30/04/2014 Midlands Today


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rain. rain.


Hello and welcome to Midlands Today. The headlines tonight: Building


success ` recovery in the construction industry at its highest


for 20 years, but there's still a skills shortage. It is a constant


challenge for us to get good quality people into the industry, both at


professional levels and in trades. There are warnings we are on the


building half of the houses in the Midlands that we need.


Also tonight: We've been under Birmingham City Centre to find out


why two major road tunnels will be closed again this summer. These are


the huge extractor fans that bring polluted air out. They are being


replaced by new jet fan system this summer.


The wait goes on. We visit the Shropshire village struggling with


one of the slowest connections to the web in the country. When you are


looking at something interesting and stops on you, you need to sit and


twiddle your thumbs, it is not very pleasant.


Blues on the brink. Birmingham City face relegation after 18 home games


without a win. Absolutely terrible. Rubbish. Going down there for years,


hopeless. And blue skies, fields of gold, the


ideal combination for a brilliant Bank Holiday Weekend. But how likely


is that when there are already Met office warnings for heavy rain to


come? Find out later. Good evening. Construction firms


across the West Midlands fear a lack of skilled workers could hamper the


revival in the house`building market. Companies are reporting the


fastest growth in building work for 20 years. But the feel`good factor


comes with concern about a skills shortage. More than 60,000


construction jobs are expected to need filling in the next 12 months.


Giles Latcham reports Rising up ` another site well on the way to


completion, and evidence, says a new survey, of growth in construction


over the first quarter of the year. The Royal Institution of Chartered


Surveyors says it is the building of private housing like this which is


driving a recovery right across the construction sector. This


development, eight out of ten homes yet to be completed, have already


been sold off plan. The boss says turnover is almost


back to what it was before the crash six years ago, a corner well and


truly turned. I think the corner came about 12 months ago, and it


must be delightful and pleasurable if there has been steady growth.


Last year we bought a company down in Shrewsbury, that again is a


company which has been dormant and sleeping. That will be more


employment for local people. So bring out the bunting? Well, not


just yet. There is a problem, says this property consultant, a shortage


of skills, from bricklayers to quantity surveyors. Good people


coming into the industry, to the universities, that has shrunk by


probably 20%, which means it is a constant challenge for us to get


good quality people into the industry, both at professional


levels and in trades. They're taking up that challenge at this Birmingham


college where they train 1,500 students a year in construction


skills. And for Hannah it's all paid off. Last week I had an interview


with a big company and I got a job with them today. I am over the moon.


We have already seen lots of new building programmes, lots of housing


projects going on, so there is already jobs for people now. There


is certainly going to be a very big upturn and an awful lot of jobs


around. The people coming up now will definitely be getting jobs.


Everyone on this site's got more work to go to. With over two million


unemployed this is an industry which can't get the staff.


So where does this increase in construction leave the housing


market? The National Housing Federation represents housing


associations and campaigns for affordable housing. A little earlier


I spoke to Jenny Allen and asked for her reaction to the recovery. Yes,


it is great news that we're seeing more homes getting built and the


construction industry recovering. We need to make sure we are building a


whole range of homes, including for those on low to middle`income 's.


What is the state of the housing market? Until recently we have not


been building the homes that we need, which means we are facing


higher house prices, we have been facing challenges to get onto the


housing ladder, to find a home they can afford to live in. Can people


for their own properties now? No, it is still incredibly difficult. Last


year, we only built half of the homes that we need to build to keep


ace with demand. Although we may be seeing encouraging signs, it is by


no means sure that we are there yet. Plenty more to come tonight


including: A testimonial match with added meaning. Ex`footballer Jody


Craddock raising funds for his son's cancer unit.


Plans are being finalised to once again close two road tunnels in the


centre of Birmingham City Centre, which carry 85,000 vehicles a day.


The A38 St Chad's and Queensway tunnels are 40 years old and need to


be brought up to modern European standards. They'll stay shut for six


weeks. Here's our transport correspondent Peter Plisner In the


middle busy road junction, this virually unseen building contains


that reason that the tunnels are being shut yet again.


