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Solihull Castle Brom, Kingshurst, Chelmsley Wood, Smith’s Wood and Marston Green

JUNE 2017

Other Side Of

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Why there’s no exhausting Austen!

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Grenfell tragedy prompts local checks

Delayed parade upgrade agreed RADICAL plans to redevelop Kingshurst Parade are finally moving forward, although questions remain about how the work will be funded and when it is likely to start. This month, Solihull Council outlined a £21million project to replace the ageing shopping precinct, which has become more and more run-down and been hit by dwindling visitor numbers. Plans to rebuild the Parade have been under discussion for several years, but a series of delays have left local residents increasingly frustrated. There was further concern last year, when it

was suggested that one of the options under consideration would be a more modest plan to refurbish the existing site. After seeking the views of hundreds of people, the council conceded that the clear majority were in favour of the Parade being completely demolished and replaced with a new development, which the local authority claim will be fit for purpose for the next 50 years. The scheme which has now been drawn up would include a new medical centre, the creation of a community hub – including a library and offices – 2,000 square metres of retail space and residential units.

Councillor Debbie Evans (UKIP, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) said the redevelopment was “long overdue”, but argued unanswered questions were still causing anxiety in the local area. “There is a lot of rumour and innuendo going about, in particular [from] the shopkeepers and I daren’t go shopping on Kingshurst Parade at the moment because I’m hauled into every shop that’s going. They are concerned having looked at the rough outline that they will not be housed in the village centre. Now, I need to reassure those shopkeepers that everyone who has been loyal to Kingshurst... will get a place.” Coun James Burn (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said: “It is really good to get this report to reassure the community that things are moving forward. “I’m really pleased as well that the community have been listened to... they’ve said overall they would like complete demolition and that’s what’s being proposed.” Councillor Ken Hawkins, previously cabinet member for environment, housing and regeneration, described the development as “a good investment for the north of the borough”. “Detailed work is being done to look at the plans and costs and see if we can bring them down,” he said, acknowledging the current shortfall in Africa’s Thinius Delport were also involved in the day’s funding. training. A public consultation Maxine Bromley, the Grace Academy’s family support exercise will begin next worker, said: “Watching the students as they participated month, with more in the master class with Jonny and the team was truly detailed plans set to delightful. Memories were made that day that will last a go back to cabinet in lifetime.” November.

Students line up with rugby champ Jonny TWENTY-two students from a Chelmsley Wood school have received a pointer or two from one of Britain’s bestknown sportsmen. The group from the Grace Academy won a prize draw to have a master class with former English rugby international Jonny Wilkinson. England ladies full back Danielle Waterman and South

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Page 2 Other Side of Solihull

National news strikes local chord IN recent years, the local press has become rather too eager, in my view, to latch on to every national news story going. Papers in Birmingham or Barnsley or Bristol regurgitate events in London which don’t have the slightest connection to their own patch. In fact media outlets rushing to put stories on their website because they believe that words such as “terrorist” are likely to generate a lot of traffic is part of the reason that a lot of actual local news is being neglected by already overstretched newsrooms. Nonetheless, there are – now and then – stories which are so important that the ramifications are felt across the entire country. The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower earlier this month – in which scores of

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR people died – is the sort of event that we would be foolish to ignore. Partly because some of the emotions that have arisen in the days and weeks which have followed have real resonance in North Solihull. I think particularly of residents’ anger that they were ignored by those in power and the wider concerns about the yawning inequality between different groups of people who live in spitting distance of one another. There is also the uncomfortable fact that thousands locally live in tower blocks and are inevitably going to be worried about their own safety. Solihull Community Housing – to its credit – has moved quickly to arrange inspections and try to reassure tenants

l All ale the new bells! WORK on installing the new set of bells at St Mary and St Margaret’s Church, Castle Bromwich, is to start next month. The new frame is currently being constructed at Taylor’s Bell Foundry, Loughborough, and fitting is expected to begin on July 17. The bellringers have also confirmed they have commissioned Birmingham-based Two Towers Ale to brew a golden summer ale to celebrate the restoration.

that the cladding which caused the fire to spread so quickly in London has not been fitted to any local buildings. That said, for a mum with small children living on the 14th floor of a Chelmsley Wood tower block, no amount of activity is going to entirely banish her fears. This is why it is important that concerns that have been raised about sprinkler systems or access for fire engines [see our story on page 7] are given proper consideration. Because one thing’s for sure, the nightmarish events in the capital have demonstrated that whether it’s cuts in council budgets, sneering at health and safety regulations or the housing market being treated as a business commodity, we just can’t go on as before...


