been a lot of threats to the fabric of Acocks Green: its architecture and its trees.  Both of these will be protected by the Conservation Area.

Finally, it is now already established that people in Acocks Green care about where they live and take a pride in their area.  This is why it is becoming increasingly hard for developers (42-44 Flint Green, The Glynn Edwards Hall etc) to get permission to knock down and redevelop: we put up a good fight.  This has been noted: there are  other areas of the City where this would not be tried.  But a Conservation Area would give far more legal security without depending upon the vigilance, time and energy of local volunteers, who may not always be there!

Q. What does this mean for the people living in these roads?

If the Conservation Area application is successful the  houses within the prescribed roads would be subject to something called an Article 4 Direction.  This gives extra legal protection to both the buildings, and protection to trees within the area of its remit.

If you want to demolish buildings within a Conservation Area you will need Planning Consent.  You will also need permission to:

  • carry out work on trees
  • change external doors or windows
  • put in new porches
  • make alterations to roofs
  • add satellite dishes
  • changes gates , fences walls or boundary areas
  • create hard standing
  • paint or pebble-dash the building

There are no fees charged for applications for permission to do these things, but application must be made.  This does not mean that you will not be able to make any changes.  Proposed alterations will be considered on their merits, with a view to protecting the overall character of the area.

The advantage to you is that firstly the area is likely to look more attractive, with fewer period features and trees being lost or damaged. and fewer ugly and unsympathetic modern additions appearing.  Secondly, Conservation Area status tends to increase the desirability of an area.  Many people want to live in Conservation Areas and property prices tend to rise.

Q. What is likely to happen to the value of my property if it becomes part of a Conservation Area?

If you are thinking about selling then there is good news for you here.  A recent (2012)  rigorous research exercise by the highly respected London School of Economics  found that on average house prices in Conservation Areas go up by 23%  

Q. Why these roads?

At present the Conservation Area focuses on the coming of the railway, and the difference this made to Acocks Green. This is why the Area is concentrated on the North side of Warwick Road.  A set of roads was needed which would both help to tell this story of Acocks Green and contain interesting architectural features.  Some roads which also have well-built Edwardian terraces, like Alexander Road and Douglas Road, have been left out because unfortunately too many houses in these roads have been drastically altered.

Q. I live on the south side of the Warwick Road, and there are some good building there too – didn’t you even look there?

Yes, we did, and we are aware of quality buildings on the other side of the road.   However, in order to make a t case for a Conservation Area we have to present need was to make a convincing case for a Conservation Area we had to present a coherent joined up whole which told one story.  Also we could not make the area too big because detailed studies need to be made as part of our presentation and this takes a very long time – this project has been ongoing for several years.  Finally, we were aware that a lot of buildings in this part of Acocks Green have been under various threats and some have already been altered.  We needed to make a start on creating an area before it was too late.  We hope the area can be extended later.

Q. Who is doing this?

This Conservation Area has been drawn up by local people in consultation with, and the approval of Birmingham City Council Conservation Team in the Planning Department.  Birmingham Conservation architect Joe Holyoak, who is also case worker and Deputy Chair of Birmingham and West Midlands Victorian Society has been engaged on a Community First grant to give support.  Otherwise the project is led by Acocks Green Focus Group and Acocks Green History Society, with support from Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum, Arden Road Residents’ Association and our local elected representatives in the form of Acocks Green Ward Committee.  Ultimate approval is still required from Council Committees, but this is a very local project and it is unique in the history of Birmingham.

Q. I am worried about energy conservation.  I was thinking of putting in double glazing.  What now? 

Double glazing can be efficient, but it can also take years to get back the cost of installing double glazing in savings on your energy bills.  Older properties are often draughty.  There can cheap and efficient ways of draught proofing your property without going to the expensive of installing UPVC windows.    There is more advice in this downloadable English Heritage Guide:  Energy Conservation in Traditional  Buildings

Q. I live in one of these roads.  Do I get a say?

Yes, if you live in one of the relevant roads you do get a say.   For preference come along to one of the sessions listed above, where you can gain more information and complete a questionnaire.   Otherwise you can write to    Acocks Green Conservation Area Scheme, C/0 101 Hazelwood Road, Acocks Green Birmingham B27 6XW (Note this is not the address of any of the scheme proposers but the neutral address of an Acocks Green Village Partnership office holder.    Letters will be counted and noted before being passed on) or   email    jh@joeholyoak.co.uk                   or     pop a letter in the Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum Mail Box in the foyer of Acocks Green Library – but for this last you will need to wait until March 4th when the Library re-opens after the repairs!    NB The C.A. can only go ahead with local support.  We would rather you came to one of the sessions to have a chat first, but that is not possible (or you took away your response form and mislaid it!)  There is an.    Acocks Green Consultation Area Consultation – Response Form here Just download and print and email, post or drop in at The Library.

Description of the Area

If you would like more detail the below is mainly condensed from the ‘character appraisal’ which has been submitted to Birmingham City Council

The conservation area can be perceived as divided into three sub-areas: two groups of residential streets, north and south of the railway line, and the commercial centre on Yardley Road which divides the two residential sub-areas.

 The largest of the two residential sub-areas is south of the railway line. With the exception of a few late twentieth-century infill developments and a handful of non-residential buildings, it consists predominantly of late-Victorian and Edwardian houses. The scale of the houses, in terms of both frontage and height, is comparatively large, and there is much good and varied detail, in brick and masonry front walls, ornamental gables and barge boards, leaded lights, ornamental porches, and bay windows.

Arden Road Houses

Arden Road Houses

This includes Arden Road, Flint Green Road, Sherbourne Road and Station Road.  These were all  pre-industrial country lanes (despite its name, Station Road pre-dates the railway): after the arrival of the railway they were joined by Dudley Park Road, Oxford Road and Greswolde Park Road.   Streets are quite wide.

The Arden Road Oak

The Arden Road Oak

Arden Road possess the most coherent and harmonious architecture with repetitive types with varied detail built by the local builder Williams and Body.   Arden Road also possesses the striking landmark feature of the very old oak tree standing in the centre of the street.

Flint Green Road and Sherbourne houses  are slightly earlier: mid-Victorian , larger and impressive in a more severe way.

Flint Green & Sherbourne-cropped

 The residential sub-area north of the railway line includes The Avenue, Malvern Road and Elmdon Road.  Houses are of several different periods, from mostly late Victorian and Edwardian houses nearer to Yardley Road, to twentieth-century Edwardian and interwar semi-detached houses at the lower end of Elmdon Road and Malvern Road.  A lot of good original detail – porches, bargeboards, stained glass, stone boundary walls – remains.

