A CLEAR WARNING ON REDDITCH PARKS – ENJOY RESPONSIBLY

RISK OF CLOSURE

If there’s evidence of continuous failure to comply with public healthcare guidance I will not hesitate to ask for an urgent decision that all public parks across Redditch be closed.

UPDATE ON REDDITCH PARKS

Just been to the Arrow Valley Country Park with the family. Pleased to see most people are respecting the guidelines. It’s important to come here and enjoy some fresh air, but more important to stay safe.

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE

Stay at least 2m apart, keep your children away from other children, avoid using the playgrounds for now. If you must use the playgrounds (I know what it’s like, I’ve got kids too), make sure you clean the equipment before and afterwards, and wash your hands before and afterwards too.

ENJOY A COFFEE – ALONE

During my visit I would say around 70% of people were complying with the advice, but unfortunately the 30% is a worry. At one point an old lady carrying two takeout hot drinks fell over, and around 10 people including children went rushing to her aid. That’s great community spirit, but all of them immediately came into contact with each other. If you have mobility issues be extra careful if you go out.

CLOSURE GUIDANCE

The Council will continue to monitor the parks where possible – we shouldn’t really have to send officers away from more important duties to police social distancing.

If there’s evidence of continuous failure to comply with public healthcare guidance I will not hesitate to ask for an urgent decision that all public parks across Redditch be closed. 

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In the world of Coronavirus every cough counts

Day 1 of the “lockdown” that isn’t a lockdown. Being strongly advised to work from home and avoid social contact isn’t exactly the same as we are seeing in other countries with loudhailer announcements and police patrolling the streets to keep people indoors.

As I type this I can hear the busy main road outside the front of my house; it’s still busy with cars up and down, and this morning as I took my girls to their nan’s house the traffic along Batten’s Drive was just as long as always with white vans and people carriers in the usual fashion. Yesterday, when I was at work in Kenilworth, the picture was the same as I looked out the window to see just as many cars passing the office as always. When I walked to Argos during lunch to buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone to act as an office phone the streets were full with people who were clearly over the age of 70 going about their ordinary business. Right now it doesn’t feel like anything different is going on.

My only real hint was the shelves at the supermarket this morning. Almost entirely devoid of bread. The chicken aisle also empty; yet the beef aisle well-stocked. There was a man, in his mid-50s wearing blue jeans and a stained t-shirt rushing around with a loaf of bread under each arm. I wasn’t sure quite how he obtained them given the shelves were empty. Perhaps he had been pacing around for some time. I went past a lady who had 3 big bags of potatoes in her trolley. Hanging out by the fish counter was a bloke wearing a face mask. Unlike the road network, there was a feel inside here that something different is going on.

Back to working from home and I’m sat in my box room surrounded by piles of papers I’ve brought home and squashed in amongst my various wires and bits of kit that have sprouted over the course of time. I could be here a while; perhaps I need to have a sort out. But first I need to buy a new charger for my laptop. When the IT department provided the laptop they only gave us a powered docking station – and the cable for the docking station doesn’t fit the laptop itself. I don’t get why Amazon brings back search results for items that aren’t compatible with the device I’m searching for. But thankfully they do offer guaranteed next day delivery. I guess they’re going to be busy.

The technological revolution in working practices I’ve been pushing for years is finally coming about. People who previously avoided meeting over web-based conference services are embracing them. Those who were reluctant to use email are now learning to adapt to a new way of working. Could this Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic be the catalyst that ushers in a very different way of working for the long-term? What’s to say there won’t be another outbreak of something else in future years. Besides, the Income Tax was only suppose to be temporary and that stuck around. Maybe it’ll be the same for telecommuting.

Even though this whole thing doesn’t feel terribly real just yet, there is a feeling of a something big is coming – a sense of ‘bracing for impact’. It will be hard to keep bracing for weeks, maybe even months, especially if symptoms don’t develop in our house. It will feel all very false, but then again we could all get ill and really experience this. It all just feels so strange in a way I can’t quite describe.