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Emma Hughes – baked bean bather An unusual way to cool off? Indeed, Emma Hughes recently slipped into a tub of tomato sauce to raise money for the Caudwell Children charity. That must have bean a bit of an ordeal? The 44-year-old, from Chelmsley Wood, admitted she was “quietly dreading” the challenge and would wear socks so she couldn’t feel beans between her toes. Nonetheless, she completed the quick dip in the town’s shopping centre earlier this month.

l Peahen takes up residence RESIDENTS in Chelmsley Wood have been surprised to see a rather exotic visitor strutting around the estate. The West Midlands-based Pets & Animals Lost & Found have said they had received a number of reports in relation to a stray peahen over the course of the past month.

And all for a good cause... Yes, Emma is raising £1,200 towards a project to help families who have a child with a life-limiting condition to take a trip to Disneyland, in Florida.

l New home for footie school SOLIHULL Moors’ football academy is to be relocated to Kingshurst. A new partnership, announced last month, will see the facility move to the CTC, in Cooks Lane. Mark Fogarty, the club’s director of sport, said: “CTC have tremendous facilities with acres of grass for training and games and a new 3G artificial pitch for our use.”

Month in Numbers


l Date set for family event GRACE Academy’s annual family fun day is this year scheduled for Saturday, July 1. An inflatable obstacle course, donkey rides, food stalls and craft activities will be among the highlights. The event will be held at the Chelmsley Wood school from 12noon-3pm.

l Childcare at business park A CHILDREN’S day nursery has agreed a 10-year lease at Birmingham Business Park. Wiggles & Giggles is to take the space at the Waterside Centre site, near Marston Green. Samantha Rutter, a director at the nursery, said the business was “very excited” about the deal.

June 2009: Chelmsley Wood lollipop lady Ann Conway receives an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Out & About MORE than a dozen acts have now been confirmed for a local live music event. Irish crooners Boyzlife, Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills (pictured) and Lisa Maffia, formerly of the So Solid Crew, are among those who will be appearing at ShardFest. The festival will be taking place at Norman Chamberlain Playing Fields on July 29-30.

* Caroline Spelman remains as Meriden’s MP after securing a majority of 19,198 in this month’s Election. * Castle Bromwich man Terry Jinks is still playing in the Walsall Senior Citizens Orchestra aged 96. * There are 37 high rise tower blocks managed by Solihull Community Housing.

Your say ‘We all must look out for our elderly neighbours and advise them not to be too trusting.’ Mary Beirens, on a recent spate of robberies.

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The enduring appeal of Austen romances MORE than 200 years since Jane Austen authored Sense and Sensibility, the story of two young women is still a powerful draw. Now Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre will be taking a stage adaptation of the 19th century novel on a tour of the region. Ahead of its arrival at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Other Side of Solihull spoke to director James Knapp. “It’s a story of love and that’s obviously still something that we can all relate to,” says James, when we ask about the enduring appeal of Austen’s original romance. “Whether it’s falling in love or getting your heart broken, there will be a character in this which different members of the audience will be able to identify with. “It’s rather like Shakespeare, there are reasons that stories such as this stand the test of time.” James has been involved with the Crescent for seven years and while he originally had the actor’s ambition of “seeing his name in lights”, he was increasingly drawn to directing. He speaks with great enthusiasm about seeing a cast come together during the rehearsal period. “It’s an amateur production in the finest sense of the word, in that people are doing this for pleasure,” he says. “Although it is a relatively tight turnaround for a show like this, it doesn’t feel like it because of how much work people have put in.” The show started with a three-night run at the Crescent studio and is now ready for a mini-tour. James explains how a number of “beautiful gardens” – including the Castle Bromwich estate – were chosen for performances. Outdoor theatre obviously has a long tradition, although performing in the open air does present

Outdoor production of Sense and Sensibility to be staged at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

A classic tale:

its own challenges. “You never can depend on the British weather,” laughs James. “Even in high summer, you don’t know what will happen. “It could be blistering sunshine or totally overcast; the show might have to be called off in the event of a complete downpour. “But there’s two ways you can respond to that, either you worry about it or you embrace it as part of doing a tour like this!”

