Minutes of the May meeting of Brierley Hill Civic Society

Minutes of the meeting of Brierley Hill Civic Society held on Monday 18th May 2015 at St Michael’s Church commencing at 6pm.


Joy Cooper, Stephen Dunn, John James, Betsy Lafferty, Tim Lee, Lorna Morrison, Maggie Norton, Jenny Sunter, Tim Sunter, Dennis Whittaker, Norma Whittaker.


Pat Cobern, Rachel Harris, Zafar Islam, John Martin

Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting had been circulated and were agreed as a true record.


JS gave informed the meeting of the correspondence received:
* NCVO general election briefing on the impact of the recent election on voluntary organisations
* Civic Voice weekly newsletter including details of the work on war memorials
* Information on the Community Rights pilot
* Details of NCVO workshops for volunteers

SD asked about whether Civic Voice had a website that he and other members could refer to. JS confirmed that this was the case.

Treasurer’s Report

DW gave the treasurer’s report:
* Cash in hand £53.46
* Bank account £1323.97
* Less money held on behalf of SNOW -£985.75
* Total £391.68

Organisation Sub

It had been agreed at the last meeting that an ‘organisation sub’ should meet to plan the future direction and activities of the Society. SD, TL, LM, TS, and DW had subsequently met at the Bull & Bladder (venue purely to support local industry).

Key points from the meeting were:

  • Need to have a balance in the Society’s activites between celebrating the past, action in the present and influencing the future.
  • Potential speakers with a historic perspective could be on the topics of Round Oak, Marsh & Baxter, the history of brickmaking in the area. To determine what actions the Society could take to improve Brierley Hill engagement with Dudley MBC cabinet members would be a positive step.
  • Partnership working with the public, private and voluntary/community sectors has the potential to achieve shared goals in the town.

Key actions to follow up were:
* To extend the Brierley Hill in Bloom meeting on 3rd June to involve the organisation sub and Christmas Festival team would be a good forum to start to pull partners together.
* Brierley Hill Civic Society to consider its priorities for action at its next meeting (i.e. tonight)
* Establish relationship with BHCF as there did seem to be overlapping objectives
* The chase Dudley Archives re a visit to the new facility with a chance to view materials in the Brierley Hill collection.
* To establish a programme of speakers.
* To consider whether the Society can offer any help to make the council’s forums more effective.

TS reported that following this meeting he had made contact with the archives. The Society’s meeting on Monday 20th July would now take place at the archives and we would receive a tour and then the opportunity to look at Brierley Hill materials. There would be a pass through charge from the archives of £4 and a minimum total charge of £40. It was agreed that this should be publicised as far and wide as possible to ensure maximum attendance.

Future activities

Following on from the organisation sub meeting the Society had been asked to bring ideas for future activities for the Society. The following ideas were suggested:
* Continued engagement with NHR and DMBC to try and get some regeneration activity moving in the area.
* Presentation of a replica of the Gibbons/Jordan painting for display in the town centre. Andy Gray of DCVS had indicated an interest for it to be hung in the Civic Centre.
* Restoration of the Brierley Hill war memorials
* Resolution of the difficulties with access to and use of Lawyers Field (Friends of Marsh Park are leading on this). There was talk of whether the plaque commemorating the opening was still in the park.
* Litter picking events together with anti-graffitti activities. Questions arose about the best way to go about this and advice from DMBC should be sought. The litter strewn state of canals in the area was also highlighted.
* The introduction of weight limits on roads which are being used inappropriately by heavy vehicles, North Street for example.
* Replacement trees for those that once flourished in the High Street
* The renaming of Venture Way to something more appropriately reflecting the history of the town
* A ‘blue plaque’ scheme celebrating some of the achiements of the town
* A cultural regeneration programme to attract more visitors to the town centre. A brass band playing in Marsh Park was one suggestion put forward.
* Getting the publicly visible clocks in the town working – St Michael’s and The Moor Centre were mentioned.
It was suggested that the organisation sub on 3rd June could pick up some of these ideas and put meat on the bones (thought: is there a vegetarian equivalent for this phrase?)

Brierley Hill in Bloom

TS reported than the planters were now fixed on Venture Way; lamp post baskets were suggested for along the High Street and it was aimed to have these in place for the winter planting; the plants for the summer had been grown and it was planned to put them out early in June.

Brierley Hill Christmas Festival

TS had met with AG from DCVS. AG was keen to get involved as it was a potential project for the Civic Hall. He would be attending the meeting on 3rd June.

