The state that we are in

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Don’t we deserve to know what the hell is going on?

I’m pleased to note that despite the celebratory tones of a report in the Express & Star a couple of weeks ago, Walsall Council are reinforcing the hard line taken on the owners of the derelict eyesore in the middle of Brownhills, Ravens Court, with a strongly worded press release issued a couple of days ago.

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I fail to see the great leap forward. From the Express & Star, Wednesday 26th November 2014.

I covered this recently (as I have been doing for five years) and the claims of UKIP Councillor for Brownhills, Steve Craddock who says he and former Tory Regeneration Leader Adrian Andrew facilitated some kind of deal with the owners of the precinct to submit a planning application for renovation or redevelopment ‘in the new year’.

To anyone who has been following this sorry saga, it seems reasonably clear that the owners would have made this promise anyway, in order to forestall legal action by Walsall Council,  forcing them to clean Ravens Court up and secure it.

The powers the Council have to actually force action are very limited, but any gesture to coerce  remediation is welcome.

I’d really like to invite Steve Craddock, Adrian Andrew or indeed, the site owners Lightquote (or their agents) to explain a few things, because I, and many others, are having difficulty understanding what’s actually happened.

My issues are as follows:

  • The owners have had several years to submit an application – they haven’t. Why?
  • Ravens Court has been allowed to fall into disrepair and degenerate into a state in which nobody would want to rent a unit there. Why?
  • If the owners really care for Brownhills and the fabric of Ravens Court, why not do the minimum to clean it up and make it good? Why has there been no previous gesture to do this?
  • Through the inaction, the local economy of Brownhills has suffered. There seems to be no intention to acknowledge this or recognise the effect the dithering is having on our community. Is the harm this situation is causing understood?
  • Why let volunteers in the form of the Brownhills Town Centre Partnership and local traders beg for the resources to clean up a mess that belongs to you just so we can have a Christmas event? Wouldn’t a conscientious landlord have helped here?

I remain concerned about the future of Ravens Court, and if I or others with a semblance of critical thinking are to believe the vague promises made, I’d really like to see some valid commitment. The floor is open here as it always is.

You can comment here directly, or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Please, meet us halfway. Talk to Brownhills properly and directly, not through a gatekeeper. Explain to us explicitly the delays, prevarication and inaction since Tesco called the party off. This may not matter to you – Brownhills is a tiny town miles from your head office in London – but the resolution of this mess is crucial to our future.

I look forward to a reply.

Surely, with a decent renovation and some decent tenants this could be earning money rather than rotting away?

Walsall Council wrote:

Walsall Council could take action against the owners of the Ravenscourt Shopping Centre in Brownhills if plans for its redevelopment are not submitted in the next 6 months.

The local authority has set the deadline in a bid to press the owners into action, after concerns were raised over its dilapidated state.

More than 500 people have signed a petition calling on the local authority to compulsory purchase the site after swarms of traders vacated the precinct.

Tesco had plans to purchase the site and expand its superstore in the High Street, but shelved plans a couple of years ago. The centre has been in a state of disrepair ever since. Fly-tipping and graffiti are just some of the concerns raised by locals and traders.

Regeneration officers are in ongoing discussions with the owners of the precinct to bring forth plans for its redevelopment, but have confirmed their intentions to serve a section 215 notice in 6 months time should proposals stall.

Cabinet will be asked to support this recommendation on Wednesday evening, 17 December.

Councillor Mohammad Nazir, Walsall Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, said: ‘There is no proposed scheme at this stage and no imminent plans to demolish the centre. I will be recommending to my Cabinet colleagues that officers continue to work with the owners of Ravenscourt Shopping Centre in a bid to improve the appearance of the precinct but if that fails, we will adopt the planning committee resolution to carry out enforcement action.

‘It is in everybody’s interests that we find an achievable solution for the centre but we won’t allow the situation to continue indefinitely.

“The ball is firmly in the court of the owners. We have spelt out our intentions and so it’s now up to them to come forward with their proposals.’