History repeats itself! ONE of the most popular events in the local calendar is fast approaching. Chelmund’s Day – the annual celebration of a certain Anglo Saxon warrior – will be taking place on July 15. Visitors to Bishop Wilson School can look forward to historical re-enactments and live music. There will also be stalls, stories, craft activities and a range of refreshments to look forward to The free event will be taking place from 11am3pm. For more information visit www.chelmund. com

l Club’s fantastic fundraising SMITH’S Wood Firs FC has been recognised for raising almost £15,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The club has been supporting the organisation for the past four years and raised a total of £3,000 in the last 12 months alone.

l Sense and Sensibility was first published anonymously in 1811. l It is the story of two young sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and their romantic travails. l It has been adapted many times, including a 1995 film starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Sense and Sensibility will be performed at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens on July 1-2. Tickets are £10, available in advance. Visit for further details.

Drug den revelation after fire breaks out POLICE have launched an investigation after a fire at a Chelmsley Wood property led to the discovery of a significant cannabis factory. Firefighters were called to a terraced house in Nevada Way on June 17. When crews entered the property to tackle the blaze on the first floor, they realised that the home was being used to cultivate drugs. It is understood that the incident may have been sparked by the equipment being used; the electrics which drugs gangs rig up for light and heating are a notorious fire hazard. West Midlands Police said that no arrests had been made but 62 plants – with a street value of more than £60,000 – had been removed from the house and inquiries are ongoing.

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Queen’s Birthday Honours List: Royal recognition for terrific trio

Ellen, Amanda and Janet – our local heroes

Amanda Mordey

UNSUNG heroes have been recognised for their efforts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Ellen Delaney, a playworker at the Meriden Adventure Playground, was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the Fordbridge community. Aside from the many hours she spends helping out at the Chelmsley Wood playground, she is also involved in the MAD House youth club and Community Action Fordbridge. Speaking after receiving the news, Ellen said: “I am really pleased that Her Majesty has heard of our project and chosen to recognise us with this honour. “It’s not just about me, this is for all of us who are standing up for children and young people and their needs and rights – and for families too.” Simon Rix, senior playworker at Meriden Adventure Playground, said: “Ellen’s honour reflects on all the parents, young people and community members who have contributed to that.” Also among those honoured is Janet Down, the long-standing chief executive of local charity Solihull Life Opportunities (SoLO). She will now look forward to a trip to Buckingham Palace to collect an MBE. Janet has been with the organisation, which provides support for those with learning disabilities, for the past 17 years. During her tenure, the charity boss, who previously worked for Mencap, has overseen a number of new initiatives. Not so many years ago, SoLO was facing significant financial pressures, but despite the challenges it has gone on to open a new base in Streetsbrook Road - complementing the existing HQ in Walnut Close, Chelmsley Wood. In a statement SoLO paid tribute to Janet’s “deep commitment” to the cause. Amanda Mordey, the principal of Forest Oak Special School, in Smith’s Wood, was awarded an OBE for services to special educational needs and disability. The head also oversees Merstone School, in Shirley, with both sites having been ranked as outstanding by Ofsted.

l A taste of the tropics A REGGAE night will be taking place at Chelmsley Wood Conservative Club later this month. DJ Errol and DJ Leon will be appearing at the Caribbean-themed event on June 30. Tickets are £3.50 each and selling fast.

l St Anthony’s TV treat CENTRAL News recently dropped in at St Anthony’s Catholic Primary as part of its “school stories” series. Reporter Des Coleman visited the Kingshurst school to see pupils perform a “rap poem” about the local area. He was also shown inside the converted double-decker bus which is being used as a learning space.