The Avenue has an eclectic mixture of late nineteenth and early twentieth-Baskerville House (14 The Ave) Acocks Greencentury houses much of them built joined into terraces. The most prominent is number 14 of 1871, with the coach house and much original detail su

The Avalon Hotel (48 Sherbourne Road)

The ‘commercial centre’ begins on Sherbourne Road and runs north along Yardley Road. Immediately south of the station are two hotels on opposite sides of Sherbourne Road: the Italianate Avalon Hotel.  (Currently on sale, future without the Conservation Area uncertain

The Great Western Pub

Further along in Yardley Road is the Great Western Hotel; named after the railway it stands next to.  It was built in the 1950s, but is still clearly in the older Art Deco tradition of the 1930s.

Across Yardley Road, at the junction with Alexander Road, is the most significant cluster of historic non-residential buildings.

Police Station, Fire Station - croppedAcross Alexander Road are the four buildings belonging to the Baptist church; the Arthur Moore Hall, the caretaker’s house, the Glynn Edwards Hall.  (However could we forget? This building seems safer for now, but we would like to see it safer still. )

Glynn Edwards for CA Consultation Poster-modifeid

The Glynn Edwards Hall – survivor of two recent planning applications to demolish and the subject of vigorous local campaigns

and the far more austere and but striking Baptist Church itself. The cluster is predominantly in red brick and terra-cotta.

Baptist Church & GE - for Cons Area Consult Post

Acocks Green Baptist Church and The Glynn Edwards Hall to the left

Yardley Road shops - upper stories

Upper story windows, Yardley Road shops

On Yardley Road next to the church is the first of two similar Edwardian parades of shops, on either side of Douglas Road: the first has six shops, the second eight.The shop fronts require varying amounts of restoration, but most are essentially intact. Above the shop fronts are large first floor oriel windows, and above these are dormer windows in large gables almost equal in width to the shop fronts.

Across Yardley Road is the  locally listed number 50, a large three-storey villa converted to commercial use, designed by important Victorian architect John Nicol, who lived in the house.    (This is no longer completely intact but the main features including especially the front bay window were saved after a successful local campaign in 2005.

50 Yardley Road-cropped

50 Yardley Road (John Nicol, 1903)                                           

Will you support our bid for a Conservation Area to help keep our treasures – the Acocks Green ‘family silver’  safe?  We hope so.  Don’t forget the Conservation Area Consultation dates above.

Acocks Green Smart Route Goes Stupid?

February 11th, 2014
Tight Parking Space- lightened

How much Parking will there really be, once the Smart Route is completed?

Stop Press Time for Birmingham City Council cabinet to sign off  and approve scheme has now been extended to 17 March (Previously 17 Febuary)  We still need more time though.

Since writing this we have had a request for a template email to Mr Blakemore.  If you are here now because you are looking for this, here it is.  Template Email to John Blakemore re Acocks Green Smart Route time extension (This link is repeated at end of post)

Sadly, it seems to be time to say something more on the course of the Smart Route plans for Acocks Green.  The scheme to improve the layout of Acocks Green Village centre been under discussion in effect since 2005 when, after the euphoria of ‘saving The Green’,  local people began to think what else could be done to improve our village.   We needed to move our road system out of the 1970s.  We needed a less traffic orientated, more people friendly, more pedestrian friendly layout, to encourage people to travel less far and to use our village more often for shopping and socialising: use it or lose it: many local shopping centres are dying, and ours is currently under threat from a range of nearby supermarket schemes: Morrison’s on Shaftmoor Lane, due to start April 2014, Asda at Shirley Parkway, due to open soon, Tesco at South Yardley, already open.  Our 1980s village Sainsbury’s is relatively small by modern standards.   Studies show that ‘out of town’ supermarkets threaten the survival of local shopping centres.

Even before the supermarket worries added extra urgency though,  there had been meetings of various kinds at The Inn on the Green, at Acocks Green Library, at the Westley Arms,  with Council Cabinet members and with the Transportation Department itself in the City Centre.   Many local people may recall something-or-other which they went to, or read about.

An idea involving a single carriageway first appeared in 2007.   The project was put on hold in 2011, through lack of funding, but great was the excitement when new funding was confirmed from the national Sustainable Transport Fund in 2012 .Here is a description of the Acocks Green Smart Route scheme as it stood in the summer of 2013

By the summer of 2013 mostly (so we thought) the Smart Route was looking good.   As a pro Shared Space group it was certainly not everything we could ever dream of, but it was some of the way there:  a space that was pedestrian friendly, driver friendly, cyclist friendly, bus friendly … everyone friendly, less cluttered, easier for everyone to navigate and safer than our present layout. Highlights included:

  • New single carriage roadway from Sainsbury’s and onwards towards Solihull: the end to the dangerous ‘Brand’s Hatch’, speed-up  effect by Sainsbury’s which has caused serious accidents, like the accident to Birmingham Jazz musician Steve Ajao in 2005. A  speeding car collected Steve on its bonnet, on the zebra crossing in front of Safeway’s (now Sainsbury’s)
  • More facilities in the reclaimed space, including especially trees and car parking.  Lack of roadside car  parking has long been an issue in Acocks Green centre.  The hope was that more parking would encourage more local shopping.  Yes, many people walk to the centre.  Walking is good (so is cycling).  However, many other people do not shop in Acocks Green very much because it is not parking friendly.   Instead they drive through (if they do not live here) or  drive elsewhere to shop if they do.
  • A 20 mile an hour ‘zone’A zone is not the same as a limit.  A zone means that there are special physical traffic calming measures in force.   (These need not be humps, which are now seen as  slightly old hat.  There are better ways.)  A limit means that some signs are put up saying ’20 mph limit’ and we all cross our fingers in the hope that drivers take note of them.   For further discussion on the distinction between limits and zones see our page here – ‘Don’t Zap the Zone’

Many will now have seen the July 2013 plans, but if you have not, or want to refresh your memory, here again are the two July 2013 drawings for the scheme:

Acocks Green Consultation Smart Route July 2013 1 of 2

Acocks Green Consultation – Smart Route – 2 of 2 (July 2013)

What’s been happening since then?  Read on.

Parking

Until December 2013 we continued to believe in the increased amount of parking which we had been given to understand would be available – there were lots of blue strips on the much touted plans, showing where the new parking would be.

