The firm behind Britain’s controversial high speed rail system, HS2 Ltd, hosted a four day event which it says highlighted business opportunities across the region.
The huge rail link which cuts a swathe across the Midlands on its way from London during Phase 1, skirts Sutton Coldfield as it makes its way through Birmingham, running close to Bassetts Pole and Whittington near Lichfield.
HS2 Ltd hosted the event showcasing £12bn worth of contract opportunities that businesses from across the UK can find out how to prepare and start bidding for.
Despite being billions over budget and beset with delays, the firm says the event gave businesses, across hundreds of sectors, a crucial insight into how they can become part of HS2’s rapidly growing supply chain, which already includes over 2,000 businesses.
Many of the HS2 critics are environmental groups which claim the project could increase carbon emissions and cause huge damage to natural habitats, including dozens of ancient woodlands. They claim that constructing the railway lines through these areas could also threaten the survival of certain species
The four-day programme was delivered in partnership with HS2’s four main works construction partners (Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV)); Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial, BAM Nutall (EKFB)); Align and Skanska Costain STRABAG (SCS)) and two stations contractors (Balfour Beatty/VINCI/SYSTRA and Mace/Dragados), who between them will unlock thousands of individual work packages which range in size and value between £5,000 and £200m.
The agenda for the first three days consistsd of 24 opt-in webinars, delivered by over 60 presenters, which allow delegates to learn about the HS2 scheme, HS2 Ltd’s procurement processes and the programme of works its contractors are undertaking. Monday’s session begins with an introduction from HS2 Minister, Andrew Stephenson MP.
The final day presented the opportunity for over 1,000 potential suppliers to meet one-to-one with HS2’s construction partners, who are looking for new entrants into their supply chain to deliver their 2021/22 work packages.
The potential contracts represent a huge boost for British businesses seeking security and growth amidst the economic uncertainty arising from the Coronavirus pandemic.
HS2 Ltd has so far awarded 98 per cent of its current contracts to UK-based businesses; 70 per cent of which have gone to SMEs, and it aims to continue that positive trend through direct engagement with suppliers and local business during the Meet the Contractor event.
The £12bn boost reflects the scale of progress to date in delivering HS2’s Phase One programme between London and Birmingham, as work on the tunnels, viaducts and station foundations along the 140-mile route gathers pace.
After a number of false starts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the top hotels in the popular Cyprus resort of Larnaka is gearing up to open in April.
With great news on the vaccine front the four-star Palm Beach Hotel and Bungalows is gearing up to welcome visitors back to the island after a major refurbishment.
A family-friendly hotel that caters for all types of holiday requirements, conferences and even weddings.
But before the expected flood of visitors in the spring, the resort is offering a virtual experience to potential visitors with a series of ‘cultural walks’ around Larnaka city.
All the sights can be effortlessly discovered at home via the new ‘Larnaka Cultural Walk Virtual 360°’ project.
The innovative virtual tour showcases 30 of Larnaka city’s most popular and significant landmarks and places of interest; split into three categories: seafront and town centre; archaeology and museums, and culture and nature. In the same way that visitors would choose a route and sights on a physical walk, anyone can custom create their own virtual tour by logging to http://culturalwalk.virtuallarnakaregion.com/
Combining vibrant visual material with additional information and facts on places of interest, this virtual tour is very simple to take. After clicking on a chosen sight, navigate the image from all angles to enjoy a complete 360° view with extra aerial views also available for some sights.
A VR option for mobile device users adds further dimension to the tour.
The virtual tour is another way to connect with Larnaka, especially for the many UK repeater guests that could not travel to these shores this year. It is also ideal for those travellers planning a trip for the first time and looking to familiarise themselves with the most popular areas, or wishing to prepare a list of what they would most like to see when they arrive in Larnaka.
The tour will give a taste of the area renowned for its beautiful sandy beaches, azure blue warm waters and imposing mountains.
Cyprus has been lusted after by settlers and conquerers for centuries, sitting as it does at the crossroads of the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa.
With its fantastic sunny climate and links to to the UK, it’s a magnet for sun seekers in the summer months. The coronavirus pandemic however has played havoc with this, disrupting travel and tourism worldwide.
Lesser known than the usual tourist playgrounds is Larnaka, an ancient capital of the island and an area steeped in history and tradition.
Our trip could be described as a winter break and we dropped lucky with the late winter weather, with almost unbroken sunshine.
We flew in to Larnaca airport and had a pleasant surprise with having only a 20-minute drive to the Palm Beach Hotel and Bungalows.