Janet Down

Ellen Delaney

No blame of officers who failed Funeral for Justin White to find body for three weeks POLICE have been cleared of blame despite failing to find the body of a Chelmsley Wood motorist for three weeks. Zahid Mirza had been discovered on marshy ground next to the M6 on February 6. But during an inquest earlier this month, it emerged that a lorry driver had in fact seen a man jump over a crash barrier in mid-January. Although Mr Mirza’s car was found abandoned between Junction 4a and 5, police had

failed to discover his body in their initial searches. It was only when they returned to the area that they located him on land adjacent to the southbound carriageway. Forensic experts confirmed that the 40-year-old, who was partly submerged, had died as a result of drowning. Recording a verdict of accidental death, Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Louise Hunt said there was no criticism of officers.

A SMITH’S Wood man who ran a popular local tattoo parlour has been laid to rest. Justin White, aged 44, suffered a heart attack on February 5. Well-known locally, the father-of-two had set up Urban Body Art, in Kitts Green, six years ago. His funeral procession passed by the business on the way to Woodlands Cemetery and Crematorium.

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Great Get Together in memory of Jo RESIDENTS in North Solihull came together for events organised in memory of the MP Jo Cox (right), who was murdered 12 months ago. Meriden Adventure Playground and the Three Trees Centre played hosts to events which formed part of The Great Get Together. Around 100,000 street parties, picnics and other events were staged around the country, with the aim of bringing communities

closer together. The Jo Cox Foundation said it was a fitting tribute to the former Labour MP for Batley and Spen, who was attacked and killed in her constituency last June. True to the spirit of the campaign, politicians of all parties gave their support. Locally, Meriden MP Caroline Spelman - a Conservative - hosted the tea and coffee morning at Three Trees. “A rising star in our democracy,

Jo inspired us all when she told Parliament that ‘we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’,” said Mrs Spelman. Proceeds from the event were shared out between Welcome - a Chelmsley Wood-based drug and alcohol service - The Haven breast cancer charity and Three Trees itself.

Call to veto plans to expand business park SOLIHULL’S planning committee has been advised to throw out plans to expand Birmingham Business Park. Proposals had been put forward to create four industrial buildings, a service yard and around 180 car parking spaces. Those residents living in nearby Blackfirs Lane and Coleshill Heath Road had already raised concerns about the noise and disturbance that would arise. While not all of their arguments were accepted by council officials, there were sufficient concerns for them to recommend that councillors reject the application. A report published earlier this month suggested that there were particular questions about lack of public transport links to the site, as well as adding to traffic jams and queuing in an already congested area. A formal decision on the plans had been expected back in February and again earlier in the month, but in both cases the item was dropped from the council agenda at relatively short notice. It remains to be seen if the developers are likely to modify the plans to address the issues identified by officers. The application is the latest of several which have fed into concerns about over-development in Marston Green and the impact that successive schemes are having on the village’s infrastructure. A separate plan to build 68 homes off Chelmsley Lane has now been submitted to the planning department and is expected to go to committee later this year.

Award for selfless Sylvia’s 30 years’ service

A PENSIONER who has been volunteering at Barnardo’s for the past 30 years has received an award for her exceptional service. Sylvia Hetherington, from Chelmsley Wood, received the special “thank you” from colleagues as the children’s charity marked Volunteers’ Week. The 73-year-old had started helping out at her local branch, in Chelmsley town centre, to assist her search for a job. But even after she got into work, Sylvia carried on supporting the organisation and is still involved three decades later. The mum-of-two, who said she very much enjoyed meeting new people, was delighted to be presented with an engraved wooden trophy in the shape of a ‘B’ earlier this month.

Pub holds event as a tribute to soldier

Guards hurt in chase with ‘shoplifters’

A CHARITY event organised as a tribute to a Castle Bromwich soldier, who gave his life in the line of duty, will be taking place next month. The fundraiser will be held in honour of Joe Murphy, an 18-year-old serviceman who was killed while serving in Afghanistan eight years ago. It is set to take place at The Farthings pub on July 15, starting from 2pm. There will be a barbecue, bouncy castle and raffle.