DMBC review of criteria for locally listed buildings

A spokesperson from the planning department had now agreed to come to the next meeting to talk through the implications of this. There were some concerns that the changing of the criteria might weaken the ability to protect historic buildings in the town.

Regeneration update including planning matters

DW updated the meeting on progress.
A date for further engagement with NHR and DMBC was awaited. At the previous meeting priorities of making a pedestrian link between the High Street and Merry Hill together with environmental improvements in the High Street had been identified. Indications had been given that funding may be available for the link but it was doubtful whether funds might be there for the High Street.
Intu were interested in development of the Daniels Land site for residential purposes whilst Rachel Harris had put forward the idea for a white water centre.
DW was also creating a planning database to keep track of proposed developments in the town. He gave an exhaustive list of live applications:
* Two applications for residential and offices adjacent to Red Peppers including the former Doug Holmes Taylors.
* The Dock and Iron in Delph Road was saved following objections to its demolition by the council as the building is on the Heritage Assetts Register. Instead the proposal has been amended to keep the pub and to use the car park as a van hire centre.
* 81 Church Street – the former Radio Shack building – application to demolish and build one dwelling.
* Housing proposals for the former RDF site. The environment agency has no objections subject to safeguards being put in place. They had also expressed they concern with respect to the site being suitable for a waste site.
* ASDA car park for a self service filling station. Members expressed their concern that this ran counter to the AAP for the area, would undermine the pedestrian link to the area and would not be appropriate to front on to the proposed public square.
* Arc Alloys building on Moor Street adjacent to Foxdale drive. Two applications had been submitted for residential but problems remained about access to the site due to the hump backed bridge.
* The Plough has a residential planning permission and was sold at auction for £57,000. Work is presently taking place on the site.
* The former Alma Pub has an application for five flats upstairs, three on the first floor and two on the second floor.
* The Cottage Spring in Mill Street has had an application to turn it into a vets passed.
* The former Black Country Stoves shop on High Street has been approved for a launderette.
* HVC supplies in Bull Street has had an application for five homes agreed. An earlier application for six homes had been rejected because of lack of parking facilities.
* The former Round Oak Pub had been approved for a home improvements store on the ground floor and one flat upstairs.
* Harts Hill bus station – adjacent to hazardous chemical plants had had an application for a supermakret withdrawn as well and an application for 45 homes withdrawn.

DW is creating a 3 year database of applications to enable further close monitoring.

Any Other Urgent Business

There was no other urgent business.

The meeting closed at 7.30pm.

Flames of Bengal – is this new Indian restaurant the best in Brierley Hill?

The new Flames of Bengal restaurant in Brierley Hill. Behind the frontage is a clean and well laid out restaurant

A new restaurant Flames of Bengal opened in Brierley Hill on 12th August. It is located at the south end of the High Street near to the Catholic Church and occupying the former premises of “Dine”. They advertised an opening offer of four courses for £6.95, so I thought I would give it a try

Not a good start – the offer that wasn’t

First things first. When I called in (27th August) and requested the special offer I was told that it was no longer available. Both their website and their advertising clearly stated that this would be available until 31st August. This wasn’t a good start.

Being a grumpy old soul I thought I’d go find somewhere else to eat, but as a turned to leave I was told that the offer would be available after all.

So I gave it a chance.

Pleased I stayed – professional service

I was pleased that I stayed. The decor of the restaurant was modern, clean and well laid out. The waiters were very helpful and professional.

When two people arrived to order take away food they were offered a cup of coffee whilst they waited.

The only down side was that, clearly working on very tight profit margins, I did feel that they were pushing options to spend more a little too much – “would you like a coffee?”…”…a sweet with that?…””…drink sir?”

Good food

The menu was offered a very good selection of Bengal food, and surprisingly Chinese and Thai too.

For an appetiser I had a Tandoori mix Kebab, and for the main course North Indian Garlic Chilli Chicken with Chicken Tikka Nan.

The food was hot (in heat terms), the meat tender and was very tasty. I enjoyed eating it, and the wait between courses was just right – enough time for the food to settle, but not too long.


Drink is available, but diners are able to bring their own if they so wish.

Overall impression – good

I took advantage of a special offer and for that money the restaurant was very good value. Even without the offer the prices were very good.

The restaurant was clean and well laid out.

The service was good and the food delicious. I would certainly visit again.

As well as eating in, the Flames of Bengal offers take away food, and home delivery.

Contact details

For Bookings & Order Call:
01384 482 444

44 High Street (Opposite Mecca Bingo)
Brierley Hill

Best Indian restaurant in Brierley Hill?