A family-friendly hotel that caters for all types of holiday requirements, conferences and even weddings.
It has an imposing presence with four floors of rooms facing the well-tended gardens to the front and the same at the rear of the hotel, with rooms overlooking the sea.
As the name implies there is also a mini complex of bungalows in the garden area, which can offer B&B and half-board, popular with families.
The bungalows too, have their own separate bar area. The rear of the hotel is just yards from the sea front and boasts a large pool and any number of sunbeds. Other facilities include a gym, indoor pool, plus the new Palm Spa opened in 2019 and conference facilities.
It’s no wonder millions of tourists also lust after this pearl of the Mediterranean as a holiday destination
Wi-fi is free throughout the hotel and there are tea and coffee making facilities to all rooms. Even as winter moves into spring you can laze around by the pool, take a dip in the sea, or join the joggers and cyclists up and the down the path between hotel and beach.
For those tying the knot, an island paradise is the ideal spot and the hotel host ceremonies at its own on-site chapel, the Chapel of Saint Constantine and Saint Helena, which can host weddings of Orthodox and Anglican denominations., or civil ceremonies on or near the beach, under a marquee, just a few steps from the Mediterranean.
Planet Weddings is a fully bonded specialist UK tour operator with a wedding special offer at the Palm Beach.
Exploring the island is a must and it is possible, you can join one of the many free excursions offered by a syndicate of hotels, the local tourist board and attractions.
There is so much to see on the island, from the spectacular Troodos mountains, to the spectacular beaches, archaeological and cultural sites, so hiring a car is a good idea.
At the hotel we stayed B&B, but snacks can be bought at the hotel throughout the day and the evening meal is certainly worth a try.
Alternatively there are many fine restaurants in Larnaca itself, just a 10-minute drive away or with a group of shops, bars and restaurants opposite the hotel.
The town of Larnaca has a swish beachfront and plush marina while shoppers can find many well known stores on the two main shopping streets, local markets, museums and art galleries.
For a snack, try Alasia a small cafe bar on the seafront, which serves excellent Cypriot food.
Also worth visiting is the medieval fort, built by the Ottomans and used as a prison by the British and the spectacular ninth century St Lazarus Church, right in the heart of the town, which houses the tomb of the saint.
Sutton Coldfield shoppers could bring early Christmas cheer for needy families by donating food at their local Tesco store.
This Christmas will be a struggle for many, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic fallout – and families with children are going to be the hardest hit of all.
Foodbank charity the Trussell Trust expects its network of UK food banks to give out an emergency food parcel every nine seconds this winter, while FareShare is supplying food to 11,000 frontline charities helping to feed families and individuals in communities across the country.
The trust has enjoyed working in partnership with Tesco for more than seven years and have supported over a million people in crisis.
With Tesco and food redistribution charity FareShare they are working to make a positive difference in local communities across the UK.
The partnership with Tesco is instrumental in ensuring the network of food banks has enough food to meet the increasing demand. Through permanent collection points, located in over 450 Tesco stores, people can donate food to their local food bank while doing their weekly shop.
Tesco generously tops up its customers’ food donations with a financial donation of 2 0per cent of the value of the items donated.
The top-up is calculated using an average valuation of £1.75/kg for all items donated. This valuation is calculated by looking up the items that make up a standard food parcel and checking the prices of these items in Tesco’s standard own-label range.
Customers unable to contribute food in store can help by donating Tesco Clubcard points to the two organisations.
Last year s Tesco shoppers donated more than three million meals during the collection, and this year the need for food is greater than ever, with every single item gathered making a difference to someone’s life.
“The effects of the pandemic are being felt far and wide,” says FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell. “More people than ever are turning to charities and community groups because they’re unable to feed themselves and their families.”
The collection launches in Tesco Express stores today and in large stores from Thursday. Customers are being asked to donate food up to November 21.
It’s as simple as buying the items with your usual shopping and dropping them in the dedicated Food Collection trolley at the exit. The food needed includes longer-life items such as rice, tea and tinned goods, all of which can be made into nutritious meals.
Customers unable to contribute food in store can help by donating Tesco Clubcard points to the two organisations.
All the food that goes to FareShare is used to provide meals for vulnerable groups, such as isolated older people and those in homeless shelters. Tesco tops up the value of all these donations with an additional 20 percent in cash.
In addition to the permanent collection points in hundreds of Tesco stores, and ad hoc collections at stores throughout the year, we also work with Tesco and FareShare on the annual Food Collection in the run-up to Christmas.
