Archives for category: Birmingham

Reading Christian Wolmar’s article: ‘Rail’s dirty secret’, recalled last year’s  question on this site: ‘How many lungs and hearts will be damaged by air pollution before action is taken?’

There is concern about the levels of diesel-generated air-pollution on Grand Central (New Street) platforms experienced by travellers like Professor Rex Harris (Birmingham) whose work includes the promotion of a hydrogen fuelled transport system for rail and waterways.

Professor Thorne’s student monitoring air pollutants at Grand Central

Research conducted by Professor John Thorne (Birmingham) found almost seven times the annual average EU limit of particulate matter on one platform.

The TV programme Dispatches then visited New Street Station with its own monitors and found “high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates on one of the platforms… way above EU annual limits”. Network Rail told the programme it wanted the station to be a “safe and healthy environment” and that in the coming years it “will shift to less polluting electric trains”. Wolmar writes:

In the Rail Engineer, Malcolm Dobell wrote about a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive he saw four years ago; a team from Birmingham University had designed, constructed and entered a fuel cell powered one-fifth scale locomotive in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway challenge.

He reported that Alstom’s new train, the Coradia iLint (above), which runs on hydrogen power rather than diesel, has had its first successful test run. It is the first low floor passenger train in the world to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The hydrogen used for the test runs is the by-product of an industrial process, which is reasonably reused as a waste product, but because Germany has invested heavily in wind turbine technology as part of its energy mix, it will also be able to use the energy generated by the wind turbines to make hydrogen when electricity demand is low.

As Dobell mentioned, the Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research undertook a cross-disciplinary venture with a number of Birmingham Energy Institute academics and Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, to design and construct the UK’s first practical hydrogen-powered locomotive.  The Centre’s website adds that there will be a requirement for such autonomously powered trains to serve non-electrified lines.

Hydrogen-powered locomotives, cars and boats, emitting only steam and condensed water, Dobell comments, are better for the environment, more pleasant for passengers and less disruptive to communities.

Time for change.

 

 

 

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‘Visitor Information Centre’ is a name that kept the writer away for many months anticipating only leaflets and the usual memorabilia made in China.

What a delight to find that most of the offerings are skilfully handcrafted treasures made by Friends of the Carillon, local artists recording Bournville village scenes and working in wood, glass metal and wool. Some items are ‘bought in’ but selected with great care. There are also books and recordings of the carillon; DVDs for sale include a Christmas selection and the Summer Concert featuring Frank Steijns and the carillon, transmitted live from Maastricht.

To exhibit and sell their work the Friends of the Carillon agree to serve for two hours each week in the centre and donate a percentage of the sale price to the Carillon. A minimum of 20% of all proceeds goes to supporting carillon activities and promotion.

The Carillon Visitor Centre is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4.30pm (except for the month of January). It makes a vital contribution to the maintenance of the nearby carillon.

Formerly known as the Rest House, the building was designed by the architect who also drew plans for workers’ housing and two Bournville schools, William Alexander Harvey. He aimed to design a building that “would be in entire harmony with its surroundings”, basing it on a seventeenth-century Yarn Market hall at Dunster in Somerset.

George and Elizabeth Cadbury celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in April 1913 and the Rest House was built to commemorate the occasion.

It was commissioned by the employees of Cadbury Brothers Ltd at Bournville and in all parts of the world as “A lasting memorial of esteem and affection as an expression of gratitude for the unceasing interest in their welfare and in admiration of manifold services to the world at large”.

Above, crowds gathered for the opening of the building designed to be used as a place of rest “providing kind shelter and seating”. More photographs and information here.

The Rest House was closed for many years but protected from vandalism and abuse. It was brought back into use by Bournville Village Trust and the vision and sheer hard work of its manager, Joy Workman, who is married to Trevor, the Bournville Carilloneur  (left).

In November 1997 the building was re-opened by Robin Cadbury as the Carillon Visitor Centre and used as a focal point for the carillon – another valued legacy from the founder of Bournville.

The Carillon Visitor Centre is also the place where tours start to Bournville carillon (left). The carillon, a rare and unusual musical instrument, has been in use since the 15th century and looks like an organ. Carillons have a minimum of 23 bells and played from a ‘baton’ keyboard.

The instrument and the carillon art are most commonly found in Belgium, Holland, France but are a rarity in the UK. Read more on the website and see the photos taken by Amanda Slater.

The tours take place on Saturdays at 12 noon and 3pm. Visits are free of charge but donations are invited in support of the “Friends of Bournville Carillon”, a self-financing Charitable Trust. Booking is advised as numbers on each tour are strictly limited: 07986 552770, email bournvillecarillon@hotmail.co.uk, or book at The Visitor Centre.

 

 

 

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Congratulations to the Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), one of the oldest Antwerp ship owners, which has built the first commercial ship that runs on hydrogen and produces zero pollution.

CMB currently sources its hydrogen from the chemicals industry but wants to get it through electrolysis powered by renewables in the future.