Maybe I’m struggling to articulate my feeling because I’ve got a headache. I don’t know if I’ve got a temperature because all we have at home is a Peppa Pig thermometer that told me I’m not far off having hypothermia with a reading of just 35.5 degrees centigrade.

The fact I had to check myself is perhaps the sign to myself, more so than how busy the road outside is, that normal life is indeed disrupted.

Representations regarding Edgeworth Close Housing Development 19/01575/FUL

I have today sent the following email in response to the planning application that Redditch Borough Council is submitting so the council can build 19 affordable dwellings to house people in need across Redditch. These will provide 48 bedrooms to accommodate 86 people. Three of the units will be Dormer-style bungalows, which will allow elderly and disabled citizens to downsize and in doing so they will free up 3/4 bedroom houses, which is by far and away the most demanded type of house the Council needs to provide.

My email is as follows:

Hi Sharron,

I would like to respond as one of the consultees to this application in my capacity as local ward councillor. In doing so I would like to make clear that I recuse myself from sitting on any planning meetings in relation to this application. 

I support the development of additional affordable homes to meet a need for housing, especially bungalows in Church Hill. This will enable elderly and disabled residents to downsize and move to a more appropriate dwelling, which will in turn free up much-needed 3 and 4 bedroom homes for Redditch families who desperately need them, many of whom live in Church Hill. 

However, I would like to draw attention to concerns raised by nearby local residents, in particular:
* The visibility for emerging and entering traffic into the new proposed estate is not great owing to the current design and layout of Edgeworth Close. Work will need to be done to cut down vegetation and improve visibility wherever possible.

* I would like to ensure that concerns around overbearing and overlooking are addressed by angling properties appropriately to ensure privacy for existing and new residents. 

* I would like the applicant to consider options around the removal of the hedgerow to see if alternative options for screening can be put in place. 

* I would like it put on record that residents are very concerned about the additional traffic coming in to Edgeworth Close and construction traffic during the construction phase. I would like the applicant to ensure that whoever is contracted to build the properties is a member of the Considerate Constructors’ Scheme. The builders should work with local residents to agree strategies and they should communicate regularly with residents and local councillors on topics that are like to cause disruption or discomfort. 

* I would like it put on record that parking remains an issue in Edgeworth Close with not enough spaces to accommodate all residents. Consideration should be given by the applicant to the nature of residents who will enter the new estate to park their cars as they ‘overspill’ from Edgeworth Close. Likewise, with only 2 spaces per house any visitors to the new estate are likely to put additional pressures on parking elsewhere in Edgeworth Close.

Cllr Mike Rouse
Church Hill Ward
Redditch Borough Council

The development plans are available on the council’s planning portal, but I have also provided a screenshot of the layout here.

19/01575/FUL Layout
19/01575/FUL Layout

The drawing above shows the layout of the development. There’s a few things to note from this layout:

  • I cannot see how anyone would “lose access” to their garden as has been claimed by one resident.
  • The angles of the properties do not, in my humble opinion, mean they will be overlooking any existing properties. Plots 17, 18, and 19 might do if they were not the bungalows.

The style of the houses is modern and will provide a comfortable home for families who need a roof over their head. Here’s an example from the architects.

19/01575/FUL Sample House

It should be entirely possible for the council to address the concerns of residents, which I share, in regards to the access issues.

If any residents would like to contact me about this issue they may email mike.rouse@redditchbc.gov.uk or they are also welcome to arrange a meeting.

I have also requested regular updates from council officers on this project, which I will pass on to residents.

How Redditch is using Culture to drive regeneration

I’m attending a Local Government Association training event for Councillors who have the ‘Culture’ brief on their councils. One of the areas we are covering is how culture can play a driving role in the regeneration of towns, so I wanted to reflect on how Redditch is placing culture at the heart of our own plans for the town centre and our partnerships.