Is this the best Indian restaurant in Brierley Hill? Do you know somewhere better?

Let me know in the comments box below.


Il Michelangelo shows Brierley Hill can attract quality businesses

Top class Brockmoor Italian restaurant Il Michelangelo is a good illustration of an entrepreneur meeting need in an under served market.

I first came across this concept when I had the pleasure of working with Bill Boler. Bill was my chair when I worked at Brierley Hill Regeneration partnership.

Bill Boler

An American, Bill had worked in Harlem, which was in need of regeneration. Yet businesses and investors perceived the area as poor and run down and that there was no market for their services.

Harlem’s need to bid for state funds made the situation worse. To win funds had to portray themselves in a very negative light. This in turn reinforced the negative perception which was doing so much damage.

One of Bill’s achievements was to challenge that perception and turn it around:

”I was trying to show them that from a market perspective Harlem wasn’t just poor black people, and that there’s a cash economy that’s not showing up on their studies.”

The community were asked which business they would most like there. “Blockbuster” was the answer. There was nowhere they could rent videos from.

Another key request was for a bank with cashpoint facilities.

Bill and his colleagues managed to persuade Blockbusters and the bank to invest.

It was a resounding success. Blockbuster found a ready market for their business. From installing one cash machine as an experiment the bank were soon convinced for the demand for more and provided them.

Success breeds success as Bill says:

“If you can engage the business community around their core business, you can then leverage regeneration benefits.

“The benefits of the branch were not just access to the bank, but jobs in the bank, and … the use of local contractors in building the facility. By being in the community and being part of it, they started to understand it more and actually made more loans in the neighbourhood.”

The Harlem initiative became identified as an under served market

The key lesson being that markets do exist if only businesses recognise it. When the latter invest it becomes a win-win for themselves and the local community.

Eventually Bill came to England to work at Business in the Community and to try to change attitudes to investing in under-served markets in the UK.

Which brings me back to Il Michelangelo in Brockmoor.

Whoever bought the old Commercial Inn recognised that there was a market locally for a good dining facility. Think about it. Where else in Brierley Hill is a quality restaurant?

By making the investment a success he has started the process of demonstrating that there is a potential profit to be made in Brierley Hill. It is a good town to invest in.

Il Michaelangelo

Il Michelangelo isn’t the only example either. There was great mirth when plans were announced in the early nineties to build the 4 star Copthorne Hotel.

”Ah the Copthorne… “ the joke went.

“Barcelona, Miami and Broierley Hill!”

How they laughed. Yet for years the Brierley Hill Copthorne was the most successful hotel in its group.

Brierley Hill has to change with the times. But it is a town which has a business market worhty of investment. Both business and the local community can be winners.

Perceptions need to change to achieve that. We need leaders with passion, vision and commitment to argue its case.

What future for the Moor Centre as another store pulls out?

Moor Centre

I heard on the Brierley Hill grapevine yesterday that Greggs is to pull out of the Moor Centre, and that Superdrug are considering a move too.

This appears to be another in a long line of blows to the centre.

Of course there are some things the Moor Centre owners have no control over – such as the closure of Woolworths and Peacocks.

But earlier this year Boots announced they were moving from their unit and establishing a presence in Albion Street.

The Post Office has moved onto the High Street. One reason given was that they couldn’t persuade the owners to give them a longer term lease.

Then the former bowling alley, long on the market as available for short term rent, is now being marketed for sale.

The Old New Inn, part of the conservation area, remains empty and boarded up. The Red Lion is on the market.

Old New Inn

So what is going on?

The baseline study for Brierley Hill’s Area Action Plan published in November 2009, extracts of which are given below, described the then intentions of the owners, Brierley Hill Estates, to develop a Tesco store on the site together with housing. Land assembly, essential for the success of the scheme, was taking place.

Since then Tesco have changed their strategy and the Moor Centre proposal fell through two years ago. Hence the bowling alley appearing to be for sale.

It would seem that the plan may still be to redevelop the Moor Centre with a smaller scheme (hence the refusal to offer longer term leases), and to dispose of the other buildings in the area.

However, whilst all of this is going on Brierley Hill continues to suffer.