A planning application will need to be submitted 6 months from the date of the Business, Employment and the Local Economy Scrutiny and Performance Panel on 24 November 2014.

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It’s common to blame the Council or Tesco for the state of Ravens Court, but as this Walsall Council document shows, neither own it.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Express & Star, Followups, Interesting photos, It makes me mad!, Just plain daft, Local media, Local politics, News, Panoramio photo discussions, planning, Shared media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Council | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the Tory?

According to Ian Anderson, he who made kittens also put snakes in the grass. How true. Image by DevilDucMike.

According to Ian Anderson, he who made kittens also put snakes in the grass. How true. Image by DevilDucMike.

Last week I pointed out that there was to be a selection meeting at Aldridge Brownhills Conservative Association last Saturday (13th December 2014) to pick the replacement Tory candidate for Parliament in 2015, following the standing down of Richard Shepherd, who’s retiring from his 36 year tenure at the next general election.

There appears to be something rotten in the State of Aldridge as I’m hearing that the selection meeting was cancelled ‘until the New Year’ due, apparently to ‘issues being raised’. What those issues are is somewhat opaque, and I’m wondering if anyone out there can help?

Fortunately a few bad pints around particular drinking haunts in Aldridge on Sunday yielded some information from the usual drunk bar-room foghorns, but I’d really appreciate a statement from the party to put our minds at rest that the next PPC is being selected in accordance with the wishes of the local party and is a fully democratic and transparent process.

At the time, I pointed out that the selected candidate – most likely to be our next MP due to the huge current Tory majority of over 15,000 – was a choice between three parachuted-in candidates from elsewhere, and local man and popular Walsall Councillor, Marco Longhi.

It's all going swimmingly with the Aldridge Brownhills Conservative candidate selection. Image from Isna.

It’s all going swimmingly with the Aldridge Brownhills Conservative candidate selection. Image from Isna.

I am, as I stated at the time, very much at odds with the Councillor politically. He’s a Tory, after all; but I’d much rather, if we have to have a Tory, that it was a local man who cares about and understands our area than some unknown like Shepherd was, or many of the prospective candidates (Tory and Labour) who’re standing in local wards in 2015.

One only has to look at the arse Tory PPC Douglas Hansen-Luke keeps making of himself in Walsall North demonstrating his ignorance to see what I mean. I’m still not convinced the ex financial fat-cat isn’t a parody, to be honest.

From what I can tell, there seems to be some disquiet over one particular candidate, who seems to have an intriguing electoral history. Wendy Morton stood for the marginal seat of Tynemouth in the 2010 election, and in a year when possibly the most hated Prime Minster for decades was cut down, she actually managed to decrease the Tory share of the vote by 2.2%.

There seems to be an existing history of parachuting Wendy in against local wishes, as this article shows. Local voters and activists here don’t seem too happy either, as this comment on ConservativeHome indicates:

I’m not a party member but have always voted for Richard Shepherd and helped my friend who is an activist and executive member to deliver leaflets. You have your views I’ll stick to mine – I ACTUALLY live in the constituency do you?! I’m affected by the decision to replace Richard Shepherd and fundamentally believe that the best people to represent us are those who know the area and it’s needs. You talk of attempts to smear a good candidate yet I’m told that the local guy (who isn’t my own local councilor) is being smeared by those that run the party locally.

If this is true I will never ever vote conservative again and neither will my family – no wonder so many Tory voters are switching to ukip – increasingly out of touch, aloof, and not on the side of the vulnerable.

This seat is by no means safe any longer and that is why a local candudate is needed. Forget the majority vote last time – that was for Richard – next may will be very different with a ukip surge in a euro sceptic seat.

So, are we being stitched up for our next MP? Why would the central Conservative Party want this apparently mediocre candidate here? Who’s favour might be being sought, and why?

Richard Shepherd, already sweetened with a knighthood, may well be looking on with concern – or maybe not.