We descended deep under the streets of Birmingham into a secret cavern


that contains what contractors say is the beating heart of the city


famous tunnels. But the equipment here dates back to when the tunnels


open and badly needs replacing. We are just above the main tunnel, you


can probably hear the traffic in the distance, these are the huge


extractor fans that bring polluted air out. They are being replaced


with a jet fan system this summer. This system, it is 40 years old, it


will be replaced as well during the summer shutdown. Close by, another


secret plant room houses yet more outdated equipment. According to the


man in charge it's vital the tunnels are brought up to a modern standard.


This is phase two of a two year project. We did the heavy


engineering work last year, but this year we will be putting more of the


electric or mechanical equipment into it, ventilation equipment and


control and communication equipment. Last year although there was some


congestion it wasn't as bad as many had originally predicted. But


lessons were still learned and officials say that should mean fewer


delays. We were expecting that they were probably going to do exactly


what they did last year. Nobody has been complacent about the fact that


it didn't go well last year. We want the public to do what they did last


year and look at alternative forms of transport and alternative ways to


come into the city. But while commuters coped, businesses close


saw a big loss of trade and they're already worried about what might


happen this year. It is an absolute dread, really. Last summer we were


75% down in that period. It has never picked up again after that.


Overall we were down about ten or 15% in sales, not just myself but


the other retailers I have spoken to have had a similar loss. They only


took 30, 40% there as well. Those affected are now calling on the city


council to reduce business rates while the tunnels are close without


it many say they might struggle to stay afloat.


And Peter is in the city centre now for us, overlooking one of the


tunnels. Peter, it did appear to be relatively stress free for commuters


last summer. What's your hunch? Is it going to be as stress`free? It


probably will be, certainly better than things are in the city centre


this evening. This is the summer holiday, so there will be reduced


traffic, but the key again as public transport. There is going to be more


park`and`ride sites to reduce parking in Birmingham International


station. They are going to extend the car park in south Birmingham to


give access to the cross city line. Public transport is the key. An


extra 200,000 journeys were made by public transport during this six


week course. Every car off the road is one less car to worry about in


terms of congestion around the tunnels. And once the six weeks are


up is that the end of it or can we expect more disruption? No, that's


it, the job is done as far as Birmingham City Council are


concerned. There will be a need for routine maintenance but there will


be two weeks of closures before the six`week closure. There could be


four weeks of overnight closures as well. There is a special dedicated


website that has all the details. Thank you.


Prime Minister David Cameron has paid tribute to the five servicemen


who died in a helicopter crash in Afganistan at the weekend. Amongst


those killed was 26`year`old Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas from Kington


in Herefordshire, and Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, who was


29 and from Birmingham. The Ministry of Defence has said the crash near


Kandahar air base appears to have been an accident. These tragic


deaths remind us of the continued commitment and sacrifice of our


Armed Forces. And I know that our deepest sympathies are with their


families at this very, very difficult time.


A former Premier League footballer whose young son is being treated for


leukaemia is donating part of the proceeds from his testimonial game


next week to Birmingham Children's Hospital. Jody Craddock's son Toby


was diagnosed two years ago. He's being looked after by staff in the


hospital's cancer unit, where it's hoped a ?4 million appeal will


transform the 30`year`old centre. Ian Winter reports Two years ago,


Jody and Shelley Craddock heard the news that every parent dreads.


But now they could not be happier if they were walking out to play at


Wembley. Toby Craddock loves nothing better than a kickabout in the


garden with his dad. But it was not always like this. Two years ago,


doctors told his appearance to be `` that Toby was suffering from


leukaemia. It was every parent's worst nightmare. When you learn


about it and you realise the success rate for this type of cancer is


extremely high. Today I phoned the proof, four years old and full of


beans. After two years of chemotherapy on steroids, Toby is


testimony to the skill of staff on the cancer unit at Birmingham


Children's Hospital. It has been amazing. Without them we would not


have got through it. There have been some really dark days, it is a long


road, it is really tough. The staff pick you back up and keep you going


again. Toby's dad happens to be the Will captain. Jody Craddock was a


firm favourite, and now he is a very accomplished artist. He was so


grateful to the staff at Birmingham Children's Hospital that he is


donating a substantial sum from his testimonial match on Monday towards


a ?4 million appeal for a new cancer unit. I lost my first child to cut


death. It does emphasise how important families. We have had


visits from many football players across the region, and it all helps


to get the message out there that we need to fund raise. We are aiming


for a really world`class children's centre. Toby faces another 12 months


of treatment but he is making great progress. A healthy crowd will be


helping to fight the disease that affects one in 500 children.