Smart Route Section July - enlarged to show parking - cropped

Then we discovered something so odd that at first we did not believe it: after all of this work the extra provision for parking would be 6 cars.  Could there be chevrons, we wondered?  Chevrons, we were told,  would increase the parking by just two spaces.  It gets worse.  We did our own count of the parking spaces available between Mallard Close and Oxford Road: counting both the Warwick Road and the service road:

Warwick Road car parking - service road NatWest etc - cropped

Warwick Road, showing – legal – parking on service road and main road – NatWest Bank/Lloyd’s Chemist etc area

There were spaces for 39 cars – ordinary sized cars.  (We counted mainly actual  cars but also obviously recently vacated car-sized spaces. )   How many spaces would really be available, by comparison,  in the new system we wondered.   We were told, on 17 December,  that a parking survey of the Warwick Road in Acocks Green had been carried out, and that we could have a copy.  So, in order to understand properly we obediently waited … and waited.   We sent a gentle reminder.  Eventually we put in a Freedom of Information Request.  The information finally arrived via the FOI request on 7 February.

This was not quite what we had expected at all.  According to this study there were 33 spaces in this patch, all 6 meters long.  The spaces were to be reduced however to 27 spaces.   Moreover,  according to the study overall parking in the centre was to be reduced from  72    to  68 spaces – see the handwritten note on the corner of the plan here (blue is now and red is proposed)  Incidentally, in the area where we counted cars there are also prominent one hour only signs … and spaces.  Kind of interesting that we had to put in a ‘Freedom of Information’ request to get this?

Smart Route - Parking Space reduction written- cropped

but … wait a minute.  If a traffic engineer thinks that our Acocks Green cars  are typically 6 meters long (Do they all live in Solihull?) and they think they are reducing our parking by 6 cars (i.e. 6 lots of 6 meters … how many spaces for Acocks Green cars (not some Solihull stretch  limos … ) are they actually taking away?  Remember they calculated 33 car spaces to one sample area, where we found 39?  Here is that long awaited study itself in its entirety:  Parking Count, Warwick Road, Acocks Green 

Now, they indicate, at least in this study (and we have had no message to say that it is wrong) that overall parking in Acocks Green is to be reduced  by four spaces, but that is if we have big cars.  How many spaces are we really loosing?

Finally on this point, here is our own video study of the parking in this area.  We videoed just the service road, which is shorter than the main road. We counted 16 cars, and spaces for more.  See what we mean?

Oxford Road/Warwick Road Junction

It gets worse.  We did make some suggestions after the July 2013 consultations.  In particular we suggested fewer sets of lights and instead a traffic calming arrangement at the Oxford Road/Warwick Road/Victoria Road junction.  This area currently feels unsafe to many.  A single carriageway will help, but this is still a difficult  junction.  Also a traffic calming measure here, near the entrance to our urban village would help reduce speed for the whole of this stretch of road.

Oxford Road Junction - approach into Oxford Road from Solihull direction

Oxford Road Junction – approach into Oxford Road from Solihull direction

Oxford Road Junction-2-cropped

Oxford Road/Victoria/Road/Warwick Road Junction

Many Acocks Green people will testify; entering and exiting this area can be nerve-wracking and local people often see broken headlight, or tail light glass.  It will be continue to be dangerous, even as a single carriageway.  This is a crossroads, with two minor roads entering what our traffic engineers always love to remind us is a ‘major arterial route’ into and out of Birmingham.

Suggestions have included a small traffic island and what is known as a ‘table’ – a low ramp into a leveled across area.  See this one in nearby Kineton Green Road in Solihull, near a school.

Smart Route - table crossing - Kineton Green Rd - cropped

Ramp ‘table’ – Kineton Green Road, Solihull.

It was claimed there is not enough space, and that to add an island here would remove even more car parking spaces.  ???  We would draw readers attention to the clearly visible amount of space in the two pics above of the Oxford Road area here.   It was grudgingly agreed that a physical obstruction of some kind could be the most effective measure.  Since then there has been only a deafening silence.  There seems no inclination to investigate this further … and the scheme is due to be signed off by Cabinet in a few days time now.

Twenty Mile Zone

Between July and November there was a proposed twenty mile an hour zone for the area (On the July plan it says limit/zone but the engineers explained to us why a zone would be better.) This was abruptly downgraded to a limit (signs only, no other measures) in line with plans for the rest of Birmingham.   We will now be dependent upon signs only for keeping traffic at a steady pace through the village.  See again the notes above on the Oxford Road junction and our page:  ‘Don’t Zap the Zone’

There seems little confidence in how safe this scheme is going to be: perhaps not surprising since the proposed 20 mph ‘zone’ has been downgraded to a 20 mph ‘limit’ which is statistically less safe.  Instead the scheme has recently been larded with some traditional and expensive safety measures.  We are to have two extra pelican crossings (one brand new one and one replaced on the Warwick Road near Victoria Road/Oxford Road.) We have previously been advised by BCC Transportation that these crossings cost around £100,000 each.   Also traditional pedestrian safety refuges have been added in in a number of places, also removing car parking spaces, we are told by the traffic engineers.  If the 20 mph signs are really so effective all by themselves then we should not need these.

Pedestrian/Cycle Path

We also discovered that, unbeknown to local people, who were not consulted, a brand new pedestrian/cycleway had suddenly nipped in from nowhere between July and October.

Here are the two sheets for the Autumn version of the design (Sheet 1 is from Station Road to Oxford Road, Sheet 2 is from Oxford Road and outwards to Dolphin Lane

Smart Route Design for AG – Aut 2013-1

Smart Route Design for AG – Aut 2013-2

Here is a close-up of part of that new cycle/pedestrian path.  Note part of the key has been left in below, so that the explanation for the pink sections is visible.

Smart Route - cyle-ped pathways - cropped

Q. But cycling is healthy and does not leave petrol fumes.  Shouldn’t we be encouraging more cyclists? 

A. Yes.  It would be good to encourage more cyclists.  We have fully supported the addition of Sheffield frame cycle stands for this reason.   Our concerns are not with having more cyclists in the centre of Acocks Green, but with the manner in which cyclists are being encouraged.  Discussions in meetings have revealed three areas of local concern:

  • This was introduced without local consultation.
  • This obviously requires a wide pavement.  Especially given the disparity in parking calculations we are still unclear whether or not this affects the amount of available car-parking the people who we need to encourage to shop here by making more parking available are not suddenly going to take to bicycles if parking is not available … they will continue to shop elsewhere.  We need to balance different needs, and, as noted above, we need to keep our centre alive against pressures from elsewhere.
  • Local people have expressed worries about safety aspects of the scheme.  Engineers told us that the hope was particularly to encourage ‘young cyclists’, although the area may be used by cyclists of any age.   School children were mentioned.  This would imply that the area is available for and intended to be used by people too young to have passed any kind of driving test.   Without particularly suggesting that today’s teenagers are worse than those of yesterday, teenagers are often naturally thoughtless, as anyone who has ever experience one riding fast at them on a pavement will testify!  (And we know there are some lovely, thoughtful teenagers out there, before one writes in … but we are generalising.)

