New player in Sutton store wars battle

Store wars in Sutton Coldfield could be stepped with supermarket Aldi’s plans to build a new store on a derelict site in Sutton Coldfield.

The German grocery giant plans to build a new store in Brassington Avenue in the town centre, a site that been an eyesore in the town for many years.

It is believed Aldi is planning to move from its Sutton town centre store on The Parade, where there are parking problems, to the new site.

The land, which is on the edge of the Sutton ring road has been empty for many years despite many ambitious plans which have come and gone with no end result. As far back as 2009, a scheme to build more than 250 apartments earmarked for the site were finally abandoned due to problems brought about by the financial crash.

The development will form part of the Sutton Coldfield master plan, which includes a major transformation of Brassington Avenue, with more housing, shopping and leisure facilities.

Clockwise from the top, the for sale sign at Brassington Avenue, the former Waitrose in Belwell Lane, work continuing on the new Lidl and the current Aldi store in the town centre

It will be the second Aldi in Sutton Coldfield, following plans for the conversion of the former Waitrose in Belwell Lane, Mere Green and will join the new Lidl, currently being built in Mere Green on the former Lucas site.

The framework for the building is now in place with work nearly complete on the car park.

The Lidl store and panned Aldi in Mere Green have sparked fears of traffic chaos in what is already a congested area.

Irish ferries sail in with new service

Irish Ferries will operate Isle of Inishmore on its new Dover to Calais service this summer

Operator to run cross-Channel ferries

Irish Ferries is to start operating a new service between Dover and Calais for the first time in summer 2021 in a bold move to offer and alternative to the existing very fleets and the Channel Tunnel.

Despite the current travel restriction in place in the UK and uncertainty when some kind of normality will resume, the operator, part of Irish Continental Group, is planning to transfer its Isle of Inishmore ferry on to the busy cross-Channel route where it will compete with existing firms P&O Ferries and DFDS.

Services are due to begin in June 2021 with Irish Ferries planning to add more capacity on the Dover-Calais route in the “coming months”.

“We are very excited about launching our services on the best short sea ferry market in the world and we believe we can bring more choice for customers in the years ahead,” said Irish Ferries.

“The initial level of passenger services offered will be dependent on the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.”

Doug Bannister, Port of Dover’s chief executive, added: “We are delighted to welcome Irish Ferries to Dover. This announcement gives the millions of customers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland who value the intrinsic benefits of the shortest sea crossing to Europe, the prospect of even more choice.” 

Irish Ferries is also adding a new ship, Blue Star 1, to its fleet which will sail on the Rosslare to Pembroke route.

The future’s orange for fundraiser

Amy Foster will be dressing in orange, organising a fundraising tea and taking part in a sponsored space hopper race.

Get up and go this April to support St Giles Hospice

Everyone in Sutton Coldfield is being invited to get up and go orange this April to brighten up their spring and support St Giles Hospice.

The charity, which has centres in Whittington and Sutton Coldfield, is calling on supporters to dress up or dress down in orange for a day, a week or for the entire month this April. They can then text to make a donation to raise funds to support the hospice’s work caring for people living with a terminal illness and their families.

St Giles has also drawn up a host of other fun, colourful fundraising ideas to keep supporters entertained throughout the month as they take part in Orange April with friends, family or colleagues, whether at home, at work or even on Zoom.

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said: “We’re hoping to add an extra splash of colour to everybody’s April this year by asking our supporters to get up and go orange for St Giles.

“It takes a community to make a hospice and we’ve never need you more than we do today. By dressing in orange and taking part in other orange-inspired fundraising activities you can show your support for St Giles and make a real difference to the lives of local patients and their families.

“We rely on voluntary contributions to fund two thirds of the £10m we need to raise each year to fund the care we offer, and throughout the current Coronavirus crisis our services have faced unprecedented demand at a time when we have had to cancel our fundraising events and close our shops.

“Over the past 12 months our clinical and fundraising teams have had to adapt to ensure that we meet the increased demand and deliver our services in different ways – and our supporters have been so imaginative in finding ways to raise funds for us despite the lockdowns and social distancing.”

Everyone wanting to get up and go orange this April can request a fundraising pack in the post, which includes a special orange St Giles Hospice ribbon to add to their outfit along with a whole host of entertaining fundraising ideas and activities, or receive their pack digitally.