The Brierley Hill Area Action Plan baseline evidence on the Moor Centre – November 2009:

16.9 This site currently houses the Moor Centre (shopping centre), shops and other A2-A5 premises on the High Street frontage, a Mecca Bingo, Megabowl and surface level car parking

16.10 A representation was received at Issues and Options stage on behalf of Brierley Hill Estates Limited who own this site. The representation sought the recognition and allocation of this site for 6,500m2 gross comparison retail, 10,000m2 gross convenience retail, housing, leisure and multi-level car parking. A supplementary representation was subsequently received confirming the deliverability of this allocation and the site owners commitment to it. The following points were made within that representation:

  • Brierley Hill Estates Limited have owned the centre for 3 years, and have invested their own cash, to improve the retail offer in the centre. This includes the investment of over £250,000 to facilitate the introduction of a new Woolworths store to anchor the northeast corner of the centre.
  • Brierley Hill Estates Limited believe that an extension to the Moor Centre is economically viable and deliverable in the short term and that it will greatly improve the shopping facilities and the regeneration of Brierley Hill town centre.
  • Brierley Hill Estates Limited own a large part of the site on which the extension would be developed. They require only 2 other freehold ownerships in order to acquire a site large enough for a substantial redevelopment and discussions are ongoing with the owners of those 2 sites. It is most unlikely that either of those 2 parties would have the commercial incentive to undertake a development themselves, and they have not shown any intention to do so.
  • In the absence of a redevelopment of the site, it is likely that the Megabowl unit will remain vacant, leaving a 1980’s eyesore to continue to blight Brierley Hill town centre. A major opportunity to regenerate this sector of Brierley Hill town centre will have been missed.
  • Brierley Hill Estates Limited are in discussion with a major anchor tenant, have appointed architects and a professional team and have submitted representations to the Issues and Options Report for the Brierley Hill Area Action Plan, again underlining their commitment to the site.

16.11 An initial set of plans were prepared for the site demonstrating how the proposed floorspace could be accommodated and the agents acting on behalf of Brierley Hill Estates Limited sought pre-application advice from the Council in meetings in 2007 to address issues such as urban design, parking and access.

16.12 Brierley Hill Estates continued discussions with the Council through 2008 and 2009. In 2009, discussions were also held with Tesco in relation to this site. The latest correspondence from Brierley Hill Estates reaffirms their commitment to the redevelopment of the site and clarifies that they require 3000m2 net convenience floorspace to make a comprehensive redevelopment scheme viable.

16.13 The Council agree that a redevelopment scheme here would improve the vitality and viability of the High Street. It will provide a shopping anchor at the south of the High Street which will complement the development of Block BR20 which will provide the retail anchor at the north of the High Street. The Moor Centre also benefits from a good position near to the proposed Metro terminus and Brierley Place.

Former Higgs offices being converted to 28 flats in Brierley Hill High Street

The former Higgs offices in Brierley Hill, on the corner of High Street and Pearson Street, is being converted into flats with retail outlets underneath.  28 flats are being created.

The building was built in the early sixties on the site of what had been The Odeon cinema in Brierley Hill.Screenshot

PureGym Brierley Hill Opening “…in a few weeks”

Pure Gym 12-15 jobs will be created when PureGym opens  a brand new gym in Brierley Hill on the site of the former Fitness First facility in Level Street.

The new facility will part of a £37 million expansion project. PureGym currently has 43 gyms open across the UK with 22 additional gyms planned to opening in 2013.

The PureGym concept it is to remove the barriers to fitness.

Spokesperson Nick Earley explained:

“All PureGyms are very competitively priced with typical membership costing only £18.99 a month and there are norestrictive contracts meaning members can cancel their membership at any time.

All of the gyms are also open 24/7 meaning no matter what time you get out of bed or finish work you have no excuse to fit in a work out.

Although known as a “budget gym” this is only reflected in the price as all gyms have over 220 pieces of the latest high tech fitness equipment. These include the usual cardiovascular training and strength training equipment, free weights, floor space with Swizz and Medicine balls, to more innovate pieces of equipment such as the TRX suspension system and Power Plates. Included in the membership is also a range of free classes, usually up to 40 per week including the popular Zumba and boxercise.

The Brierley Hill PureGym is currently running a pre-join offer of £10.99 membership for 12 months plus £15 joining fee, members will not be charged until the gym opens. This offer will only be available before the gym opening date when the price will return to the usual £18.99.

You can already find a PureGym at Walsall, Birmingham West, Birmingham City Centre and West Bromwich and the new Brierley Hill gym will be opening in a few weeks.

Find out more about: PureGym Brierley Hill 

Dinner is a doddle with Sunday roast takeaway

Dinner is a doddle with Sunday roast takeaway

Curries and pizzas may be staple takeaway dishes – but you can now get roast dinners with all the trimmings delivered to your door thanks to a new culinary venture in the Black Country.