We discussed these issues with a committee member of Brum Pushbikes, Graham Hankins.  Mr Hankins observed that one of the problems with pedestrian/cycle routes is that there is a tendency for cyclists, particularly younger ones, to then fail to observe the side roads at the end of a pavement stretch, and to then fail to take due precautions.  There are a number of such side roads in Acocks Green.  Much the same point is also made in Nottingham’s Cycling Design Guide 2006.

Nottingham Cycling Design Guide - Shared Footways - p. 20- croppedWe note that since this manual appeared eight years ago a plethora of shared cycle/footway schemes has appeared across the country in the past year or so.  There seems to have been insufficient time to test any of them very well, but the points made in the Nottingham Manual would not seem to have dated.  We also note the suggestion of a plateau at the entrance to the area, which is what we are calling for, near the entrance to the area, at Oxford Road.

Mr Hankins also pointed out that given that this part of the village is due to be becoming a 20 mile an hour limit area, again not very much confidence in the safety this offers is apparent.  Also, encouraging pavement cycling tends to re-enforce the idea that the road is a dangerous place: perhaps ultimately not such a confidence building measure for cyclists either!

 This brings us back to that lost 20 mph zone.  We have also suggested other measures which have been effective and popular for reducing speed elsewhere, and have been used successfully where there are cyclists around, like a median line (slightly raised strip) in the middle of the road. The Smart Route engineers tell us that in order to make the roadway safe for cyclists they would need to provide 4.5 meters of space, as against the proposed 3 meters, leaving less space for trees etc.  However, according to Manual for Streets 2.  this is not quite the whole story:

Manual for Streets p. 20 (Cycle lanes & Median Strips)-croppedAlan Young & Phil Jones, eds.,  Manual for Streets 2  ( Chartered Institution of Highways Engineers, 2010), p. 53.

In other words according to the handbook which these Smart Route engineers were actually referring to in July when they first talked with us, whilst it is correct that a 20 mph road which contains buses and HGVs will need to provide 4.6 meters clearance for cyclists, a simple central median line (of the kind now refused  because the area is no longer to be a 20 mph zone) can provide safety for cyclists at 3 meters or less.  Anyone who lives in Birmingham will tell you how busy Broad Street in the city centre is.  This is the Broad Street median, not a million miles away from where our engineers are based in Alpha Tower …

Broad Street median from MfS2-cropped(MfS2 p. 54)

Again, we were told this is not possible because we cannot have a ‘zone’ with traffic calming measures, but only signs.

We are aware that the shared cycle/pedestrian footway is a trial scheme, for six months.  If it is a ‘failure’  (How is ‘failure’ to be measured?) then the signs saying that cycling is possible will be removed.  The area will not otherwise be re-designed.  So that will be alright, won’t it.  No young cyclists will cycle there again once the signs have been removed, ever … will they?

Where do We go from Here?

At the moment the plans are supposed to be signed for and approved by the Birmingham City Council Cabinet on 17 March 2014, with a view to a May 2014 start.  The work is to then all to be completed by March 2015, or the grant money runs out.   Are we ready to start?  Is everything logical, clear and in the best possible interests of Acocks Green given the budget available?  Um, no.  This shocking conclusion at present seems to be the view of most Acocks Green groups and local politicians from more than one political party.

Since the government funding was clearly a government matter we decided to go to see ‘The Government’: well, to see our local Government representative.   Yardley MP John Hemming has been discussing the matter with Transport Minister Baroness Susan Kramer, who thinks there may be a window for extending the time period, since the funding for the Local Sustainable Transport scheme as a whole is being extended, though this will still depend upon available financing.  John Hemming is suggesting to Birmingham City Council Transport boss John Blakemore, that he asks the Transport Minister for another six months, until September 2014, so that now the problems now so abjectly apparent in the workings of this scheme in Acocks Green can be looked at again.  One thing is clear.  Once this road work is done it is done.  We won’t get another go, but Acocks Green people will have to live with this layout for decades to come – many people will probably not see another major alteration in their lifetime.

In 2005  Transportation boss John Blakemore, in a meeting after The Green was ‘saved’,  joked with us that the tornado which devastated the Ladypool Road curry houses ‘would not have dared to go to Acocks Green’. Let’s make sure a badly designed Smart Route doesn’t ‘dare’ turn up in Acocks Green, either.  Do you support a time extension to the scheme?  Well you could always drop a line to Mr Blakemore and tell him so: John.Blakemore@birmingham.gov.uk.

Since writing this we have had a request for a template email to Mr Blakemore.  Here is one.  Template Email to John Blakemore re Acocks Green Smart Route time extension

Glynn Edwards Hall p.a. Recommendation: Refuse

November 21st, 2013

STOP PRESS

 

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The planning application was withdrawn at the 11th hour, 24 hours before it was due to be debated (and no doubt shredded) at the Planning  Committee on 28 November 2013. The applicants finally lost their nerve.  They do not get the opportunity to submit another plan for free.  This was their second (and free) go after withdrawing last year.  There would be a large fee to pay now for resubmission.  

In effect this was the third go at demolishing the Glynn Edwards.  Drawings and a model which appeared in 2011 were again universally disliked by local people, by the Planning Department and Conservation.  That idea was dropped before it even turned up as a Planning Application.  The 2012 idea which went in as a Planning Application was also hated and despised and thoroughly criticised by local people, council officers and various Conservation groups including English Heritage.   After much obvious dithering the 2012 p.a. was finally shame-facedly  withdrawn after advice from the Planning Department that  it would go in to Committee as ‘Recommendation: Refuse’   Now this one, after going right up to the wire, is also dead.  (In effect, although we never count our chickens it was almost certainly dead in the water from the moment of the issue of the report which came out last Thursday.)

Apparently Acocks Green Baptists might be interested now in exploring other ways of improving the existing buildings.  Watch this space.

***

Glynn Edwards p.a. report - Recommend Refuse Nov 2013 - cropped

This is from the Planning Application report for the Acocks Green Baptists Application (p. 6) – hot off the presses this morning.  If you to read the whole report you can download it here: Planning Report re demolition Glynn Edwards Hall, Acocks Green, Nov 2013 – Recomend Refuse We go to Planning Committee next week, 11 a.m. Thursday 28 November were the fifteen Councillors on the Committee will hear our speeches opposing and the p.a. proposers speeches in favour.  They will then take a vote weighing those speeches and the report. Not over until the fat lady sings … vote should be taken by early afternoon on the 28th.   Be there if you want to help support by your presence: or follow the proceedings on-line on video.  (More details later.)