These ideas include a special orange Zoom background, a Zoom-based orange-themed scavenger hunt, a ‘guess the weight of your carrot cake’ competition, a ‘guess how many orange Smarties are in the jar’ competition and a new Olly the Orange activity pack for the kids.

Amy said: “We would urge everybody to Get Up and Go Orange to support St Giles this April and hope people will be happy to take part this year as we’re all in need of a good laugh!

“We want everyone to wear their orange ribbon with pride this April, knowing that they are helping us to continue providing care to people in our local community living with a terminal illness,” added Chloe.

The Hospice at Home team at St Giles will be among those dressing in orange to mark Orange April while they are out in the community caring for patients and their families at home next month.

Healthcare Assistant Amy Foster will also be organising a fundraising afternoon tea takeaway service and taking part in a sponsored space hopper race with her daughter to raise funds for St Giles.

“It’s so important to have our community supporting us and raising funds for us, this year more than ever. Whether it’s doing a sponsored walk or a cake sale, raising a couple of pounds or a thousand, it makes such a difference to the care we can provide to local families.”

Amy visits between six and eight people every day, offering personal and respite care, night support and emotional support to patients and their families. She has been a supporter of St Giles for many years but was inspired to join the Hospice at Home team after her mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and supported by the hospice until her death in 2019.

“The hospice staff were absolute angels and I wanted to give other people some of the love and support that I had received from St Giles,” Amy added. “It’s such a rewarding job.

“Hospice at Home support gives patients the opportunity to stay in their own home with their loved ones rather than having to go into hospital. It really means the world to people and shines so much light and positivity onto patients and their families at a time when they are in such a difficult and challenging situation.”

As well as caring for patients at home, St Giles also supports patients at its Inpatient Unit in Whittington. Many people who are admitted stay for just a few days and nights to have their symptoms controlled and their condition stabilised before returning home, while some require an extended stay involving specialist care, especially during the final stages of their illness.

Orange April has been launched as part of St Giles Hospice’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more at

For more information about St Giles Hospice and the expert care it provides, please visit

Wedding fayre launched

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall to host virtual event

Sutton Coldfield Town hall is to launch a virtual wedding fayre to help locked down engaged couples plan their big day.
The online event, to be streamed from 10.30am this Saturday 27 March, is part of a relaunch of wedding services at the town hall, which received a business grant in 2020 to develop wedding services during the pandemic. The £40,000 project included a £30,000 grant from Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership. Under the ‘Pivot and Prosper’ scheme, it was able to decorate key areas, upgrade digital marketing and install wedding streaming cameras as well as pay for sales and planning staff to improve services.
The virtual fayre, streamed and then stored on the venue website, will be hosted by Jane Dayus-Hinch, local wedding expert and host of the Canadian series ‘Wedding SOS’, which is currently being streamed on Pluto TV and YouTube.
There will be advice and features from Midlands Wedding Caterer of the Year – Caviar and Chips and Midlands Asian Wedding Awards winner, The Juci Luci Cake Company. They will be joined by Sutton experts Floral Jazz and bespoke celebrant Carol Joy.

Included in the 30 suppliers featured will be specialist in South Asian weddings, Arum Javed from Sovereignty Event Management and local five-star company Nothing But Wedding Cars.
The Town Hall’s Hannah Matthews has produced the project, and as a wedding dress and tailoring specialist, she will be giving tips for all members of the wedding party. Filmed by digital specialist Cormac Wade, it marks the official launch of the venue’s new services. A sales team, led by Leyanne Jarvis and Judith Howard, is already receiving renewed interest in the venue, particularly for key  dates in summer 2022.
Hannah has been working with local suppliers in the run up to the event. She said: “We have over 30 local, reputable suppliers and professionals, and after a complex and turbulent year for the wedding and events industries, we’re proud to be using our funding as a springboard for some of these fantastic businesses in the West Midlands.

 “We’re ensuring that the fayre is accessible until restrictions begin to lift, and these companies are then able to start to trade at a more normal pace, as any additional business we can direct to them will help make for a far more positive 2021.”
 To access the stream, visitors can pre-register via the venue’s Facebook events, or visit, and on the day take part via the website
Photos: Mike Wade.