Bloomberg reports that the Hydroville passenger shuttle can operate on compressed hydrogen as well as regular fuel oil and has recently been certified to operate as a seagoing vessel by Lloyd’s Register. CMB will expand the technology to engines on cargo ships after initial testing.

“There’s a very strong commitment to decarbonize shipping from countries such as China, Japan, and a group of European nations,” said Tristan Smith, a lecturer at University College London’s energy institute and a former naval architect. “Hydrogen is one of the most cost-effective ways to do this. It’s proven, it works in the energy system and it’s easy to combust in ships.”

Cargo shipping is too energy intensive for electricity to be an option. “Even with the world’s biggest battery, we wouldn’t be able to sail a full day,” said Roy Campe, research and development manager at CMB. “Our trips usually take two or three weeks.”

The shipping industry, estimated to produce as much as 3% of the world’s emissions, was not included in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. But the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, is to impose rules that limit the amount of sulphur emissions from ships from 2020. There are also talks about adding a carbon tax.

“We’ve had one in Birmingham since 2006!!!!”: Professor Rex Harris

The Ross Barlow is powered by a combination of a metal hydride solid-state hydrogen store, a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, a lead acid battery stack and a NdFeB permanent magnet electric motor (project leader: Professor Rex Harris). The ongoing development of The Ross Barlow is one of the hydrogen and magnets research interests of The Hydrogen Materials Group at the University of Birmingham.

 

 

 

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In July, Birmingham City Council reneged on an ACAS-mediated, cabinet-approved agreement between the Unite union and Birmingham’s talented Council Leader, John Clancy, which was to end the seven-week refuse collection dispute.

The well-paid BCC chief executive (right) was seeking to downgrade 106 Grade 3 jobs to a Grade 2, which meant that workers would lose £3,500-5,000 from their already low salaries of around £20,000.

And when BCC reneged on the Unite/Clancy deal, they also issued redundancy notices to the Grade 3 workers. These were later banned in the High Court when Mr Justice Fraser spoke at length about the “extraordinary” and “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council with “chaos” between senior personnel. Read more about his reflections here.

Council leader Ian Ward (left) told a BBC reporter: “The cost of the (three month) dispute, yes that’s cost in excess of £6m”.

This ‘new’ version of the original deal (details here), described by union insiders as a ‘total climb-down’, was agreed at a special meeting of the BCC cabinet on Friday.

 ITV reports that yesterday Birmingham bin workers voted to accept the council deal.

So a seven week dispute was allowed to go on for three months, regardless of health and safety implications, losing £6m of ratepayers’ money – and the wrong head rolled.

 

 

 

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Herefordshire Greens decisively gained a seat from the Conservatives in yesterday’s by-election.

Ellie Chowns, who lives in Canon Frome near Ledbury, on an organic farm, was elected.

She has a substantial track-record of local voluntary service as a primary school governor, a Home-Start volunteer, and treasurer of a housing association and enjoys gardening, hill-walking, and playing in a local folk band.

Her experience includes:

  • working in charities and education,
  • co-ordinating a group of MPs in Parliament,
  • tackling fuel poverty in East London,
  • and supporting peace-building in Northern Uganda.

Ellie was awarded a PhD in international development at the university of Birmingham and later and was a teaching fellow in the International Development Department. More detail about her extensive studies may be seen here. 

Currently she works for Voluntary Service Overseas.

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West Midlands New Economics Group meeting:

Robert Kornreich’s introduction to a discussion on Molly Scott Cato’s book: Green Economics: An Introduction to Theory, Policy and Practice will include PowerPoint slides.

Meeting: 5-7pm on Thursday 30th November, at the John Lewis Community Hub, available to community groups.

The community hub is on the 4th floor of the John Lewis store over New Street station (lift and escalator). The hub is immediately off the area where television sets are being sold.

All welcome.

 

 

 

 

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One of the charms of Stirchley is the active community bonding between many of its residents, regardless of age, income or education.

This may be seen by attending its neighbourhood forum, its market, its local history group, its renovated park, its library support group and many more activities housed in the re-opened Stirchley baths community centre (below) and the former Stirchley Institute.

Samuel Clark, development director at Seven Capital, looks forward to the ‘gentrification of this important Birmingham suburb’.

Gentrification (aka more expensive ‘aspirational’ housing) – the influx of more affluent people concentrated in a block on the nine-acre site on the corner of Hazelwell Lane and Pershore Road – would be a retrograde step.

Many who admire this active and creative neighbourhood, hope that developer Seven Capital, with bases in the city, London and Dubai, will really listen to ‘local stakeholders’ and, together with the council, design plans which include affordable, social and more profitable ‘gentrified’ housing for the new ‘mixed-use scheme’.

As one resident said on Stirchley online:

Mr Clark, please note. An appropriate scheme would counteract ‘Which’s designation of Seven Capital’s ‘worst case’ offer of housing as an investment opportunity.