In late 2018 I attended a meeting with Royal Enfield to essentially pitch to them the town of Redditch as a worthwhile place to consider for partnership working in the cultural space. The idea was brought to me by an officer in the council who was inspired by the ‘Unlock Redditch’ vision and had managed to secure the face-to-face opportunity.

At the meeting I set about to outline why Redditch and Royal Enfield could work together, tapping into the town’s rich heritage and history of manufacturing the iconic cycles until the 1960s when the brand left the town. I talked about the pride and passion of the people who have made Redditch their home, and about the place Redditch has in the Midlands as a great leisure destination with top transport links.

We even pulled together a little video where we took an existing Royal Enfield advert and overlaid it with a track called ‘Want You Back’. The video isn’t official, and hasn’t been sanctioned. It was just a bit of teaser to convey the opportunity that lay before us. Here it is in the spirit of openness (and because I’m quite proud of it – I produced it myself – i.e. I did the musical overlay not the visuals):

The pitch worked. A number of meetings followed, and the big area of discussion was around how could we (as partners) deliver something that would have maximum impact for the town of Redditch both in terms of something that Royal Enfield could be proud to put their iconic name to, and something that would resonate with the people.

We pulled in Prof. Petro Nicolaides who is assisting WM Mayor Andy Street on the return of the Birmingham Superprix. Petro is a friend, and so he kindly agreed to help Redditch in his limited free time. I cannot emphasise enough the energy and the connections Petro brought to the new Royal Enfield Task Force, and how grateful I am for his help and mentorship.

Initially, we looked at the possibility of running a road race through Redditch. We had the idea that Royal Enfield bikes would race around the Redditch Cloverleaf, one of the few full cloverleaf junctions in the UK. However, it soon became apparent that closing two major A-Roads would be a financial and logistical step too far.

The end result of these initial discussions was the ‘Royal Enfield Pop-up Museum’ that ran for 6 weeks in the Kingfisher Centre, the main tourist destination in Redditch. This museum was intended to be the first outcome of the partnership, not the last. It’s the start of the journey.

Here’s what the pop-up museum looked like:

Local, regional and international media reported on the museum, with headlines like:

The legendary Royal Enfield – the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production – has revved its way back to its birthplace after 56 years away.

Make It West Midlands

Here’s another video, this time from Royal Enfield themselves that showcases how the former factory workers were put at the heart of the opening events, which took place over two days:

Working with the Kingfisher Centre, the museum was able to take a previously empty shop unit for 6 weeks, and was immensely successful. The shop was never empty and people came from all over the region to visit – former factory workers, enthusiasts and those just curious to see what all the fuss was about.

Naturally, whilst they were there they also enjoyed a drink and something to eat, and browsed the shops, delivering an economic boost to the area.

What’s more, the Royal Enfield Owners’ Club have been inspired by the event and feel confident to start talking about opening a permanent museum in the town. This would be a transformation – actually doubling the number of museums in Redditch (currently, we have just one).

As the Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture I am making it my mission to keep bringing exciting things like this to Redditch, and also to build on the Royal Enfield partnership, which I hope will be something that endures, grows and flourishes long after I’ve left office.

CCA Board Elections

If you are a Conservative Councillor you should have received an email from the CCA about elections for the CCA Board. I would be grateful for your support to become its Deputy Chairman.

I believe it is time for a new generation of Conservatives to step forward into these roles so that our party, at all levels and in all places, can start to become more representative of the diverse electorate that just gave the Conservative Party a mandate to govern the UK.

Passionate about activist training, mentoring and enabling the talent within our party to achieve great things, I believe I am well placed to help the CCA engage with more Councillors in a more constructive way, especially as we have new and more diverse Councillors coming into the party.

I seek to change the clumsy processes Councillors must embark upon to access training, support and advice. I will champion more self-service and peer-powered systems, enabling Councillors to “level up” to borrow a phrase.

If you have not received your e-ballot, please email the CCA team at cca@conservatives.com or call them on 020 7984 8144.