All the best to Toby and the Craddock family. High`speed


internet, or the lack of it, is a frustrating problem for rural


communities and businesses. One street in a Shropshire village has


been named as one of the worst five places in the UK for broadband


speeds, although there is an assurance that 93% of Shropshire


will have high speed broadband within two years. Joanne Writtle is


here with more. Joanne, you've met some very frustrated people today. I


really have. Today I visited Maple Crescent in Alveley. The average


internet speed across the UK is 17.8 megabits per second according to


Ofcom. But a survey from price comparison website Uswitch claims


speeds in Maple Crescent are as low as 0.91 megabits per second. Just


around the corner is the local village school and teachers and


pupils are unimpressed by the speeds they're seeing. Lessons are slower


than they should be, and children's progress must be slower because we


are not able to access things that we should be able to at the speed we


should be able to. It is really slow at both school and at home, and it


takes ages to load when we are playing games or watching something.


I would like it if it was speeded up because we could get on with our


lessons. It disturbs the lesson and gets really annoying.


So what are Shropshire Council doing about the broadband speeds? The


council's working in partnership with BT on a programme called


Connecting Shropshire, with around ?16 million of public money being


invested to improve the broadband network across Shropshire. `` ?24


million. It's been going on for a year so far and progress is clearly


being made. In addition the government is offering Shropshire a


further ?11 million but they have to match fund that sum, a challenge in


the face of ?80 million of cuts or savings. We need to look at any


opportunities where we can actually bring in pound for pound match


funding. We are looking for opportunities, whether through


European funding streams or the Local Enterprise Partnership. But at


least some positive news tonight. Remember those children in Alveley


and the residents of Maple Crescent? The village will start to get faster


fibre broadband by the Spring of next year, all part of the


Connecting Shropshire programme. Some good news, thanks very much.


This is our top story tonight: Building success. Recovery in


construction industry at its highest for 20 years, but there's still a


skills shortage. Shefali will be along shortly with


your weather forecast. Also in tonight's programme:


Celebrating 40 years of illustration, art and cartoons. But


why is Geoff regretting not spending ?150?


And join me at the allotment where they have dug up a World War I


medal. Here about the memorial garden they are building to pay


tribute to the soldier it was awarded two.


The Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips has opened a


state`of`the`art horse therapy centre in Warwickshire. The unit at


Morton Morrell offers a water treadmill for injured animals. Joan


Cummins has the story. It is not an equine spa treatment,


but the latest technology to help rehabilitate horses. You really


cannot get horses to do things they don't like doing, you can very much


tell from the body language that she is absolutely adoring it. So you can


lead a horse to water? Yes. The technology was created by an


Icelandic fish processor. We had to do something, step out of the box. I


remain profession `` our main profession is food processing, so we


had to do something new. Warwickshire College prides itself


on its equine training facilities. They believe this therapy centre


will make students work ready. This whole facility is about


complementing the physio world, it takes a lot of people to keep horses


sound and competing and everything else. It is for students, teaching


and learning. Zara Phillips was there today and was happy to perform


the official opening. We treat our horses better than we treat


ourselves. The best possible treatment we can give them and to


prolong their career and keep them injury free, no one wants to see the


end of horses. These machines help prevent it as well as rehabilitate,


so a fantastic centre. The British Royal Family are not the only ones


who are interested in this kit. The crime of Brunei has ordered two of


the water treadmills. `` the Crown Prince of Brunei.