This provides much-needed food and funds for local food banks at a critical time of year. The Food Collection is great fun for volunteers and Tesco employees alike and, since its inception in 2012, Tesco customers have donated more than 50 million meals.
Crashing a Spitfire on landing is not my finest hour. Luckily it was in a flight simulator at an aircraft museum and I was so agonisingly near the the perfect flight after an extraordinary few days in Kent, but more on that later.
Ramsgate may not trip from the lips as a must seaside destination for Midlanders, but it a fascinating place with a history of famous sons and daughters as evidenced by a plethora of blue plaques and somewhere to seriously consider once the pandemic has subsided.
The celebrities who have lived or worked in the Kent town include Elizabeth Fry, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, John Le Mesurier, and artist Vincent Van Gogh, who taught in the town.
It was also significant during the Second World War and has the only royal harbour in the country (a status granted by George IV in 1821) and some of the finest hotels and dining.
One of these, the Royal Harbour Hotel, proved the perfect base for all things Ramsgate, a town also famous for the part it played in in the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk.
The hotel is divided across three Georgian-style buildings with 27 individually styled rooms, most with spectacular sea views and easy access to all amenities. The hotel is a mix of quaint and modern with quirky old furniture melded with ultra-modern bathrooms.
Memorabilia is everywhere, celebrating the town’s seafaring heritage. Our bedroom, with a view over the harbour, featured a four poster bed, complimentary bottles of water and biscuits.
For extra comfort, there were also couple of armchairs and even a TV above the bath.
In the main hotel, there are a couple of sitting rooms one, with honesty bar, roaring fires and an eclectic mix of vinyl records to play on the vintage record player.
A truly relaxing atmosphere in a superbly comfortable environment.
Fine dining is offered in the hotel’s two restaurants, the Empire Room, which is in a basement part of the complex and The Little Ships, just a short walk down the seafront. Having eaten in both, it is fair to say that one is excellent and the other outstanding. You will need to visit to make your own mind up.
The men behind them are hotelier James Thomas and Michelin-trained chef Craig Mather who have put together imaginative and competitively priced menus for both venues, whether the more expensive a la carte or cheaper set menus.
The Empire Room is decorated with red walls and furnished with Victorian and Georgian wooden tables and chairs, original Empire magazine covers on the walls and history books on library shelves.
Down the road The Little Ships is a more contemporary affair, a kind of continental restaurant come bistro/cafe, with modern furnishings and open plan kitchen.
Both offer varied menus, with the Little Ships seafood a particular delight. Having chosen squid, admittedly not something I would eat on a regular basis, it was by far the best I have ever tasted, while the seafood linguini was nearly as good.
My wife, in customary fashion, went with the meat and got stuck into a pork chop the size of a dinner plate. I know that doesn’t sound exotic, (there are more exotic dishes), but the food is truly exceptional and served imaginatively. Incidentally, both restaurants score highly with Tripadvisor.
The award-winning Empire Room offers a slightly different menu and the Kentish loin of beef proved a real winner for me in what is a charming and atmospheric dining experience, while the other half went for a meal I thought she would have at the other place, shoulder of lamb.
You could wax lyrical about both restaurants, suffice to say both offer fantastic food with first class service. Out and about, the Ramsgate Tunnels are really a must visit. A labyrinth of tunnels criss-crossing the town, built during the war, that became shelters for many and home for some.
A guided tour gives an understanding of what life was like during the the Blitz, while Margate and Broadstairs are just a few miles away
Down the road is the RAF Manston History Museum, where you can lose yourself with the history of ancient and modern aircraft and get an understanding of the 100-year plus history of the RAF with some fantastic exhibits.
Just across the car park is the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum, which concentrates on the iconic aircraft that won the Battle of Britain and, returning to the beginning, where you can take a virtual flight, or crash a Spitfire, in an exhilarating flying experience. Worth every penny of the £30 on a special few days
The Royal Harbour Hotels is at 10 Nelson Crescent, Ramsgate
Contact: email@example.com, or call 01843 591514
A leading airline has warned that its winter capacity for 2020/21 will be halved as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays chairman Philip Meeson expects the airline and operator’s winter capacity to be half that of last year owing to the ongoing effects of the coronavirus crisis. Jet2 placed around 80 per cent of its UK staff on furlough during the six months to September 30. The business this November disclosed a pre-tax loss of £119.3 million for the six months to 30 September, down from a £337 million profit during the same period last year.