You have until midday on Thursday 20th February to cast your vote. Results will be announced at the CCA Annual Conference on Friday 28th February.

As you know from my previous election victories, every vote counts, so please share this message with any Conservative Councillor colleagues you feel might be receptive.

It wasn’t a dark night for Redditch; it’s a new dawn for voluntary sector funding for the many, not the few.

There’s been a lot of misconception going around – some of it accidental, but some of it deliberate. Let’s get to the facts of the matter and provide some more detail. As is often the case in this social media age, the accusations can be wrapped up in a single line, whereas the actual reality of the situation is a bit more complicated. I’ll update this post as new things come up. Here goes:


The claim: Redditch Borough Council is cutting support for charities in the town.
The reality: Rent subsidies for 9 organisations are being phased down (but not out) over three years – only some of which are registered charities. The level of support for the approximately 9 organisations (not all are registered charities) who rent from the council will stay the same at 70% for 1 year, before going down to 50% discount in year two, and then finally 20% discount where it will stay until a new policy is decided.


The Accusation: Redditch Conservatives don’t care about volunteer and community sector (VCS) groups.
The Response: The council, under Conservative control, is setting aside £525,000 over the 3 year period to support VCS groups in the town. That’s nearly 2% of the council’s entire budget at a time when it is under a ‘Section 24’ notice, which means the money will run out in less than two years unless drastic action is taken. In this situation the council would essentially fold and all but the legally required services would be cut, including funding to VCS groups in full. To be able to carve out 2% in these times is actually an achievement, especially if you look around the country and see some councils provide nothing. Previously, the level of support was around 4% of the council’s total budget.


The Accusation: Councillors increased their allowances whilst cutting support for VCS groups.
The Response: The decision to increase allowances was based upon an independent remuneration report that was rejected by the Labour-led administration for 11 years. This meant that Councillors were left severely out of pocket the more active they were – meaning the harder they worked for local residents the more out-of-pocket they would become. Allowances are not wages. They cover the cost of envelopes, stamps, paper, and petrol whilst working on behalf of residents outside of meetings, along with other incidental expenses. If a councillor holds a surgery at a cafe, as I like to do sometimes, the cost of me buying a tea/coffee for my constituent whilst we have a chat comes out of my pocket. If I have to write letters on their behalf the cost of the paper, the ink and the postage is on me. If I drive to a meeting on behalf of a constituent the cost of the petrol and the parking ticket is on me. No councillor goes into politics for the money, but how can we encourage people from poorer and working class backgrounds to get involved if the reality is they will be quite a lot poorer for doing so. This leads to only wealthy and usually retired people becoming Councillors and that’s jut not representative of the demographics of Redditch.


Claim: There aren’t any VCS groups who don’t rent from the Council
Reality: That’s just not true. There are around 9 organisations who rent from the council. According to the Charity Commission there are over 1,997 charities registered across Worcestershire and there are many groups across the town that rent from private landlords – and get no subsidy for their rent.


Remembering a tragic road traffic accident of 29th April 2009, which resulted in the death of Daniel Patterson, 21.

On the 29th of April 2009 I was sat in my room in house that I shared with friends that faced onto the London Road, Coventry (A4114). I was working late, probably on a website, when I heard an almighty smash followed by the screeching of a car braking. I initially assumed that two cars had collided as there is no central divide/barrier on this stretch of road. Then I heard the screams.

Continue reading “Remembering a tragic road traffic accident of 29th April 2009, which resulted in the death of Daniel Patterson, 21.”

Writer’s Rust

When you think about it, the end of the year is a peculiar thing, isn’t it?

On the one hand it’s all fairly easy-to-understand (but no means simple). The planet Earth is about to complete another orbit of its star – easy, right? Same thing that happens every year, and will happen for billions of years to come… That’s unless we blow it up or create an extinction event for ourselves, of course.

Continue reading “Writer’s Rust”