Archives for posts with tag: Sandwell

Two Sandwell community swimming pools to close to help fund Commonwealth Games Aquatics Centre, reports Steve Beauchampé

The true cost to Sandwell residents of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games aquatics events became clearer on Tuesday with the announcement that community swimming pools at Thimblemill Road, Smethwick and in Langley would be closed to make way for a new £60m swimming centre, to be constructed on the Borough’s Londonderry Playing Fields.

The new centre will feature a 50m pool, 25m diving pool, 125-station fitness gym, 12-court sports hall, seats for 5,000 spectators. Details of how the facility will be funded, and by whom, remain unclear., as do issues such as its ongoing running costs and long-term financial viability in what might be described as a somewhat ‘off’ location.

Sandwell Council reported that whilst the facility at Langley would likely be demolished, a new (though as yet unspecified) public use will be found for the Thimblemill Lane building. The Council also started that the lost playing fields at Londonderry would be replaced by ‘adequate alternative spaces’, but were unable to explain what this somewhat vague and ambiguous phrase meant in real terms.

The Grade II listed Thimblemill Road Baths (above) were designed by Chester Button and Smethwick Borough Engineer Roland Fletcher and opened almost 85 years ago on March 30th 1933. The building underwent a major restoration around a decade ago and is amongst only three swimming baths in Britain built in the Moderne style (the others are located in Northampton and Aberdeen). A much-loved and well-used community resource, in November 19th 1962, when the swimming pool was still boarded over during the winter season for dances and other social events, the venue hosted a performance by the then largely unknown Beatles (with both the Kinks and the Who following in later years).

The pool and sports centre in Vicarage Road, Langley, whilst of considerably less architectural merit, nonetheless remains a vital amenity whose loss will be keenly felt by many in the community. As swimmers in other many locations beyond the West Midlands will testify, replacing a small community pool with a 50m leviathan rarely results in a satisfactory outcome for the wide range of swimmers and swimming needs previously catered for.

Tuesday’s announcement is the first occasion that threats to the future of either the Smethwick or Langley facilities has been publicly discussed and calls into question the Birmingham Games bid team’s claim that hosting the Games would improve the region’s sporting infrastructure. Since reports first emerged that the 2022 aquatics events would likely be staged in Sandwell, councillors and council officials have been keen to portray the prospect as uniformity positive news for the borough, with no mention of any possible downside.

Requests both to Sandwell Council and Birmingham Games bid organisers last year for information about the new centre were met with the same intense secrecy that has characterised many crucial elements of the Games bid. Given the short (four and a half year) lead in time to the Games, Sandwell’s announcement of a public consultation with residents and businesses on the plans, following their approval by Sandwell Council Cabinet next week, seems little more than cosmetic, and it is hard to imagine local councillors risking any delay to the project, meaning that once again effective public scrutiny and accountability of the 2022 Games is likely to be minimal.

First published in the Birmingham Press





Time-pressed residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Cannock, Dudley, Coventry, Lichfield, Sandwell, South Staffs, Tamworth, Walsall and Wolverhampton who regularly scan their section of the Brummie site, appreciate the free service it gives, whatever their interests. Main news items covered, include a range of locally run websites, music and the arts, sport and business.

Links to them give those sites a wider readership than would otherwise have been possible. Until the final few months Mark was a helpful and courteous correspondent and this later lack of response was ascribed to pressure of other work, which involved travelling abroad. We now can see that there may have been health concerns claiming priority.

Three of many interests served: Our Birmingham, West Midlands Producers and Localise West Midlands thank him and hope that a way will be found to maintain the Brummie.





james mckay ecocentre

In February, the Post reported environmentalists’ appreciation of an announcement by the city’s Green Commission, chaired by Councillor James McKay, cabinet member for a Green, Safe and Smart City. This reinforced an existing pledge to cut the city carbon emissions by 60% by 2027, its carbon roadmap outlining a range of measures and policies, which include:

  • improving public transport
  • retrofitting insulation to homes and businesses.
  • launching its own energy company
  • and cutting its own fuel bill by 50% by 2018..

BFOEBirmingham Friends of the Earth look forward to the implementation of the proposals which would reduce carbon emissions; an emphasis on ‘active transport’ – walking and cycling – would cut Birmingham’s traffic levels and reduce harmful levels of air pollution.

BFOE’s Julien Pritchard highlighted the EU’s legal action against the government for its failure to cut nitrogen dioxide levels in Birmingham and fifteen other cities across the UK: “If the EU is successful, it could result in the UK being fined, fines which the UK government could pass on to Birmingham City Council”. Read on here.