No more empty ‘investment’ flats should be seen in the city; let house-building mean home-building.

 

 

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The late Hilary Powell, who lived in Shirley, would – like many others volunteering to help food banks – have reacted with great concern to the forecast in the Financial Times by Chris Tighe writing from Newcastle:

“Winter is coming, Britain’s welfare system is in upheaval, universal credit rollout puts extra pressure on Britain’s food banks and rising costs are hurting the poor”. 

Though increasingly disabled over the years by arthritis, with other serious health problems, Hilary did the lighter work on her allotment at Scribers Lane, with her husband John, and for some years – after making this point to organisers – ensured that some fresh food was added to the store of tinned and packaged goods by growing salads and vegetables and taking them to the food bank.

This year, the government’s rollout of its new benefits system has swelled the number of people seeking help because of the six-week delay before claimants receive payments. Some food banks may not be able to cope with the added strain on their resources, said Sam Stapley, operations manager at the Trussell Trust.

The Trussell Trust’s network, which covers two-thirds of distribution areas, saw a 6.64% average rise in referrals for emergency food in 2016/17, but a 16.85% increase in the universal credit rollout area.

  Newcastle West End food bank, the UK’s biggest, provides food for 1,000 people a week

Ten years ago, food banks were scarce. Many were started by volunteers concerned about people struggling financially. But they now form an essential part of Britain’s social safety net, with an estimated 2,000 distribution centres across the country. To use a food bank, a referral is needed, typically from the social service or housing support officers, but also from agencies such as local charities or Citizens Advice. Tens of thousands of volunteers nationally work more than 4m hours a year stocktaking, picking up and distributing food and fundraising, according to a recent study by the Trussell Trust, a national food bank network, and the Independent Food Aid Network.

The Trust is encouraging regional ‘plans of action’ so that food banks can better help each other plug gaps.

Streams of donations come from:

  • harvest festivals,
  • online appeals,
  • social events,
  • supermarket collection points,
  • a £3,000 crowdfunding appeal for a new Salford distribution centre,
  • Cardiff food bank’s recent auction of an ancient can of kidney beans raised £500.
  • Growing numbers of donations are coming from football matches.
  • Many businesses, in sectors from retail to financial services and energy, support food banks with goods or seconded staff.

Logistics, with many food banks based in ad hoc premises and receiving irregular stocks of food, is a major challenge. The Trussell Trust is meeting experts this month to discuss if its Coventry regional warehouse could become a national distribution base. Then the trust could accept big pallets of unwanted goods from corporate donors, split them into small consignments and distribute them.

 

 

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Bournville Village Trust has agreed to acquire and manage some of the 138 homes at the Manor House site, which is being developed by Crest Nicholson. Work on the site will also include plans to rebuild Northfield Manor House, off Bristol Road South, which was demolished after being severely damaged in an arson attack three years ago.

Northfield Manor House was the residence of the Trust’s founder George, and his wife Elizabeth, until her death in 1951. In 1953 it became a hall of residence for the university, but has been empty since 2007 as the University decided it was too expensive to upgrade.

It is not legally listed with English Heritage, but has an informal grade A status on Birmingham City Council’s local advisory list of historic buildings. The English Heritage website (no general access) records that a farm house, part of the Manor of Northfield belonging to the Jervoise family, was recorded as being on the site circa 1750. In 1809 the estate was purchased by Daniel Ledsam, a London merchant. It is believed that he made alterations to the house and was responsible for the current main building.

This picture came from coverage on this site in 2014.

Local historian Dr Carl Chinn urged the university to stop the demolition of the fire-damaged building and consult local people through community groups and their elected representatives over the future of this building. He advocated restoration of the building, in partnership with the community.

The University’s vice-principal, Professor Adam Tickell, said that the planning application had been revived and now included provision for the rebuilding of the manor house, despite the demolition of most of the structure.

The Manor House is to be rebuilt in the original style with Georgian and Arts & Crafts facades and the decorative details of the exterior of the building in stone and brickwork, render and timber. The form and proportions of the 18th century manor will be retained but the interior will be divided into apartments.

 

 

 

 

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 Faiths working together for a low carbon future

As part of national interfaith week, join Footsteps’ annual event to meet other people faithfully caring for the environment, and share ideas about how we can work together for a low carbon future.

Footsteps is a project of the Birmingham Council of Faiths

Venue: the Progressive Synagogue, 1 Roseland Way, B15 1HD, Nov 19th 2-5pm

There is an optional tour of the synagogue at 1pm. If you would like to join please select the option when registering.

Doors will be open from 1pm for you to come and have a cup of tea, chat to others at the event and view exhibits about faith and other responses to climate change.  Many poor countries lack the funds to make the transition to a green economy because of debt. Main speakers & discussion session starts at 2pm.

To book please click on the link to the Peace Hub’s website: http://peacehub.org.uk/footsteps/events/tread-lightly-on-this-earth-2017/ or ring Chris Martin on 0121 475 2088

 

 

 

 

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