TWO security guards were injured trying to stop suspected shoplifters making a getaway from Chelmsley Wood shopping centre. The thieves had been pursued from Poundland and managed to escape the scene in a white transit van, CCTV footage of the incident, which happened at lunchtime on Wednesday, June 7, showed one of the guards being dragged along by the vehicle. Solihull Police have said they are investigating and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

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Meadows explode in technicolour triumph WHAT a difference a few months makes! Earlier this year, Other Side of Solihull reported on a series of sites that had been sown with wildflower seeds. Now the Lowbrook open space and a patch of land in Bosworth Drive/Winchester Drive have been transformed into colourful meadows. Helped along by the recent warm weather, the poppies and cornflowers were in full bloom by Midsummer’s Day.

l Special award for Sally AN ASSISTANT headteacher at Fordbridge Community Primary School has been recognised for her efforts boosting pupils’ confidence. Sally Rance picked up the Special Achievement accolade at the recent Women Who...Awards. Mrs Rance has run a number of initiatives, including launching mini “university degrees” for the school’s seven to 11-year-olds.

POLITICIANS won’t dare to ignore young people in future, veteran MP Diane Abbott has told an audience in Chelmsley Wood. The Shadow Home Secretary, appearing on Radio 4’s Any Questions? hailed the surge in the number of 18 to 34-year-olds who voted in this month’s General Election. The long-running political panel show was broadcast from the WMG Academy for Young Engineers exactly 12 months on from the EU referendum. Apart from Ms Abbott, the panel was made up of the Conservatives’ Andy Street, recently elected West Midlands’ Mayor, the musician and activist Jamie MacColl and Darren Grimes, deputy editor of the website BrexitCentral. Given the venue, it was fitting that many of the questions related to issues which will have a direct impact on young people. There was a scattering of teenagers and quite

a sizeable number of people under 30 in the audience, although when chairman Jonathan Dimbleby took his seat he joked that he had just nudged up the average age of those gathered. After discussing the rights and wrongs of tuition fees and what effect Britain’s departure from the EU might have on the nation’s young people, the panel considered why an age group which has tended to be disengaged from politics recently turned out to vote in force. “Labour got 40 per cent of the vote and nobody expected us to do that and that was largely because of the increased numbers of young people that came out,” said Ms Abbott, who is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest political allies. “Obviously [I think this was] terrific, I’m glad they voted for Labour – although they might not necessarily do so in the future – but I will say this, the fact that young people came out in such numbers in 2017...means that politicians won’t be able to take them for granted again.”

Diane Abbott

‘Social media helps inspire younger vote’ Mr Street acknowledged that social media had played a big part in the shifting electoral landscape. “Every industry has been changed by this, why should politics be any different,” said the former John Lewis boss. “Online is going to become the dominant means of communication.” Mr MacColl, a member of the band Bombay Bicycle Club, suggested that last summer’s referendum result was a “defining” moment for young people and politics and he expected the turn-out to continue to rise. “Young people are a legitimate constituency and every party is going to have to offer something in their policy platform now [which] is going to be very significant.”

Facts about new flight paths A PUBLIC meeting will be held in Castle Bromwich to discuss proposed changes to flight paths at Birmingham Airport. The roadshow is one of several taking place across the region to give residents the chance to comment on the plans. The changes form part of a national programme to modernise airspace. Locally this will mean aircraft taking off in different directions from those at present.

David Winstanley, the airport’s chief operating officer, said: “These consultations give an opportunity for dialogue, characterised by an open and honest approach... “We really encourage local communities to attend.” The Castle Bromwich event will be taking place at Arden Hall on Monday, July 17 (from 6-8pm).