All Jazzed up with Crosstar

2020 Honda Jazz Crosstar

Honda Jazz Crosstar EX e:HEV

By Bill McCarthy

With crossovers all the rage, it seems even established models are getting the treatment Such is the case with the new Jazz, a supermini which has been around since 2001, and is now offering smart styling in two forms, the traditional best-selling hatch and the more SUV-like Crosstar driven here.

The result remains affordability and practicality, with this latest hybrid version, carrying Honda’s new e:HEV badge, delivering amazing fuel economy. 

Driving many cars over the years, despite what official mpg figures may say, experience gives an indication of what kind of economy is being delivered, not to mention the clear evidence of the fuel level indicator on the dash. While official figures are around the 60mpg mark, I was getting nearer 70mph with really trying too hard. This included town, country and motorway driving.

The new Crosstar variant is designed, says Honda, to target those with active lifestyles with a more rugged appearance which includes, increased ride height, new grille, black cladding to wheel arches, roof bars and silver and black alloys. It also has its own blue colour scheme with the option contrasting black roof.

‘On the road, the car feels nippy enough and is a very comfortable place to be’

|nside it features a very less-is-more set up. The firm says its ‘Yoo no bi’ philosophy offers a clean, minimalist interior, wrapping utility, practicality and functionality in a simple, uncluttered ergonomic cabin.

In other words it’s a fairly minimalist setup, with no-nonsense, durable plastics, offset by the occasional soft-touch areas and features wipe-clean seats. It has a central touchscreen, seven or nine-inch, depending on model, which controls navigation, smartphone connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an uprated, eight-speaker sound system. Also included are WiFi hotspot capability, while ‘Honda Personal Assistant’ delivers voice-enabled features and My Honda+ app keeps owners connected when they are away from the car

Other rotary controls are simple to use and supplemented by a seven-inch full TFT instrument cluster and multi-function steering wheel.

It feels roomy for a smallish car with the upright driving position, loads of head and legroom both in the front, and, importantly for a family vehicle, class leading legroom to the rear. In addition a large glass windscreen, flanked by narrower A pillars, allows plenty of light into the cabin.

Stowage space is impressive with central bin and side pockets while the boot offers 298 litres, increasing to a maximum 1,199 litres to the roof with the rear seats down. Honda’s uprated ‘Magic Seat’ configuration offers both fold-flat or flip-up seat flexibility to accommodate cargo of various shapes and sizes and a wider tailgate opening and new flat floor eases loading and unloading. A rubber protective mat is also included in the boot space.

The power setup includes two electric motors connected to a 1.5-litre petrol engine and lithium-ion battery. The combination propels the car to 62mph in not-too-pedestrian 9.9 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 109mph. 

Drivers are offered three drive modes: EV Drive where the battery drives the electric motor directly, ideal for congestion charge zones and fuel saving; hybrid drive where the engine supplies power to the electric generator motor, which in turn supplies it to the electric  motor and full combustion engine drive.

In most cases it is a combination of EV  and Hybrid. Engine drive also kicks in where extra power is needed for greater acceleration.The power units are mated to a new e-CVT setup, not my favourite type transmission. There is no doubt it is fuel efficient, but the accelerating hard has your teeth on edge, until it settles down at the required speed.

On the road, the car feels nippy enough and is a comfortable place to be. The higher stance means there is some body roll, but occupants are well insulated from road and engine noise, apart from under heavy acceleration.

It is packed with safety kit, with a full complement of 10 airbags, including a new front centre airbag. Also new is  Honda SENSING technology, which includes new wider angle high-definition camera, collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, lane assist system, road departure adjustment, blind spot and traffic sign system and speed limiter.


Honda Jazz Crosstar EX e:HEV

Price: £23,585

Mechanical: 107bhp, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving and electric motors, driving front wheels via CVT transmission

Max speed: 109mph

0-60mph: 9.9 seconds

Combined mpg: 58.9

Insurance group: 26

CO2 emissions: 110g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/90,000 miles

Trees axed in restoration

Action to improve Sutton Park environment

Tree surgeons have been busy clearing a large tract of land opposite the car park at Bracebridge in Sutton Park as part of a heathland restoration project.

