Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Feedback from meeting on Run-A-Muck

I attended a meeting today at the Council House to discuss the future presence of Run-A-Muck on the Council’s allotment sites.

Councillor Ray Hassall, Chair of the Leisure and Culture Scrutiny Committee, chaired the meeting.

Other attendees were: Ian Brown and Mike Williams from CSV who run Run-A-Muck; Gordan Richards and Adrian Stagg from the Council; Clive (?) from Birmingham District Allotments Association; Sue Griffiths from the Scrutiny Office and myself.

The meeting started off with a truthfully opinion of how Run-A-Muck were badly running their compost sites. The meeting ended with positive actions on how the Council will work with Run-A-Muck make it run correctly and give it longevity.

The current situation can be summarized as follows:
1) Run-A-Muck operate from 3 Council allotments: Forman Road; Bordesley Green and Burney Lane.
2) The Council and the allotment association are deeply unhappy with how the compost heaps are run. The areas of concern can be broken down into three distinct areas.
2a) the compost heaps look like rubbish tips. Run-A-Muck have resolved the issue of mounds of unopened plastic bags of compost from Summer 2005. However, recent close inspections of the compost heaps show them to be full of plastic bags, guttering, household items and in one photo a household pillow.
2b) inexperienced allotments holders are helping themselves to the rotting compost, since they think it is quality stuff. This means that the domestic refuse and plastic is being spread on the allotments. Also because the compost has not fully rotted down, perennials such as Japanese knotweed and various fungi diseases are being spread on the allotments.
2c) the compost that Run-A-Muck gives back to local residents and allotment holders is sieved to remove any items such as plastic. But it is still considered that it is not to fully rotted down and requires a further 2 to 3 years composting.
3) Run-A-Muck accept that the running of the scheme has been one long learning process, mainly because it was the first of its type in the country. Accepting too much compost onto the local compost heaps without having the human resource and infrastructure in place has caused many of the problems. They are now giving excess compost to Lifford Lane depot to compost.
4) Run-A-Muck do not have Exempt Environmental certificates for their three sites. CSV have one for a compost heap at the Wheels site in Saltley, but this does not cover the Run-A-Muck compost heaps.
5) Run-A-Muck were originally offered two sites at Forman Road – one close to the River Cole, the other on higher ground. Run-A-Muck accept that it was a mistake for them to decide to use the River Cole site, since it regularly becomes flooded and unusable.
6) Run-A-Muck have stopped using the Forman Road site and are about to begin clearing it. They intend to concentrate on two allotment sites: Bordesley Green and Burney Lane
7) Run-A-Muck may not be eligible for future Neighbourhood Renewal Funding (NRF) due to the government getting stricter on what NRF can be spent on. Half of Run-A-Muck’s funding comes from NRF. The other half comes from the National Lottery, which insists on local composting.

The action points to come out of the meeting were:
i) Run-A-Muck are to stop allotment holders from taking compost direct from the compost heaps
ii) Run-A-Muck are to re-organise their compost sites, with the assistance of Council Officers, so that it is clear that a composting process is taking place over a number of years. Similar to the composting heaps at Croft Park nursery.
iii) A meeting with between the Environmental Agency, Council Officers and Run-A-Muck is to be organized to resolve the issue of certification.
iv) Officers are to check whether the other site on Forman Road, on higher ground, is still available for Run-A-Muck to use.
v) A meeting is to be organized with Councillor Len Gregory to see if Run-A-Muck can be funded from Council funds - £5million has been set-aside for the next financial year for recycling projects. This would give Run-A-Muck the longevity that it presently lacks by having to rely on NRF funding.
vi) Councillor Martin Mullaney to be invited to all the forthcoming meetings

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tyburn Road bus lane - it's future

The Transportation and Street Services Scrutiny Committee will be discussing the future of the Tyburn Road bus lane on Tuesday 10am in the Council House. I would like to know your thoughts on this issue.

The meeting on Tuesday will be discussing whether or not we 'call in' a decision made by Cllr Len Gregory, Cabinet member for Transportation and Street Services last week.

Cllr Gregory has agreed to spend £50,000 to consult members of the public on the following three options:
1) reinstate the bus lane as was (ie for buses, taxis, cycles and motorcycles only
2) reinstate the bus lane as was, but allow HGV lorries to use it as well
3) permanently remove the bus lane.

The data for the journey times of cars and buses before and after the suspension of the bus lane in October 2004 is interesting.

