Fox Hollies Leisure Centre Footpath: The Saga

These days we hear much about the need to keep fit, and the majority of the population are overweight. Answers? Well working out at the gym, exercising and swimming all have a lot to be said for them, and this is widely approved by doctors, who now even ‘prescribe’ gym and exercise sessions. Those living in, and near, Acocks Green are lucky. We have excellent gym facilities and our own swimming baths at Fox Hollies Leisure Centre The centre is somewhat away from the centre of Acocks Green. How to get there? Well, some have cars, and some live on a convenient bus route. Others, particularly those living (ironically) on Fox Hollies Road and anywhere on the Number 11 bus route are, these days, not so lucky. The walk to reach the centre from the Green is a long one. The Council took this into account when the centre was opened and there is a handy path which runs between Fox Hollies Road and Fox Hollies Leisure Centre – see that little blue parking symbol below – the path runs straight along from there, on Fox Hollies Road, until it crosses to the tarmacked area by the running track – you will see a faint diagonal line. It then runs through the tarmacked area, with the running track on one side, till it gets to the Leisure Centre.

Um, there was a path here. Now it is difficult for many of us to use the centre, because the path, see above, for its present sad and neglected state, has now been closed for five years. How so? Well, the path runs between the Leisure Centre and the school. We have had a correspondent who has, helpfully, supplied us with a detailed account of events and a dossier. Here are two letters from Ninestiles Head Teacher, Christine Quinn. First a Circular Letter from re Fox Hollies Leisure Centre Path This letter is apologising to Leisure Centre users for the closure of the path, because the path is becoming dangerous and needs repair works. ‘Uh-hu O.K. fair enough.’ you might think. Matters then took an unexpected turn. We understand that funding for the necessary repairs was offered by Acocks Green Ward Committee. However, this money was withdrawn after it lay unused for a long period. What followed is shown in a second letter, addressed to Hall Green M.P. Steve McCabe.From C. Quinn to Steve McCabe This offers a whole range of reasons for not re-opening, which, surprisingly, are not connected to the first letter. Instead, in this letter the benefits that result from the construction of the school’s security fence are referred to as though they are part and parcel with the, much later, closing of the footpath. We are advised that, before this a holed wire fence, at the edge of the footpath meant that local teenagers were using the playground in the evening. After the construction of the security fence this ceased to be an issue … then, sometime later, the path was suddenly closed. Then … the playground was also moved, its previous location swapped for that of a car park.

Below is a diagram by our frustrated leisure centre user, who would like to use this path, showing the present (i.e. 2012) layout of the site, showing that the car park now stands where the playground used to be, next to the path, and showing where a by pass fence could go. ) To view this much larger, simply double click on the diagram.)

Our correspondent, and diagram drawer, writes

This would be quick, cheap and, if necessary, reversible. I reckon that public access to Fox Hollies Road and the Outer Circle bus route could be restored within two days. It would be a positive step forward to get this or a similar scheme costed so that sensible cost-benefit discussions can be had.

Next is anEmail from acting constituency Lewis Cashmore Of this email our informant is scathing, remarking:

It seems they tried to deflect the councillor into discussion of the original alignment and then declared that there were ‘no funds available’ to do it. I’m not a Civil Engineer but there seems to be an element of horse feathers in this analysis. How is it that the footpath is ‘waterlogged’ and it is four feet above the Ninestiles car park, which isn’t? I was tempted to call Severn Trent to report Mr Cashmore’s ‘ruptured water main’ myself. I believe the truth is that a change of elevation between the Leisure Centre and the (old) playground was implemented by a sloping earth bank covered with concrete slabs and over the years rainwater eroded the earth behind the slabs.

The next link is to an email from the same Hall Green Councillor to whom Lewis Cashmore’s email is addressed. It is clear that he has been told that the footpath was closed because of drug selling and anti-social behaviour … er? Bemused? So are we!