If you have anything to say, you can do so in confidence: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. A statement from the local party would be wonderful if they’d like to correct the rumour, sigh and gossip that’s circulating.

I shan’t hold my breath, because remember, this isn’t about us.

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May 1991 – Walsall Wood Police Boxing Club big success – but will it continue?

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Brownhills Gazette May 1991 issue 20 – 20 pages of of more general community matters this month – the Boxing Club still exists, is successful and very, very well respected.. Please click for a larger version.

Continuing the scans of the Brownhills Gazette – I present issue 20 of the long lost freesheet, from May 1991 for you to peruse and download. I’ve had an incredible response to featuring these long, lost publications here on the blog.

David Evans, very kindly granted access to the archive held by former editor and contributor Brian Stringer, has been assiduously and conscientiously scanning them all. Every single issue. Every few days, I’m going to feature the next in the series.

In this issue, there’s concern over a local boxing club, that happily survives (and is a great success) to this day – theres an award won by the posties in Brownhills Sorting Office, poetry from Stella M. Hodgkiss, The Memo’s 65th anniversary and a fascinating Disability Sports Day.

Brian Stringer was a brilliant editor who still knows his stuff, and campaigns relentlessly for the place he loves. Brian was clearly working hard and getting into his stride here.

The history of how the Brownhills Gazette came to exist has been detailed in this post thanks to the wonderful John Sylvester.

If other bloggers want to use this material, can you please drop me a line first? I don’t mind, there’s just sone stuff I’d like to clear about the usage, thanks.

Cheers to Brian and David for sharing a wonderful thing, that’s part of our community history.

If you have any memories, questions or observations please do comment or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Brownhills Gazette issue 20 May 1991 – PDF format

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Just look at those haircuts!

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A remarkable Walsall WOod FC photo from the 70s; it’s labelled ‘Walsall Wood Midland Combination, division 1.’ The people featured are back row T. Holding (Manager), B. Jones, C Jones, B. Williams, R. Tranter, A. Lake, B. Knight and front row A. McGregor, A. Pye, S. Philpots, D. France, R. Heathe, J. Gough. Photo kindly supplied by Clive Roberts.

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The rear of the above photo: No idea who W.D. Pitts is/was. Image courtesy of Clive Roberts.

Today, I did a deal with Walsall Wood historian and author Clive Roberts – he sent me scans of the above wonderful 1970s photo of a Walsall Wood Football Club team lineup, and said I’d happily point out that Clive’s latest book ‘Snippets of History in and around Walsall Wood’ is still available with new stock now at Egans grocery shop in Brownhills High Street.

The photo we know little about other than what’s written on the back – it looks classic 1970s with some great hair – particularly on the front row, and we invite comment and contributions. It’s a cracker, sourced apparently on eBay.

Clive’s latest book is a great follow up to his previous work ‘Snippets of local history in and around Shire Oak‘, which went down well with locals and soon sold out. The Walsall Wood book has had a very warm reception indeed, and I recommend you bag a copy if you haven’t already.

You can read my review of ‘Snippets of History in and around Walsall Wood’ here – it’s a fine work I’m happy to have in my collection. It would also make a bostin’ Christmas present for anyone interested in the history of Walsall Wood…

I will repeat this until I’m blue in the face: grab these local history books while you have the chance. There are so often printed in short runs, and soon become rare. I get continual enquiries for past books, and people end up paying fortunes for them on eBay and the like once they’ve sold out.

You know the drill: Comment here, please or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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A new history book for Walsall Wood, by a local man. Some wonderfully off-beat stuff in here – and only £8. What’s not to love?

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Burntwood Lantern Parade and Christmas Fayre at Chasewater this evening!

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Chasewater is wonderfully atmospheric in the evening.

Here’s a further chance to get into the Christmas spirit this evening (Sunday 14th December 2014) –  there’s the Annual Burntwood Lantern Parade and a Christmas Fayre being held at Chasewater Innovation Centre.