The work is part of a heathland restoration project designed to improve the habitat for wildlife and preserve different types of vegetation in the park.

While many park visitors assumed the car park was being extended, it was in fact a project to clear dead and overpopulated trees to be replaced with lowland heathland an ecologically rich habitat that forms on nutrient poor sandy soils.

Sutton Park is a nationally important lowland heathland site and while much uch of the restoration work carried out looks dramatic and sometimes drastic, it had to be carried out.

Park rangers say it is important to continue to graze and work the site to ensure the survival of a patchwork of different vegetation types at different stages of development and to provide to a host of species in miniature the habitats that once existed across the entire midlands region.

The work, by Birmingham City Council, includes a reduction of mature birch to maintain and enhance lowland heathland areas.

One of the Birmingham City Council tree surgeons said that heathland is also better for absorbing harmful CO2, as well being an extra grazing area for the wild Exmoor ponies and other wildlife in the park.

The timber will be transported and used in an ecologically friendly way to power plants in the region.

For more information visit

Sutton warning on Census scams

Residents told to be aware of conmen

Residents in Sutton Coldfield have b been warned to be aware of a new breed of scammers using the Census to perpetrate doorstep, telephone and online scams.

Census Day was last Sunday 21 March and from the end of the month until into April, census field officers will be visiting households across the town from which they have not received a completed census form. Their job is to encourage people to complete the census and help residents to access further help if they need it.

Scammers may seek to use the Census as an opportunity to perpetrate doorstep, telephone, and online scams, so it is important to remember the following:

  • At no point will you be asked for your national insurance number, passwords, bank account details, or your credit or debit card numbers, nor any payment
  • You will not receive any payment for completing the census, so any offers of money in exchange for your account details will be fraudulent
  • You will not be called for information about the census unless you’ve made an appointment with the Census Contact Centre or made a query or complaint
  • No-one will enter your home in relation to the census
  • Help to fill out your form is free (for more information visit: or phone 0800 141 2021)
  • You can report a fraud direct to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit:

Sutton Park Games development sparks row

The existing car park area near the Miller & Carte restaurant, with Powell’s Pool in the back ground. Picture: Birmingham City Council
Mixed reaction for Triathlon car park development

Plans for a £770k development in Sutton Park to support next year’s Commonwealth Games have received a mixed reaction from Sutton Coldfield people.

Sutton Park was chosen as the venue for the triathlon and para-triathlon events, which takes place on July 29 and 31, 2022. It provides the perfect setting, with Powell’s Pool, the park and the local roads, to accommodate all three disciplines of a triathlon event (swimming, cycling and running). The area has already successfully hosted Birmingham Triathlon events over the last few years.

The plans will be part of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games legacy and includes £528,000 spent on the revamped car park, in an area next to the Miller & Carter restaurant.
The plans gained general approval at a series of consultations, but some residents are up in arms with one describing it as a ‘white elephant’ and a further erosion of the park’s natural beauty.

But a former local independent councillor says the proposals will be good for the park and criticised local Conservative town councillors on the planning and highways committee for voting against the plan.

Former Vesey independent Paul Long said on the Boldmere Community Facebook page: ” So what happens if BCC (Birmingham City Council) listen to this objection? It puts at risk the triathlon taking place for the CWG2022 because there will not be the facilities to support it – facilities that will also provide a long-lasting legacy. What should the Town Council have done? They should have spoken to residents in Vesey ward and attended the Vesey Ward Forum meeting.”

To meet Birmingham 2022’s requirements, the venue at Boldmere Gate will be required to  provide a sufficient surface area to allow the installation of the athlete’s zone and media areas.

To achieve this, the existing hardstanding car parking surface area will be upgraded to provide a suitable surface area for the transition area and athletes’ zone.

The improvements to the car park will result in an improved permanent car park area for the benefit of visitors post-Games, as well as legacy benefits including an all-year car park and an improved ability to host future events.

The existing car park will expand from 125 to 221 spaces, a gain of 96, including 12 new disabled spaces and five for cycles, allowing the existing overspill car park further in the park would be reverted to Site of Special Scientific Interest habitat.

But local resident David Carter, who lives on nearby Monmouth Drive, said the proposals would damage the nature of the park.