Ring4Roast has been set up by friends Rachael Smith and Sarah Cummons in their bid to save people the mess and stress involved in cooking the traditional British Sunday roast.

The first customers tucked into their Ring4Roast dinners at the weekend, and said they thoroughly enjoyed the home cooked feel to their takeaway feast.

Rachael, 34, from the Northway, Sedgley, first hit on the idea after friends said how much they loved a traditional Sunday lunch but could not be bothered with all the preparation.

She contacted her friend 33-year-old Sarah, of Milking Bank, who runs the Little Devils Diner, in Moor Street, Brierley Hill, about the idea and the pair decided to set up the service.

Rachael and Sarah, who have been friends since the age of five, launched the firm, called Ring4Roast at the weekend.

Machinist Ray Davies was their first customer, and he decided to pick up his Sunday roast dinner, from the diner.

The 63-year-old from Hulland Place, Brierley Hill said: “I am a single man, so I wouldn’t cook it myself. I usually go out for Sunday dinner, but thought this way I can go out for a beer first, and then take it home to eat.

I will reheat it in the microwave after I have been to the pub. It gives me the chance to eat it where I am most comfortable, and I can watch the football and rugby on the TV at the same time.”

Mr Davies was so impressed he has already ordered his roast dinner for next weekend. Sheila Sneyd also enjoyed a Ring4Roast with her 31-year-old daughter, Lucy, after having it delivered to her Wordsley home.

“It is very good for busy people like myself.  Already this morning I have been swimming, and then decorating my kitchen, I don’t have the time to make it myself, as it would take a good couple of hours,” said Sheila.

The 61-year-old added: “I also have arthritis, so it is difficult for me to stand the kitchen for a long period of time. This is so tasty, and and you get very decent size portions. I think it is a fantastic idea.

At the moment the business is starting small with Rachael and Sarah preparing food from the Little Devils premises. Their partners Mark Smith and Matthew Hartgroves will be delivering the meals.

Prices for the roasts, which include beef, chicken, pork and lamb, range between £7.95 and £8.95. For information visit www.ring4roast.co.uk

Read more: http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2012/03/13/dinner-is-a-doddle-with-sunday-roast-takeaway/#ixzz1ozuojp2E

Survey: shoppers like Brierley Hill but there’s work to be done

A survey of shoppers and residents in Brierley Hill has revealed that there is a great affection for the town, but people feel that there is still work to be done to make improvements.

Addressing a meeting of Brierley Hill Town Centre Partnership, on Tuesday 24th May, Shona Gilsenan, a volunteer with the Artspace and Brierley Hillness projects, explained that face to face interviews with shoppers in the High Street and other members of the community had taken place to help decision makers determine priorities and to guide new developments planned for the town.  She said:

“On the positive side there were some important key messages.
“People liked the old buildings in the town and wanted new developments to reflect the best of the architecture already present.
“Most people come to the town centre on business.  Interestingly many said that they never went to Merry Hill and preferred the local shops.  The markets are a particular strength.  One described Brierley Hill as a good typical Black Country town, whilst another said him came all the way from Halesowen as the best Black Puddings are sold on the High Street”.
But respondents also had suggestions for improvement.  The frontage of many shops was depressing, the removal of trees was much lamented and there was a need for more flowers to make the area brighter.  The lack of free car parking was also perceived as a problem as it limited shoppers’ time in the town.
In a separate survey of 74 primary school children 65% said that old buildings in the town should be preserved.
The Partnership agreed to ask for more details of the survey results and to request its High Street Working Party to look at ways of implementing suggested improvements.
For further information please contact Shona on shona.rose@brierleyhill.org

Express and Star: Tram-train line work could launch in 2014 « Express & Star

A £100million project to launch a tram-train line taking commuters across the Black Country will be in place by 2014 if plans unveiled in detail today are approved.

The move is expected to create hundreds of jobs.

Hybrid tram-trains, capable of travelling along both light and heavy rail tracks, would run along a defunct freight train route, taking passengers between Stourbridge and Walsall, with stops in Brierley Hill and Dudley town centre. Council chiefs estimate the plans would bring in a minimum £200m boost to the economy. Continue reading Express and Star: Tram-train line work could launch in 2014 « Express & Star

Mill Street ‘No Entry’ signs taken down

Following a review of the one way system along Mill Street from Venture Way to the town centre, the ‘no entry’ signs are being removed.  Motorists were confused that they were allowed into the first few metres of Mill Street from this junction, but then had to turn into the car park when the road turned to a bus lane.  They will now be able to drive through to the High Street.