Burntwood Christmas Lantern Parade and Chasewater Christmas Fayre are taking place this evening (Sunday 14th December 2014) from 5pm until 7:30pm, with the Lantern Parade itself at 5pm.

Sharon Whitchurch, chair of Forward Action Burntwood who are organising the lantern parade, said: “We are looking forward immensely to hosting our parade this year.

‘As always, it promises to be a truly magical way to begin your Christmas preparations, regardless of your age. Many people in Burntwood have said that it has become their new tradition and marks the start of Christmas in their house.’

An annual Christmas fayre will take place on December 14 from 5pm, featuring stalls, the chance to meet Santa and take a steam train ride.

At the Fayre visitors can browse a range of jewellery, and crafts from local sellers and children can meet Santa on the day and take a ride on the steam train.

County councillor Mark Winnington said: ‘Chasewater is a great attraction that comes alive at Christmas and I would encourage people to get themselves along and get into the Christmas spirit.’

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The magic of Christmas

I have to congratulate the people who worked so hard on Brownhills Christmas Market – I went yesterday, and it was a joy to see Brownhills so busy once more – considering the majority involved were volunteers and on a tight budget, this was an excellent event and I thank you all for your hard work.

Brownhills Town Centre Partnership did well.

My photos were awful, but the Young David Evans popped on his Santa hat and had a mosey round and took some excellent images. A great event, and I look forward to the mini-keg of Backyard’s Hoard settling in the kitchen… top Brownhills ale.

Cheers to David and all who worked so hard.

The market is on today too, and runs until 4pm.

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On form Wood dominate Loughborough

Yesterday afternoon, (Saturday, 6th December 2014), Walsall Wood FC entertained Loughborough University at Oak Park, and I think it’s fair to say the Woodmen dominated the students.

Bill Shaw submitted the following match report:

Hiya Bob,

Wood recorded their second double of the season with this defeat of the students, who but for keeper Jake Weekes could have been hammered.

Walsall Wood 3 v 0 Loughborough University

Keeper Weekes made his first great save on 14 minutes, going full length to deny Joey Butlin. The relief was shortlived as a minute later a neat interchange wide left saw the ball played inside to Max Black to open the scoring with a scorching low drive. 3 minutes later Leon Taylor rounded the stranded keeper only to be stopped on the line by Adam Kana-Ah. On 27 minutes Andre Gonzales put Corey Currithers in on goal, Weekes saving with his legs.

The students first attempt on goal came on 36 minutes, Tom Reads shot stopped by Jamie Sauntson. 6 minutes later Josh Hill crossed from wide left, Ben Ward-Cochrane’s low drive bringing a full length save from Mario Kisiel.

A minute later Black raced onto a ball through the middle, Weekes pushing his low drive to the right, then getting up quickly to twice block goalbound efforts from Taylor. From the corner the ball was cleared to Black whose first time rising drive bounced to safety off the bar with Weekes beaten.

Wood dominated play at the start of the second half, with Currithers, Black and Ben Evans being denied, until on 64 minutes Black intercepted a ball on halfway and raced for goal before releasing Currithers into the box to make no mistake as he stroked the ball past the advancing Weekes.

It was all wrapped up on 71 minutes, Gonzales came out of defence with the ball to halfway before finding Butlin wide left, his cross was cut out by Weekes and a defender who got in a tangle, Taylor charging down the keepers attempted clearance that ricochetted into the empty net to give the scoreline a more realistic look.

The students had 2 chances in the last 15 minutes, Ben Ward-Cochrane having a shot deflected wide and then firing a first time effort just too high.

So it’s 16 points from the last 18 in the league for Wood as they continue their climb up the table.

It’s Kirby Muxloe away next Saturday before they entertain high flying Boldmere St. Michaels on Boxing Day.

Bill Shaw.

My thanks to Bill for a great report – and for all those he selflessly writes and send to me after every match. They really are popular, and a credit to Bill and the club. Walsall Wood have a reputation for being a great, community spirited group of people and these reports demonstrate that – it’s an honour and joy to feature them here.

For the good of the Wood!

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