Operational profit, meanwhile, fell from £365.1 million to a £111.2 million loss during what Jet2 described as a period of “unprecedented operational and financial challenges” during which it was forced to ground much of its fleet from mid-March through to mid-July. “Few could have foreseen the prolonged impact of the pandemic,” said Mr Meeson. “Jet2 plc has adapted quickly to the challenges by taking considered, but decisive actions to bolster liquidity, minimise losses and reduce cash burn.”
Mr Meeson said Jet2’s “disciplined approach” to flying capacity, which involved focusing on profitable routes and bringing them to market quickly when travel restrictions permitted, had allowed the business to deliver a better result than forecast back in mid-May. Looking ahead to the winter, Mr Meeson said he anticipated winter 2020/21 seat capacity would be approximately 50 per cent less than winter 2019/20, adding with travel advice uncertain, forward bookings would likely continue to come with a “pronounced” shorter lead time than in previous years.
He said: “As is typical for the business, further losses are to be expected in the second half of the financial year as we ready ourselves operationally for the proposed summer 2021 flying programme,” said Mr Meeson. “In addition, the ability to fly in the short term remains uncertain, as UK government guidance currently restricts international travel except in limited circumstances until at least 3 December.” Jet2 plc’s half-year report reveals the extent of the business’s efforts to preserve liquidity and control cash burn: it placed around 80 per cent of UK staff on furlough under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and tapped similar schemes for overseas workers; froze recruitment and discretionary spending; and cancelled 12 summer-only third-party leased aircraft. Staff were also asked to take a pay cut, while performance-related bonuses for the year ending 31 March 2020 and the firm’s discretionary colleague profit share scheme were not paid. Passenger numbers, though, fell from 10.07 million in 2019 to just 0.99 million on an average load factor of 69 per cent, down from 93.1 per cent. However, Jet2’s proportion of package holiday customers increased as a percentage of those who did travel during the six months to 30 September. On refunds, Meeson said Jet2 had taken “great pride” in refunding customers promptly, and paid tribute to the airline and operator’s virtual contact centre, customer service and social media teams for their “tireless” work, which he added was duly recognised by the CAA in its airline refund investigation.
It’s the city that never sleeps, or so it seems, the home of modern civilisation, home of the Acropolis and Parthenon, and the home of a million taxis – I don’t think I have ever seen so many, even in New York.
Athens is a wonderful city, steeped in history, alive with culture and with a diverse and as it seemed to us, young, population.
The birthplace of democracy, it is often referred to as the cradle of western civilisation and is one of world’s oldest cities, its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years.
Classical Athens was a centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum.
It seems hard to believe Greece itself was in such dire straits and needing a bailout just a few short years ago, and now, like the rest of the world, is suffering from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.
But this teeming thriving metropolis sitting on the edge of the Mediterranean and Aegean sea bounced back from the financial crisis and will certainly recover from the pandemic.
We spent two memorable days the heart of the city at the Athens Tiare Hotel, on historic Omonia Square, a central as you can get in Athens and the oldest square in the city
The hotel stands proudly overlooking Omonia, also known as Concord Square. The hotel is within easy reach of landmarks, museums, cultural centres, wining and dining, shopping and anything you may desire.
A two-minute walk from the city’s subway, you can buy a 10 Euro ticket from the airport and arrive at the square via one change on metro in around 40 minutes.
From here most of the major attractions are within easy reach, even walking distance for this wishing burn off the excess calories from the excellent Greek street food.
The 10-storey hotel dominates the square and offers various accommodation, from comfort through to family and executive quality rooms. All have been refurbished and our deluxe room featured comfortable king-size bed, huge wall mounted flat-screen TV, drink making facilities and a state of the art bathroom with high end power shower with massaging jets.
We stayed on B&B basis, with breakfast served in the cafe-style Artensis restaurant on the mezzanine floor. It offers a comfortable ambiance, offering a chic, modern dining area, with a fantastic view over the square.
Other facilities include free computer and printer use at the business centre, small library and fitness centre as well as a ground floor lobby lounge and bar with outside area, that also proved popular with passers-by, stopping off for a coffee or early evening tipple.
Importantly the whole building was spotlessly clean for our visit with the staff courteous and helpful. You can see why it would be equally popular with tourists and business users.
Within minutes you can take a journey through ancient civilisation to the modern days, and enjoy landmarks, museums, cultural and government centres, shopping and an impressive flea market.
The heritage of the classical era is still evident seemingly everywhere in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Acropolis and Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilisation. Other archaeologically important sites such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch and the Tower of the Winds are nearby.
An informative and comprehensive view of the city can be had on one of the many open top city tour buses. A multi-lingual commentary gives passengers all the information about the city and its origins.