There were 89 letters of objection, 19 letters of support.  It is recorded that there was a petition of 316 signatures opposing.  There was a petition with 166 signatures in favour.  Neither the letters in favour (100% standard letters) nor the petition in favour mentions the ‘tiny’ little detail that the first line of the p.a. description says that this is an application to demolish the Glynn Edwards Hall.  Some people have since told us they did not understand what they were signing, or they would not have signed.

Do you want the Glynn Edwards Hall to become ‘Facilities’?

November 5th, 2013

Stop Press: Just before we start … if you are looking to comment on-line to the Planning Department, to have your opinion counted (They are counting the number of  for/against in the report to go to Planning Committee, 28th November,  now.)  then click here – look for the blue line ‘Add Comments Here’ if you would like to  then carry on to cut and paste to share those comments with us,  as well, in our own comments section then we would be delighted … but to be counted click above to make sure Justin at Planning sees!

Have you seen this yet?  (Double click to enlarge)

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Letter received in Douglas Road -  Oct 2013 - 'Hidden Passions'-cropped

You may have been the lucky recipient of this letter if you live in Alexander or Douglas Roads, or on the Stockfield Estate.

Did you know it was talking about replacing the building at the top with the one at the bottom here?

Collage - Glynn Edwards Hall & Proposed Replacement - 2013

Mmmm lets take a closer look at that leaflet  .. (Double click to enlarge)

Letter received in Douglas Road -  Oct 2013 - 'Hidden Passions'- cropped-1

What do we learn from this?  Someone is offering to ‘[...]  enhance our ‘spiritual, physical and mental well-being’ and ‘contribute towards the vibrancy of Acocks Green Community.’   In order to to these things they are going to provide a ‘[...] family Community Facility’.  This is a ‘[...] much needed development.’  It is hoped that [...] you would like to see this development take place’ and that you will want to help [...] secure planning permission for this development.’

OK – what have you learned from this?  Have you any idea at all what is being offered here?  Could you describe it in your own words?   We told that it is a ‘Family Community Facility.  We are told three times that it is a ‘development’ and also that it is ‘much needed’  What is much needed?  Since when did you wake up in the morning and say ‘I very much need a development to be built in my area in order to enhance my spiritual, physical and mental well-being’?  Er, precisely how is this ‘development’ going to do these wonderful things?

Let’s read on and have a look: (Double click to enlarge)

Letter received in Douglas Road -  Oct 2013 - 'Hidden Passions-cropped-2

What are the Benefits of a local Community Facility?
we are asked.

Ah, so now we are being offered a ‘Facility‘  Let’s read on.

‘The opportunity for the community to have something of its own’

Glynne Edwards Hall - Interior for Meeting 19.6.2012-3This would sound touching except that the community has had ‘something of its own’ since 1924 when the far sighted Rev J. Glynn Edwards decided that we needed a nice big light airy Hall to meet in, and carry out many community activities in – and we still do. This is a picture of an Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum meeting in the Glynn Edwards in 2012.

OK it doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to the Baptists.  Who do you think the new ‘facility‘ would belong to?  It would still belong to the Baptists but it is being set up in partnership with The Jericho Foundation – an employment training organisation and with Stockfield Community Association.  (See September 4 2013 Ward Minutes, p. 7, which you can download here. ) Ward Minutes 4.9.2013 – G.E. Hall Discussion The main functions would be to train for jobs in the catering training industry, with a cafe, a kitchen, a training kitchen, and computer training room.  There will be a very large entrance/reception/waiting area.  oh, and there would be a ‘community hall’ upstairs less than half the size of the Glynn Edwards Hall and some tiny rooms for community groups to hire.  Check out the floor plans here:(Double Click to enlarge)

Ground Floor Plan AG Baptists 2013

Ground Floor Plan AG Baptists 2013

and here (double click to enlarge)

First Floor Plan - AG Baptists scheme 2013- cropped

(The upper Arthur Moore Hall is also due to be renovated, but the additional new floor space will be smaller than The Glynn Edwards Hall.)

Lets read on again,  what else are we being offered?

Senior citizens, adults, teenagers and children can all have a piece of this great facility.

Er, wow … haven’t you always wanted a ‘piece of a great facility‘?  Note how, like ‘development’ this word is overused.  (Exactly how much further does this get us in information than the previous statement?)

A place to get support whether finding employment, further education or starting a business.

Ah-ha …  the first specific: it is an employment training centre, so quite possibly you will get some of that, although you can also presently get help with finding a job at the Yardley Friendship Centre, a few doors away … do we need two places offering this service so close?

Residents can come together as a group for:

Social Support

Public Information

Group Activities

Now that’s pretty cool – we can all meet  together and get information, talk about stuff, do things together … what a lovely idea.  Oh wait … we can do all those at The Glynn Edwards Hall, just like we have been doing since 1924.  check out the meetings there: public information at Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum meetings – with all sorts of informative talks (see  pic above) and at Ward meetings, group activities – Scouts, Pensioners, Weight Watchers, Mother and Toddler,  take your pick … but it will be cramped – fewer of us will be able to meet together and there will be less room for any sort of activities.

Oh look … there’s more:

And many other purposes that will enrich the lives of the residents.

Bet your life is feeling ‘enriched’ just thinking about it.  Bet you can’t wait for those ‘many other purposes’  … makes you want to sign that letter to get the lovely old Glynn Edwards knocked down right away so you can feat your eyes on the new ‘facilities’ thingy right now, doesn’t it?  Wondered why they say ‘many other purposes’ rather than telling us what these ‘purposes’ are?  Quite possibly because they haven’t a clue, and that was the best they could come up with?

And there’s more:

The chance to meet different people, make new friends, as well as learning about hidden passions and talents you may not have known you had.

Have you any idea at all what you are being offered that you cannot find in the present Glynn Edwards Hall?  This is a place where many of us have  come together as a community, over many years,  discovering (if you like) a previously ‘hidden passion’ for caring for our area, for preserving the more attractive parts of it, keeping them from uncaring developers and building towards a Conservation Area to further help protect Acocks Green from such developers -  a scheme that is likely to come to fruition by next April … if and this is a big if … if the Glynn Edwards is not demolished.  Otherwise the destruction of that little corner of Acocks Green, where the Conservation Area is due to be centred, and its replacement by the ugly building you see here could mean that the Conservation Area is cancelled – is off, is over,  doesn’t happen.  This was the warning from Joe Holyoak, Birmingham Conservation architect who is helping oversee the scheme at the last Acocks Green Ward meeting on 23 October 2013.  If we lose the Conservation Area we could lose other buildings round here which are only locally listed, or not listed at all.  They will not be protected either.   Which would you like to see go first: The Police Station, The Old Fire Station, The Great Western Pub (Not listed at all – note those great stained glass windows all nicely polished up now it is open again.)

