More than 50 local residents gathered at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Kings Heath Residents’ Forum on 2 March 2016 to hear about the work of the Forum and to make their own views known. They heard that progress has been made on controlling litter, on road safety and on initiatives to help young people in the area. Residents raised concerns over several issues including parking, anti-social behaviour and speed limits.
The chair of the Forum, Jon Jaffa, emphasised that the group represents all residents within the area it was set up to cover. It works with similar groups in other electoral wards and helps residents to get in touch with their local councillors.
On road safety, the Kings Heath strategy has been so effective that it is being extended across the whole of Birmingham. The most recent development is the ’20 is plenty’ programme. This involves the introduction of a 20 mile an hour speed limit on Kings Heath High Street. New roadside signs have begun to appear and drivers will be reminded of the limit by signs painted on the road surfaces.
In addition, a safer cycle network is being developed.
Members of the Forum have also lobbied councillors for the return of a railway station for Kings Heath. Network Rail has been considering this proposal for some time and now the necessary development work it is included in the financial plan for the period 2019 to 2024.
Residents at the meeting raised a number of issues including the congestion caused by inconsiderate parking. This was said to cause safety issues and traffic congestion. The problem was reported to be worst in Howard Road East, outside the Royal Mail sorting office, and Addison Road.
Councillor Straker Welds (Lab) agreed to arrange a meeting with the manager at the sorting office. He will ask that staff park their cars away from Howard Road East. This will mean there is more space for people collecting post from the sorting office.
On the question of road and pavement maintenance, Councillor Claire Spencer (Lab) is working to make it easier for residents to report problems. She also suggested that it is better if residents use the City Council website to report problems with roads and pavements.
Councillor Spencer also emphasised the need for anti-social behaviour to be reported as soon as possible. If it is not reported and acted on, bad behaviour is likely to become normal. It should be reported by making a telephone call to 101. See the information on Moseley and Kings Heath Police neighbourhood meetings.
Progress is being made in dealing with litter in the area. The Greener, Cleaner, Safer Environment group is setting up agreements with schools, catering outlets and other businesses. As part of the agreements, these organisations are taking responsibility for litter in their local areas.
The efficiency of the waste collection and street cleaning services is being improved. Part of the programme is aimed at making sure that there are enough on-street litter bins and that they are emptied often enough. In addition, shopkeepers are being encouraged to use waste bins that are big enough for their needs and have lids. If they use the right type of waste bins there will be less litter blowing around the streets.
That still leaves the problem of litter dropped by people. Although Birmingham has litter wardens, there is no money available for one dedicated to Kings Heath. It was suggested that there could be random, targeted swoops during the year. Any litter louts caught could then be fined.
Dog mess is a separate problem, especially on roads leading to public parks. Residents were asked to report dog fouling, particularly if it happens at regular times. Again, there is a page on the city council website for reporting dog fouling problems.
In addition to all of that, the Cleaner Streets plan calls for targeted action. In one example, early morning street cleaning is being called for to clear away rubbish after Friday and Saturday nights.
One of the problems brought up by residents was that Amey (Birmingham’s street maintenance contractor) has been accused of leaving barriers and temporary road signs in place after work has finished. Sometimes it takes several weeks before these objects are cleared away. The city council is reported to be working with Amey to stop this practice.
The meeting was also told about two initiatives aimed at helping local young people. In one, the All Saints Youth Project helps young people to develop their confidence and to take on leadership roles in the community. In addition, Luke Holland has been working with young people from the All Saints Youth Project and from the Kings Heath Mosque. He brings the groups together to work collaboratively on community projects.
Summing up the meeting, the chair of the Forum, Jon Jaffa, said:
“It was enormously encouraging to see so many people at the meeting. Even more pleasing was that we were able to report so much positive news. The members of the Forum have worked very hard over the past year in conjunction with local councillors from all the political parties. I think the results show what can be achieved when we all pull together.”