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What does the Grenfell fire mean for North Solihull tenants? OSOS investigates

Tragedy prompts plea for sprinklers A

CHELMSLEY Wood councillor has said many local residents living in high-rise flats want to see sprinkler systems installed in the wake of the Grenfell fire tragedy. Earlier this month, Solihull Council’s cabinet was briefed on the steps that have been taken to safeguard local people following on from the incident in West London, in which scores of people died. In the aftermath of the fire in the early hours of June 14, West Midlands Fire Service carried out safety checks at the borough’s blocks of flats. Within hours, messages were circulating on social media to reassure tenants that all systems were up-to-date. Fiona Hughes, chief executive of Solihull Community Housing (SCH), insisted there was a “strong” culture of health and safety within the organisation and everything possible would be done to make sure a similar incident didn’t

happen in Solihull. Coun James Burn (Green, Chelmsley Wood) welcomed the authorities’ quick response, but said that many tenants remained anxious. “Half of these flats are in my

In the aftermath of the fire in the early hours of June 14, West Midlands Fire Service carried out safety checks at the borough’s blocks of flats ward and obviously we have some very jittery residents who would like some things considered,” he told the meeting. “One thing residents have asked a lot is when they’ll have sprinklers... it’s obviously the law for new sites, but there’s no law to retro-fit.” Concerns have escalated

Smoke rises from Chestnut House, Moorend Avenue, during a fire last month. following two separate fires at apartment blocks in North Solihull. Back in January there was a “severe blaze” at Oxford Grove, Chelmsley Wood, while only last month a fire broke out on the roof of nearby Chestnut House. Aside from the question about installing sprinklers, Coun Burn said there was also some concern about access for fire engines – noting that some of the borough’s 37 high-rise buildings were located at the end of narrow cul-de-sacs. “There were 40 fire engines in London and there are some areas where we couldn’t get that.” Coun Ken Meeson (Con, Dorridge & Hockley Heath) said: “With regard to sprinklers, there is an issue about the retro-fit of sprinkler systems in older buildings. “I’m not an expert on that at all and it’s very easy to say every building of that nature should have sprinkler systems but we mustn’t have a knee-jerk reaction. We must make sure that by putting [them in] that it doesn’t make the situation worse.”

Councillor suspended following insensitive tweet A FORMER Mayor of Solihull faces an investigation following a formal complaint about a tweet which he posted following the Grenfell Tower incident. Councillor Ken Hawkins (pictured) had responded to a photo shared by a Guardian journalist, which showed residents upset by the authorities’ handling of the crisis gathered at Kensington Town Hall. The retired police officer had tweeted “Let’s get ourselves a hangin” and accused the media of stirring up tensions following the blaze. Solihull Council confirmed that, following a formal complaint, Coun Hawkins had been suspended from his duties as the cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration with immediate effect.

Leader of Solihull Council, Bob Sleigh, said: “In light of the complaint related to Coun Hawkins’ comments on social media, an investigation will now take place led by the council’s monitoring officer in line with the council’s standards procedure.” Coun Hawkins has since deleted the post which prompted the backlash and later shared an apology. “I fully appreciate that my tweet on [June 16], which related to protests outside and inside the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea council offices, may have caused offence and I unreservedly apologise for that. In no way whatsoever was the short message directed at the unfortunate victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and I am distraught that some people have interpreted it in this way.”

Your say A NUMBER of residents left comments on Other Side of Solihull’s Facebook page, raising concerns about the “stay put” policy, which advises tenants to remain in their flat if a fire breaks out elsewhere in the building. Caroline Asbury: “My daughter lives in a block of flats and [I] told her to get out and not stay put . The fire doors are only fire proof for one hour! If it’s anything like the fire in London then you have no chance.” Julie Rathbone: “Any sign of a fire and there is no way I’d ‘stay put’. I’d be out of there quicker than Usain Bolt. I don’t know what the thinking is behind the ‘stay put’ idea?” Angie Mara: “Demolish them all. I just want be able to sleep now. I’m stuck in one of them.” Melissa Askew: “First instant I knew there was a fire I would be getting me and my kids out! The longer you wait the worse the way I would stay inside and just hope someone was going to come and get us.” Nick Morrey: “Staying put used to be the ideal option due to the concrete, but now the cladding has been put in along with gas central heating - it’s a recipe for disaster and the policies should be reviewed.”

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Other Side of Solihull -June  

News and events from Castle Bromwich, Kingshurst, Chelmsley Wood, Smith's Wood and Marston Green.