Anything else on offer?

A local facility within easy walking distance easily accessible for those of age or within walking distance.

Perhaps English would help here?  A local facility for those of what age?  What is the function of the word ‘or’ in this sentence?

However, setting aside literacy issues, note you are again being offered a facility.  It is a ‘facility’ within ‘easy walking distance and easily accessible – Hello – The Glynn Edwards Hall is within easy walking distance and easily accessible  to those who have received this leaflet.

There is however a very good reason why we call the present building a ‘hall’ and why this leaflet burbles on merrily about a ‘facility’ or a ‘development’.  The ugly new building would remove the hall and replace it with employment training facilities which local people would be allowed to fit into, at a price. As they admitted at the Acocks Green Ward meeting on 4 September 2013, room hire fees to help pay that big two million pound development bill could be pricey)  as and when it was not in use by The Jericho Foundation.  They daren’t grace it with the name  hall because what would replace it would be far meaner and far more cramped, so they are struggling to think what to call it.

Are you still inclined to think that this new building is ‘much needed’?  Or do you think we need the old one more?  What can you do if you would prefer to keep the old one?  If you haven’t done so already please find a petition and sign it pronto (lots in local shops on the Yardley Road – laundrettes, florists, post officer, newsagents next to the Railway Station etc or in Acocks Green Costa) or please, even better dig out one of the model letters opposing the scheme which you have had delivered and bung it off to the address top right of the letter … or if you can’t put your hand on those letters you can still download this one, Letter to Justin Howell objecting to G.E. P.A. 2013 or, even easier, click here:  comment on-line on the plan to demolish The Glynn Edwards here - look for ‘comment on-line’    The plan goes to Committee on 28 November – a decision will be made then your letters, comments and petition signatures will be counted until a few days before, but hurry.  

Glynn Edwards Hall – Latest

October 25th, 2013

Glynn Edwards Hall - help!This planning application is to demolish the 1924 Grade A locally listed Glynn Edwards Hall and to replace it with a plain and featureless unemployment training centre.  The proposed centre has been repeatedly described by the applicants as offering ‘facilities’ but, as admitted in the Ward Meeting of 4 September 2013, it is scheduled to be operated in partnership with The Jericho Foundation who provide unemployment training, and it obviously structured around their needs with a large ‘training kitchen’ and ITC ‘training centre, in an area of higher than average employment for Brum.  The application is now likely to be heard by the Planning Committee on either 14 or 28 November when local people and conservationists will be presenting their opposition.  Watch this space.    For more on the background to this p.a., the struggle against it, the unconvincing rationalisations offered in its favour and images of the present and proposed appearance and street scene check out our previous post

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So far Birmingham City Council Planning Department reports being overwhelmed by the number of letters and comments it has received on this application – as per usual the popular Glynn Edwards building is attracting plenty of attention and Planning Department consideration of the application has therefore been put back beyond the usual statutory three week turn-around time.

Apart from comments by local people there are also three important objections from English Heritage  from  W. Midlands Victorian Society   and from The Twentieth Century Society

The seriousness of the position of this application in regard to Acocks Green’s planned Conservation Area was summed up by conservation architect Joe Holyoak at Acocks Green’s Ward meeting on 23 October 2013.  Joe has been working on a conservation scheme for Acocks Green.  He agreed that losing this building, which is fundamental to the appearance of the whole group of buildings on a prominent in the proposed area,  could help undermine the scheme for a Conservation Area.  Not having a Conservation Area will mean that Acocks Green’s buildings in general will continue to be helpless under many threats from developers: we are likely to lose more each year.  Loss of the Glynn Edwards could therefore  affect the whole future of Acocks Green.

This worrying scheme has attracted city wide attention and as  from Thursday 24 October there are also pieces in The Birmingham Post  and Birmingham Mail (25 October)  outlining the reasons for opposition to it.

If you were thinking of downloading our letter in order to send in an objection there is still time: the letter is available by clicking here:  Letter to Justin Howell objecting to G.E. P.A. 2013  or, if in a rush, you can object on-line to The Glynn Edwards Hall p.a. here (See ‘Add comments here’) Hurry though – a report is now being written and to help save The Glynn Edwards you do need  to get your objections in fast!

New Glynn Edwards Demolition Scheme. (Here we go again … )

September 15th, 2013

Yup.  The silly season comes late to Acocks Green.  The Glynn Edwards Hall Demolition Mob is at it again

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If you would like to have a look at the original application documents before you check out what we say about them below then they are all here

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However, we realise ploughing through that little lot  makes a lot of demands on people’s time, and we don’t all have a lot of spare time.  Therefore, for simplicity here are the existing and proposed front and side views.  We strongly suggest you double click for a larger view which will give greater clarity.)

Glynn Edwards Hall PA 2013 Present & Proposed Front Elevation - cropped
Now the whole street scene – existing and then proposed below (We strongly suggest you double click to view this at a larger size for more clarity.)

Glynn Edwards Hall Plans 2013 - East Street Elevation - Present & Proposed - cropped

Our Thoughts

The existing front view has greater unity with the church than the new one.  If you look at the door areas of both Baptist building you will see that both give a clear central focus.   This is lost in the design of the new hall.   However, it is the unity with the whole street scene  which becomes clear in the two line-ups immediately above, depicting the street scene.    In the first of these – the street scene as it is now – look at the striped black and white timber effect gable ends on the shops and see how these relate to the Glynn Edwards Hall … the architect had looked.   In the second line-up the bland and cheap looking replacement building looks a bit as though it has dropped from outer space/a bleak 70s estate?  This is the kind of thing you would walk past and, if you noticed it at all find yourself vaguely wondering what nice building it had replaced?

Lets now have a look at the side elevations – first as it is now, and then the proposed one – below.