In regard to the photograph supplied above our correspondent writes

You may hear that the ‘footpath is in a bad way’. In fact the footpath itself is in quite good condition (it’s had a six year rest). It is the embankment that is damaged, but even that has deteriorated little. I attach a photo of the footpath taken through the barrier that Ninestiles welded across the north end. You can see parts of the edge crumbling where the embankment has fallen away. The bypass route would run just to the left of the photo. Notice all the unused space on the other side of the left hand fence.

In conclusion our informant says:

You may hear that ‘nobody from Fox Hollies Road wants to use the LC. Two years ago a hole was made in the fence next to the footpath gate and apart from a steady flow of youths going to the six-a-side pitches there were couples and complete families (Mum, Dad, and 2.4 kids) going through to get to the LC. Eventually a new fence panel was welded in to stop people getting in.

This issue has probably taken on a life of its own, but if Ninestiles think rationally there are benefits to the by pass fence. Firstly they get the whole matter off their backs without spending a penny. And secondly they can presumably stop opening their gates to junior schools (as is currently happening) and direct them to the access way instead.

Food for thought? We are not civil engineers either, but, as far as we can see, the proposed ‘by pass fence’ is feasible and would restore proper access rights to the people of Acocks Green (and Hall Green.) who are also Council Tax paying citizens of Birmingham. A great deal of money has been invested, over the years, by Birmingham City Council, in these facilities, with the intention of making them available to local people.

What do people think? Would you like to see this path re-opened. Are you inconvenienced by its closure? Your views would be welcomed.

Update

The Path was re-opened in May 2014. Thanks to Cllrs John O’Shea and Stewart Stacey for allocating budget funds, and to Cllr Iain Bowen earlier for being willing to listen to problems and to add the matter to Ward meeting agendas … shows what a bit of local persistence can achieve!

 

6 Responses to “Fox Hollies Leisure Centre Footpath: The Saga”

  1. beresford says:

    In this year of the Olympics and the Paralympics, it is to be hoped that our councillors will recognise the importance of fair and sensible access to Birmingham’s sporting facilities for all, regardless of mobility.

  2. beresford says:

    Have the councillors considered applying for Lottery funding to restore public access? There seem to be two possibilities, ‘Small projects that provide a large benefit to the community’ or ‘Projects that increase participation in sport’.

  3. JACQUELINE ROBINSON says:

    Hi I had been fighting for the reopening of the Fox Hollies gate near to no 11 bus stop to be re opened for years, I believe that it has now been opened but I was given many excuses similar to those mentioned in the article. What amused me most was the “it’s closed to stop drug dealers coming in” which I considered stupid and I was dismayed by Ms Quinn’s lack of drug safety awareness. I then went round the centre towards the Shirley Road entrance and noticed children in Ninestyles uniforms stood around a car on the car park. They left but it was not long until a couple of more children arrived…. I made the assumption (I had seen drug deals take place in the past) that I had witnessed at least 2 drug deals. YES I did telephone the police as soon as I got home.

  4. John O'Shea says:

    I suppose I should point out that after years of inactivity, Cllr Stacey and I managed to find the funding to create a slightly diverted path – it leaves the Fox Hollies Road/Shirley Road path slightly further along and runs straight down beside the running track to the side of the school. This avoids problems with subsidence reported on the old path and minimises our costs. This was done within budget and completed earlier this year. Hopefully, we should be able to find the budget this year to have the path signed from Fox Hollies Road. Job done.

    • Julia says:

      Yes indeed. Thanks for pointing this out John, and apologies for slightly tardy update here, although updates were made elsewhere at the time (e.g. Twitter and The Re-Stirred.) Trouble is not always quite enough hours in the day – especially when people keep on wanting to demolish The Glynn Edwards Hall …

  5. beresford says:

    Being pedantic, the update says it was reopened in 2014 whereas in fact it was 2013. After a year of use, the sky hasn’t fallen in as claimed by those who wished to prevent public access, and a lot of time has been saved for Leisure Centre users. I look forward to the signage returning as mentioned by Cllr O’Shea.

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