Since suspension, the journey times of cars along this stretch of road have significantly improved - which one would expect. However, the journey times of the buses has hardly changed. At peak times it still takes buses about 15 minutes to travel the 2 and a half miles from Kingsbury Road to Salford Park.

This absence of change in bus journey times makes me wonder if the bus lanes were ever effective. For example, the bus lanes by The Jug of Ale pub, Alcester Road in Moseley are not very effective, since they are too narrow and buses are unable to squeeze past the cars - maybe this was the case with Tyburn Road. Or maybe the bus lanes stop short of congested traffic junctions.

My personal thoughts on the way forward:
1) I fam not happy about getting rid of bus lanes, since this sends out the message to the public and public transport operators that Birmingham is anti-public transport - I don't have a problem with trimming them where they are not needed or even reducing the hours to peak times only.
2) I feel uncomfortable about allowing HGV's to use bus lane, since they will merely clog up the bus lanes AND HGV's shouldn't be going round Birmingham in the peak times anyway! Peak times are very communters
3) I would rather the £50,000 was spent understanding why the bus lanes didn't work - recommend improvements. Look at junction improvements. Maybe include removing sections of the bus lanes that are well away from junctions, and reduce the time of operation to peak times only.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Run A Muck and Moor Green Allotments

A meeting was held at Moor Green Allotments on Monday 6th February to discuss the possibility of Run A Muck having a community compost heap here.

Run A Muck are half funded from local Neighbourhood Renewl Funds (£80,000pa) and half funded from National Lottery funds. The condition of the National Lottery Funding is that the collected compost is composted in the local area and returned to the local community at a cheap rate.

Run A Muck have operated in a number of Wards in Birmingham for several years, however they have never had a community compost heap in Moseley and Kings Heath Ward. They have three compost heaps in Birmingham: Bordesley allotments, Formans Road allotments and Burnley Lane allotments. The Council's own compost is composted at a farm in the Worcestershire countryside.

There have been longstanding complaints from allotments holders and residents about the operation of the three Run A Muck compost heaps. See

The Formans Road compost heap has to close soon since this it is full and this is where all of Moseley and Kings Heath compost have so far been composted. The close of Formans Road heap will mean that Run A Muck will have to travel further to Bordesley Green or Washwood Heath to compost. It is important for the future running of Run A Muck in Moseley and Kings Heath that a local compost heap is found.

The site meeting on Monday was attended by myself, Jeremy Shields, Julian and Ian from Run A Muck and members of Moor Green Allotments Association.

The Moor Green Allotments Association made it clear that they did NOT want Run A Muck operating from their allotment site. In the following discussion, it was clear that there was no room for negotiation.

The conclusion of the meeting was as follows:
1) Run A Muck have to accept that they will not have a compost heap in the Moseley and Kings Heath area and have to do some serious thinking about the future direction of the Run A Muck scheme in Moseley and Kings Heath.
2) As a full back postion in case the local Run A Muck scheme collapses, I have asked the Council to move forward at speed, plans to introduce a Council run composting scheme in Moseley and Kings Heath. Run A Muck would still operate in the small roads where the Council truck can not get into.

update on Woodnorton House and 64 Greenhill Road

Woodnorton site, on the corner of Moor Green Lane and Alcester Road, will be put on the market for residential development in 4-5 weeks time (mid March). Details of date of auction still to be finalised.

Disposal of 64 Greenhill Road is held up until the Housing Department gets approval that it can keep 80% of the receipt to spend on improving the standard of current Council Housing stock.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Tony Kennedy today lost his court case for malicious falsehood against me.

The judge said that he believed Jim Pendleton's version of events, in that Tony Kennedy had pushed Mr Pendleton from behind outside the Prince of Wales pub on the 28th May 2004. This push resulted in Mr Pendleton headbutting a brick wall in the alleyway to the side of the pub - he suffered severe head injuries.

Mr Kennedy claimed that Mr Pendleton had attacked him and had acted in self defence.

The judge said that based on witness evidence he neither believed Mr Kennedy nor Mr Kennedy's partner, Kate Booth, version of events. He added that Mr Kennedy's and Ms Booth's evidence conflicted with their own witnesses and with each other.

The judge said that he found Mr Kennedy's behaviour immediately after the event difficult to understand if his version of events were true. Mr Kennedy had refused to answer questions at the scene about what happened, even from his own friends. The judge found it surprising that if he had acted in self defence why he refused to answer allegations from by-standers that he had attacked Jim Pendleton.

The judge also used the following terms to describe Mr Kennedy "a verbose, pompous busy body", "patronising"