Glynn Edwards PA 2013 - present & proposed side elevation - cropped

Our Thoughts

OK:  we are putting Frederick Andrews (Glynn Edwards design, 1924)  up against Naomi Fisher  (Designer of proposed replacement building for Glynn Edwards, 2013)

For those who recall her nightmare 2012 effort,  yes  Naomi’s design might be marginally better this time: at  least the colour matches the Arthur Moore Hall next door*  but see how Naomi’s new building is all about very flat plain rectangles.  Has Naomi really looked at the building she is placing her rectangular lump alongside?   The Glynn Edwards has  three curved windows along the side.  Frederick again had obviously looked at what was next door.  He had looked at that curved window at the top middle of the Arthur Moore and thought about how he could continue the style in the Glynn Edwards.   Also towers all round here are a theme – note (as Frederick obviously did)  how towers are echoed from the Police Station to the Arthur Moore.  There are two  tall towers on the church and then there are matching bell towers on the Glynn Edwards and the Church.  Also  the Arthur Moore is a highly ornamental building.  Frederick’s existing Glynn Edwards building next to it is also, in its own way, ornamental.  Naomi’s proposed new one is almost aggressively plain.  Yes, it might respectfully be  saying ‘I am not as important as The Arthur Moore.’ (A Grade II Statutory listed building.)  but doesn’t it also makes this corner a boring nonentity in the street scene.?

*Strictly speaking it is the small caretaker’s house, 2A Alexander Road, which is next door, but we hardly see it between the two halls.

Another Point …

G.E. Hall - Street Scene, Screen Shot - croppedHave a quick look at the scene on the right here.  What do you notice about the Glynn Edwards and the two big houses visible on Yardley Road … check out the gable ends … again this building was planned to belong in this scene.  Now look at the proposed one again!

Is this New Building Necessary?

Those of us who were present at the Acocks Green Ward  meeting (4 September) where the plan proposers attempted to justify their ideas came away somewhat mystified.    Many people at the meeting felt there was a lack of honesty – a sense of something not being said.  This complaint came both from the floor and from the councillors.  None of the plan proposers’  claims seemed to stand up to much examination.  We look at what their claims:

  • They Say: Glynn Edwards’ sister hall the Statutorily listed 1903 Arthur Moore is falling down. It urgently needs many hundreds of thousand pounds spent on it.  Re-building the Glynn Edwards will somehow finance this.  But some of us went round the Arthur Moore last summer and the repairs on the Arthur Moore have been costed (by Focus Group, members with a well respected Birmingham conservation architect (Joe Holyoak)  and the local MP (John Hemming) as witnesses, at around £120,000 to include attention to all breaches caused by damp – there are many – and a new Central Heating system.  It struck us very much that the Arthur Moore, although neglected and in need of TLC, was not falling down.  It is remarkably solid.  The plan proposers at the Ward meeting tried to tell us that there were more things wrong with the Arthur Moore than we had noticed, but (see our previous post) clammed up when asked for details, telling us this was secret and leaving Cllr Stewart Stacey concluding the discussion by asking the plan proposers to consider more transparency.
  • They say: Without demolishing the Glynn Edwards and re-building it to make money there is no money for any improvements at all. But Stockfield is well-funded and was originally going to buy a lease on the Arthur Moore to enable repairs. It can be proved from Companies House records that they have now spent more than £120,000 on plansMoreover  Companies House records show that the Heart of England Baptists Association has at least £330,000 in funds for building renovations.  HEBA reports a good year last year and it is currently trying to work out how to make application for funding for building projects even easier.  Lots of local churches had grants from HEBA last year.  (Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church was recently in receipt of £100,000 – see previous post for more details and downloadable HEBA report.)   When the HEBA position was put to the plan proposers they first denied it altogether and then began to suggest a kind of pride in not applying and standing by and allowing the Arthur Moore to crumble.  A shocked audience at the Ward meeting heard them imply that it was better to let this happen rather than simply  go to HEBA for help with the Arthur Moore.
  • They say: There is high unemployment in Acocks Green and we desperately need an employment training centre (which is mainly what it appears the new building would be).  But  this is simply not true.  In fact they were corrected by Cllr John O’Shea in the meeting.  Recent Council figures show that Acocks Green has lower than average unemployment for Birmingham.  Plus the unemployment training would appear to consist mainly of a catering training centre attached to a cafe (Does everyone in Acocks Green who is unemployed want to work in catering?)  and an IT training centre.   However,  £1,000 of Ward funds were, at the very same meeting,  awarded to Friends Centre providing IT training yards away on the Yardley Road.  (Incidentally, Friends Centre note that on their shoestring budget they are helping over 120 people a week, and also helping with job search)   On a grander scale Stonehall Adult Education Centre in Acocks Green Village  provides plenty of IT training at numerous levels and times, to suit all needs!
  • They say: Lots of groups in Acocks Green want small meeting rooms and there is a chronic shortage so small meeting rooms are being provided for hire.  But … no-one seems to have any idea who these mysterious groups who are so desperate for small meeting rooms and can’t get ‘em. There is already a small meeting room at 2A Alexander Road  which is used by some groups, but not 24/7.  Meantime quite a lot of smaller groups use The Hopkins Room at the Methodist Church, and the new room division at Acocks Green Library has created another smaller meeting room there.  There are a lot of very small rooms in the plan in the hope apparently (judging by the blurb) that  many of us will discover we are in need of either counselling or a ‘sports massage’ – hands up who wants the Glynn Edwards demolished so they can get a ‘sports massage’?
  • Mother and Toddler groups and Weight Watcher’s classes were mentioned as needed in Acocks Green.   But they forgot to mention that these are already provided in the existing Baptist buildings.
  • Smoking cessation clinics are also regularly mentioned as a need.  But GP surgeries in Acocks Green already seem to provide these … otherwise not a lot else is suggested by way of useful functions!
  • The various documents accompanying the plans nearly all seem to make huge play of the supposed need to make the Baptist buildings feel more logically connected and integrated,  But … um … why?

Moreover, it seems increasingly unclear how either Stockfield residents or the Baptist congregation are going to benefit from all of this.  The original plan to do up the Arthur Moore as a simple centre for Stockfield seems to have become lost under a welter of complicated ideas which don’t provide much more than the original envisaged meeting space at The Arthur Moore, unless we assumes that the small estate of 500 or so homes is in dire need of huge amounts of training for employment in the catering industry!  Meantime, Stockfield Committee has already handed over 120K to Naomi Fisher of Apec Architects – (who first suggested the employment catering training scheme at a tag of 2 million for the building and designs)   for useless designs, and Stockfield look set to hand over a lot more.  Perhaps Stockfield residents could think of other ways of spending these Stockfield Estate funds?   The Baptists may come off even worse, since it was admitted at the Ward meeting that they may then have to pay to use their own facilities!  There were several gasps at the meeting when this was admitted.

I want to stop this nonsense and help keep the Glynn Edwards.  How can I help?