His colleague, Robert Pass (BFOE Let’s Get Moving campaign) said: “We’re asking the council to keep up the momentum of last summer, by continuing to lobby for funding to improve the city’s cycle network. Continued and sustained investment in active transport would give people a genuine choice to walk or cycle for those 25% of Birmingham’s car journeys which are under two miles”.

Last year BFOE listed some effects of air pollution:

  • children growing up in areas of high air pollution can develop lungs which have almost 20% less capacity than healthy lungs;
  • up to 30% of all new asthma cases may be caused by living next to busy roads;
  • exposure can cause people to die an average of 11.5 years early; DoH attributes more than 6% of adult deaths in Birmingham to current levels of air pollution;
  • costs in health care in Birmingham alone are thought to be £182 million a year.

birmingham cycle revolution council logoThey look forward to the realisation of council plans to improve 95-kilometres of existing route, add 115-kilometres of new routes, provide popular routes into the city centre, introduce a 20mph limit in residential areas to make cycling to local schools, shops and jobs safer, upgrade towpaths on canals, develop new cycling “green routes” through parks and green areas, provide secure cycle parking hubs and develop cycle loan and hire schemes to make it easier for people to get started.

tyseley air monitoring stationIt would be helpful if Government does not follow up a proposal to close 600 air monitoring stations (Tyseley right) particularly in London, which – the Express and Star reports – has the ten most polluted neighbourhoods. Outside the capital Sandwell and Leicester are joint fifth, Walsall eighth and Birmingham in tenth place, equal with Nottingham. All have levels significantly above World Health Organisation guidelines.

CIRAS reports concerns raised about the air quality during the station refurbishment work at Birmingham New Street, scheduled to continue until 2015. The work is being carried out in a fully operational station environment and activities such as sanding are making the air dusty, with the potential to cause respiratory related illnesses for the staff who work there.

Has construction work on tramlines in the city centre adversely affected air quality – and will office workers in the neighbourhood suffer if the Madin Library is demolished?

phil beardmore 1Sustainability consultant Phil Beardmore spoke to the Central England Quakers’ sustainability forum which is taking forward their commitment to become a low-carbon, sustainable community. A few days later came news of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s interest and support for Green New Deal work, including some Birmingham activity as an exemplar/case study of green/new economy activity, maximising local value. This was followed by the council’s 25-year Birmingham Mobility Action Plan, outlining proposals to introduce some solar-powered buses, green travel zones and raising the possibility of banning vans and trucks with high C02 emissions.

Phil, a member of the city council’s Green Commission, recorded the city’s ambition to become one of the greenest in the world, recalling that Summerfield took up the challenge issued in 2009 by Birmingham City Council which called for each area to become an eco-neighbourhood. He continued:

“About five years ago we saw the beginnings of a low carbon movement at neighbourhood level. There were some Transition groups, either independent or affiliated to the Transition Network. Locally these include Sustainable Moseley and Balsall Heath is Our Planet.

“One achievement was the growth of the low carbon retrofit (installing solar panels and exterior insulation) of houses, places of worship and community buildings. Some of this was self-funded and some groups were able to access funding. By visiting such retrofits hundreds have been inspired”.

Some of those groups have become social enterprises or co-operatives, gaining a sense of permanence and becoming more likely to attract funding. Hockerton raised capital for wind turbines via shares. The challenge is to make decisions strategically and prioritise the various options by assessing which will make the most impact and which will be achievable by the group.


In September, Sandy Taylor, Head of Climate Change and Environment Birmingham City Council, set out three priorities in the Green Commission’s vision document at the Retrofit Roadshow:

  • heating and powering the city
  • building energy efficiency
  • and creating more local energy.

Phil Beardmore then showed the model presented by the former government’s Sustainable Development Commission – the 4 Es promoting behaviour change – which he said should be more widely used.


Council leader Albert Bore and Cllr James Mackay are active in promoting this vision for the city and council departments should note the progress made by housing associations in Redditch, Sandwell and Dudley, building low carbon homes and retrofitting in conservation areas. Though the focus is currently on energy prices, increasing energy efficiency is the most effective way of lowering bills.

The city has been asked to build 50,000 new homes but some planners fear that developers will be unwilling to build to high environmental standards – however these multinationals are already doing so in China and the Middle East.

However, as the Peak Oil threat appears to have receded due to fracking – though many argue that the environmental costs are unacceptable – climate change has now gone further down the political agenda leading to loss of momentum and feelings of powerlessness.

Government supports health and social care community interest companies and should also see the advantages of promoting the invention and development of low carbon products and technologies, because sustainable development offers wider benefits: improved health, the impact of energy efficiency on fuel poverty, added employment opportunities and regional economic recovery due to ‘local spend’.