The metro also takes you in two stops to Syntagma Square with many cultural and civic buildings nearby the very heart of Athens, and to Monastiraki Square, the historic core of the city, which is jam packed with shops, open air stalls and that flea market. This station also features ancient Greek ruins, while the metro itself can take you even further afield to the historic Port of Piraeus, one of the trading hubs linking Europe with Africa and Asia.
Be prepared for a real hike however if you decide to visit the Acropolis of Athens on foot. The word acropolis means the highest point and there are many others in Greece.
It is the home of several ancient ruins, including the most famous of all, the Parthenon, a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, who the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power.
Hugely popular, even in early May literally thousands were queuing to see the iconic landmark. At 20 euro, it is a price worth paying for surely must be one of the wonders of the ancient world.
As said earlier, it is quite a hike up the hill from the city centre, but buses and taxis, would cut that journey by two thirds.
A fantastic thriving capital city with a terrific transport infrastructure. Everything is near at hand and one of the most important historical and archaeologically important sites in the world. I would go again.
Sutton people should make a last sweep of their garden rubbish before collections end on November 23 and will not resume until spring.
According to Birmingham City Council: “As our gardens ‘hibernate’ for the winter, so does our garden waste service!”
The last collection for this year will be during the week commencing 23 November – on your usual collection day. Households can check their collection day online: birmingham.gov.uk/waste.
If you have any garden rubbish you need to dispose of during the winter months you can take it to one of five household recycling centres. You will need to book a slot before you visit, find out more here: birmingham.gov.uk/hrc
Sales will re-open soon for the 2021 garden waste service, and the council will be contacting householders with the relevant information.
Sutton Coldfield schools have a proud record for education students, with many achieving some of the best results in the country.
There are a number of secondary schools, both selective and comprehensive, in the area, including Fairfax School is on Reddicap Heath Road in the east of the town.
Opposite the school is The John Willmott School, while Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls is on Jockey Road.
Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, its male equivalent, is on Lichfield Road in the centre of the town adjacent to Birmingham Metropolitan College.
The Arthur Terry School is on Kittoe Road in Four Oaks in the north of the town near Butlers Lane station, while The Plantsbrook School (formerly The Riland Bedford School) is on Upper Holland Road near the centre of the town in Maney.
Bishop Walsh Catholic School is next to the Sutton Park Line and New Hall Valley Country Park and is a 10 minutes from Wylde Green. All these schools are for ages 11–18. However, from September 1972 until July 1992, schools in the Sutton Coldfield area were divided into first school for pupils aged 5–8 years, middle schools for pupils aged 8–12 years, while the entry age for secondary school was set at 12 years.
There are also many primary and infant schools in the area including : St Joseph Catholic Primary School; Whitehouse Common Primary School; Deanery Primary School; Banners Gate Primary School; Holy Cross Infant and Junior Catholic Primary School; Walmley Primary School and Moor Hall Primary School in the Mere Green area.
Others include Four Oaks Primary; New Hall Primary and Children’s Centre; Little Sutton; Coppice Primary; Hill West and Mere Green Combined.
Highclare School, founded in 1932, is a primary and secondary school located on three sites in the Birmingham area. Two of the sites are located in Sutton Coldfield, with the other being located in nearby Erdington. The Sutton Coldfield facilities are on Lichfield Road in the Four Oaks area and in the Wylde Green area to the south, which houses the nursery.
St Nicholas Catholic Primary School in Jockey Road is a voluntary aided Catholic primary school. Established in 1967.
Streetly is an unusual part of Sutton Coldfield as it comes within the borders of three local authorities.
It lies around seven miles (11 km) to the north of Birmingham City Centre. It is uniquely located within the borders of Birmingham, Lichfield and Walsall district authorities, and is part of the West Midlands conurbation. It is adjacent to Sutton Coldfield, New Oscott, Great Barr, Four Oaks, Little Aston and Aldridge.
Streetly is a semi-rural district, lying close to many farms and is separated from Walsall by open fields and the North Birmingham green belt. The local area includes Sutton Park of which Streetly has its own dedicated gate. Streetly is part of the Birmingham Metropolitan Area and the Birmingham Urban Area.
Streetly is named after Icknield Street, a Roman road, of which parts can still be found in Sutton Park. Streetly was a rural area of Staffordshire until the 1960s, when the character of the area became suburban due to the mass construction of modern housing in response to the urbanisation of Birmingham. Streetly was in Aldridge-Brownhills Urban District until the creation of the metropolitan West Midlands County in 1974.