Download your letter objecting to the 2013 application to demolish the Glynn Edwards Hall here.  To save time you can use the letter as it stands.  If you want to spend a bit longer then add your own comments or take any of the points off it, together with address and plan details, if you want to write your own letter.  Official closing date is 10 October but this will definitely go on longer, and objections will certainly be taken for a while after that.  Too busy for that?  You can email your objections in on-line here using the comments link to comment on the Acocks Green Baptist Buildings P.A.You can also use our ‘Contact us’  link on the right for information about other ways of helping, and watch this space for updates on the campaign.

Finally: A Special Contribution from Sixties Super Group, The Who

Because we couldn’t resist it, here is a catchy little sixties hit song, courtesy of The Who,  especially for our friends who are clearly so in love with the lovely Naomi’s demolition schemes for The Glynn Edwards that explanations elude them.   This rendition of the song really seems to encapsulate the ditzy mood of the Glynn Edwards Hall Demolition Mob at the Acocks Green September 2013 Ward meeting … bless!

The Secret of Arthur Moore Hall

September 5th, 2013

Arthur Moore Hall (Mike Byrne) - cropped

Acocks Green Ward Meeting 4 September 2013 certainly had its moments.  That was even without the councillors being startled by two passionately presented petitions on non Conservation related matters where usually there are no petitions: ‘It’s like buses, you wait for ages and two come together.’   Fortunately Acocks Green does passion though; we care about where we live.   Squeezed somewhat hastily into a corner of Acocks Green Baptist Church (The previously  advertised and famous Glynn Edwards Hall being suddenly and uncountably ‘double booked’ at the last minute’) the general public heard that the latest Glynn Edwards Hall demolition plan has just been delivered to Birmingham City Council Planning. (Not yet on weekly lists … we will let you know … )

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Now, one of the now standard justifications for demolishing the much loved Grade A locally listed Arts and Crafts Hall which makes an important contribution to the street scene on the corner of Yardley and Alexander Roads, is that somehow demolition will help protect its nearby sister Hall, the Statutory Grade II listed Arthur Moore Hall,  also part of the Acocks Green Baptist Church complex of buildings and which is undoubtedly in need of some TLC.    Here’s a couple of reasons why The Arthur Moore needs TLC:

Arthur Moore Hall - Damage to side window - cropped

 

 

This window has been in this state for a long time: it was photographed over a year ago, when it had probably already been like this for some time, and observed to be still broken on 4 September 2013.

 

 

 

 

Arthur Moore Hall - Poorly repaired chimney brickwork with plant growing out - colour intensified

 

And note this chimney … it has a shrub forcing apart the brickwork.  This why the chimney is damp inside the building.

 

 

 

 

The Arthur Moore is suffering from damp through lack of basic maintenance and attention to problems like these,  and it is clearly deteriorating because of these problems.   We first highlighted the problem with the chimney and the window, together with other problems like leaking guttering over a year ago, in the summer o f 2012 – see  our flicker file on our visit to the Baptist Buildings, summer 2012 It is notable that Nothing has been done since then.

So, we were unsurprised when sure enough the plan proposers came up with one of their favourite chestnuts:  ”The Arthur Moore is falling down, falling down …’   (It gets quite catchy, no?)  Er,, no it is not falling down.    We’ve looked all over it – every room and every part both inside and out,  with a leading Birmingham Conservation architect (Joe Holyoak)  and the local MP (John Hemming) .   Both have confirmed by email with us that the building is still remarkably solid, and that our estimate of  around  120K spending on it being required,  mainly because of damp penetration problems, but also because of needed improvements like a central heating boiler  is about right.    This could be done.   We  now know that The Heart of England Baptist Association, which covers Acocks Green,  has £330,00  in available  funds and gives out grants and loans for building repairs.  Last year, Yardley Wood had £1,000, Stechford had a £1 320  recently, Shirley had nearly £3,000 and Chelmsley Wood had a cool £100,000.  HEBA report on their good year and are looking at ways of streamlining their grant giving facilities …   See HEBA Annual Report 2012   We estimate that the work to the window, the chimney and a leaky gutter would come in at around £1,000, so why have Acocks Green Baptists asked HEBA for nothing?

We put all of  this to the Acocks Green Baptist committee delegates who admitted:

  • They had not carried out minor repairs because the congregation ‘could not afford’ them and no they had not approached HEBA for funds.
  • They appeared not to have discussed with the Acocks Green Baptist congregation their decision to leave the valuable and important  Grade II listed building with damp penetration whilst arguing for its sister hall, The Glynn Edwards, to be demolished in the (convoluted) process of paying for renovation for the Arthur Moore.

When asked about the possibility of approaching HEBA for £120,000 the response stunned the audience.  After hedging that HEBA had not got the funds (Yes it has. Their last report says so.)   The next reason offered was that  the building needed a lot more than £120,000 spending on it.    It was stated that our estimates were wrong.   It was a lot lot more.   (Think traditional builder sucking in of teeth.)    The next logical question was put: sock it to us then – what else then did the building need – we were all ears, so what were the other problems apart from damp?  John Daniels of Acocks Green Baptist Church  refused to answer.  ‘So it is a secret then?’  ‘Yes it is a secret’.

This was followed by cries from a stunned audience.  ‘Why is it a secret’?   Mr Daniels, looking rather (as one member of the audience noted later) as though we had asked him the colour of his underpants continued to defend his personal ‘secret’ in the face of our outrageous nosiness.  He didn’t have to say he blurted out, looking slightly red faced.  Eventually he came up with if he told us we might ‘nit pick’.

Mmmm up to this point the audience had possibly been wondering whether the Arthur Moore got a particularly embarrassing form of fungal infection, that is best not discussed in public?  But  ‘nit pic’???  The Arthur Moore has nits???  Ah well, in the days of the nitty Nora nurse that was maybe a bit … Poor Arthur Moore Hall.

So now we have ‘The secret of Arthur Moore Hall’  a truly Gothic little mystery concerning another much loved and (ever so slightly) crumbly, atmospheric 1903 Grade II listed building with, a number of winding passageways and,  it seems, Acocks Green’s own dark secret.

The discussion turned to the consistent and puzzling evasiveness of the plan proposers.  As one member of the audience put it in this whole saga,  ‘Something seemed to be not being said.’  (‘With them it’s like un-peeling an onion layer by layer.’ one politically  experienced member of the audience noted later.)   Someone else observed that The Glynn Edwards was a ‘running sore’ in the community.    Cllr Stewart Stacey (Lab Acocks Green) decided that enough was enough.   The plan proposers he said needed to be more open and transparent in order for the neighbourhood to have a proper dialogue with them.  So far this had not happened.

Will we get more transparency?  Watch this space.