He said: “The last thing we need here is more parking, causing traffic chaos around Boldmere Gate and back into Monmouth Drive. It will also have a detrimental effect on the beauty of the park. We already seen how the park has been badly affected during lockdown with thousands more people leaving tons of litter behind them.

“It seems unnecessary for such disruption for what is essentially a one-off event. A bit of a white elephant really.”

The designs will provide benefits for the Games and legacy by: improving and expanding the existing hardstanding area (athletes’ zone and media areas); the introduction of another entrance/exit point to the car park, which means traffic can access the car park without crossing event routes; improved accessibility for visitors through the provision of formal disabled parking bays and  the installation of cabling and connections for upgraded electricity provision.

A consultation process  with the city council found general approval of the plans with 62 per cent of those who participated rating the proposals as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ with a further 20 per cent rating them as ‘average’.

A local consultation by Birmingham City Council saw a wide range  of suggestions for other improvements that resident would like to see at Boldmere Gate, including toilet facilities, a community café or bistro, children’s play area and even electric car charging points.

Presentation was made to attendees the Sutton Vesey Ward Forum on December 3 2020, which numbered 84 attendees, local councillors and stakeholders. This was an open live streamed event given to consult on the pre-application proposals ahead of the formal consultation as part of the Planning Application process. Residents on the contact list and the website were sent the agenda and joining instructions on the 23rd November.

A formal one-month on-line consultation ran from December 3 2020 to January 4, 2021 on the city council’s Be Heard Website, which received 76 responses.

More information on the consultation can be found at

Turkey to reopen to Brits

No vaccine requirements for UK tourists

By James Chapple

TTG Media Ltd

Turkey says it will be ready to host British tourists this summer. The country has pledged to review its pre-travel test requirement too, starting 15 April.

It has also announced a priority vaccination programme for those employed across the country’s tourism economy.

This will extend to hotel workers and other tourism employees, who will be vaccinated before the summer.

“We are looking forward to welcoming British tourists with open arms, as we did safely last summer,” said Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, Turkey’s minister of culture and tourism.

“We have world-class border processes in place for ensuring travel will be low-risk throughout Turkey. We are working with the British authorities to ensure these necessary processes are world-class and as up to date as possible.

“We will not require vaccination passports from international travellers when entering the country.”

Ersoy said that the country would review case numbers from 15 April and determine whether it will continue to require Brits to provide evidence a negative pre-travel Covid test.

“I expect there will be no such requirement from British visitors as the UK government is rapidly, and impressively, rolling out the vaccination program for the whole nation and a significant portion of the population will be vaccinated by early summer.”

The minister said Turkey would continue to invest in its safe tourism certification programme, which has been expanded for 2021 and made compulsory for all hotels and other accommodation with 30 rooms or more. In excess of 8,000 such businesses have been certified to date.

All certified accommodation providers will provide testing facilities for tourists should they need a test ahead of their return journey. Tests will cost €30 (£25) and will also be available at the country’s airports.

Turkey is also offering a Covid-19 insurance package from €15 (£12) covering treatment, medication and emergency care costs if a traveller requires hospital treatment. An additional accommodation support insurance will cover guests in event they have to extend their stay owing to Covid.

“We are confident that the successful vaccination programmes ongoing in both the UK and Turkey will ensure this season is even safer than last year,” said Ersoy.

Vaccine passport to cruising


Virgin Voyages require guest and crew jabs

Virgin Voyages will require all guests and crew to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before sailing, the line has announced.

The move follows similar policies from Crystal Cruises and Saga, while all passengers aged over 16 onboard Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas in Israel will also have been inoculated.

Virgin Voyages, which recently revealed its third ship Resilient Lady would launch in Europenext summer, said its vaccination stance was to “ensure we’re providing the safest travel experience”. 

“This is a step towards the safe return to sailing and is the right decision for Virgin Voyages,” said the line’s president Tom McAlpin in a statement.

McAlpin said he was “really encouraged” by US president Joe Biden’s plans to offer vaccinations to every American adult by the end of May. 

“We’re an adult-only cruise line, which allows for us to offer a highly controlled, safe environment for everyone onboard,” added McAlpin. 

“Our business us uniquely set up to do this with testing and vaccine travel requirements. There’s a huge pent-up demand for travel, and Virgin Voyages will be ready to welcome you onboard soon.”