Birmingham City stand on the brink of relegation to the third tier of


English football after losing their final home game of the season. The


Blues were last relegated to that level 20 years ago. A catastrophic


run of 18 home games without a win means they remain in the bottom


three of the Championship. Their total of 14 home points is the


lowest in England's top four divisions. It leaves them needing at


least a point in their final game against Bolton on Saturday. And even


that may not be enough. Here's Nick Clitheroe. Please add up, I'm


begging you. Please release us and let us go. You have bought in a


fairly good and successful club, and run it into the ground.


Fearful for the club's very future, they'd turned out in force last


night hoping to see an elusive home win. But the biggest St Andrews


crowd since Christmas were quickly deflated as Wigan, who are chasing


promotion, took the lead through Callum McManaman inside three


minutes. This was a game of very few chances although Birmingham launched


a late surge which saw glimpses of an equaliser. The result means Blues


could win at Bolton and still go down although a point might be


enough with Doncaster visiting the champions Leicester on the final


day. We have got to keep fighting, keep fighting for these unbelievable


fans who took it to another level tonight, the numbers and support, I


didn't think they could do it any better. They never cease to amaze


us. It's 20 years since Birmingham were last relegated to the third


tier. They won on the last day that time but still went down as West


Bromwich Albion stayed up instead. You have to live in hope. I have


watched them for six to five years. And they won't lack for support on


Saturday. The club have already sold out their allocation of more than


3,000 tickets for Bolton. A memorial garden for a World War


One soldier is to be opened at a Birmingham allotment this weekend. A


medal given posthumously to Private William Richards of the Kings


Shropshire Light Infantry was found there, buried in the soil. Our


reporter Bob Hockenhull is in Great Barr now. What more is known about


the story of Private Richards? We know that he was killed in Ypres in


1917 in action. But we have not been able to find any living relatives,


despite a really exhaustive search both here in the Midlands and also


in South Wales. It was a chance find uncut toggle


plot 23 that unearthed a link to Private William Richards. How it got


here is a mystery, but a memorial garden to a soldier will ensure his


name lives on. The discovery of the medal, it seemed a natural


conclusion that we should honour Private Richards. Private Richards


could be one of the faces in this photograph, taken in 1915. Like


hundreds of thousands of men, he was recruited only to be killed in


action on the continent. Investigations by the allotment's


chairman, a former detective, have revealed the soldier was originally


from south Wales. I am desperate to find out if there are any living


relatives. I consider that Private Richards is a bit of a lost soul the


moment and it would be nice to repatriate the medal. The plan is to


establish some sort of lasting monument in this garden, a fitting


tribute to the young man who died violently and tragically 97 years


ago. Private Richards was killed in the third Battle of Ypres in 1917.


He was 26. One theory is that his family came from south Wales to work


in a nearby colliery, and then lost his medal. Whatever happened, it's


unearthing serves as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice Private


Richards made. The Private William Richards


memorial garden will formally be opened here on Saturday. It is being


seen as a great green always says next to the busy M6. A place where


people can come and reflect and enjoy the greenery around them.


Thank you. If you own UB40's first album then


you've probably seen work by the illustrator, artist and cartoonist


Geoff Tristram. Over the last 40 years he's worked on commercial


projects with little need to exhibit his work. Now though, he's put


together a solo show to celebrate his career as he turns 60. Here's


our Arts Reporter Satnam Rana. For 40 years Geoff Tristram has been


creating artwork. He works in isolation from inside his converted


garage in Stourbridge. But now he's come out to show off his work. The


exhibtion, 40 Years Watching Paint Dry, tells his story. I have got to


work here that has never been seen together before, and it will never


be seen together again, so it is very emotional for me. Some of these


things, it seems like yesterday, a portrait of my grandad, I was 11,


and it seems like yesterday. And so, at Himley Hall in Dudley, family


portaits, illustrations for jigsaws and cat conundrums adorn the walls.


Amongst them memories and moments in time are recalled. You have got a


lovely story about UB40 and the first two album covers. The first


one, Signing Off, it was designed in 1980 and cost them ?110, and it's


all done so many copies I was entitled to a gold platinum disc in


a frame. I have always wanted one. I said, yes please. As they said,


well, it is ?150 plus VAT. It was a lot of money at the time. Geoff


estimates he's produced 5,000 paintings and 100,000`plus


caricatures over the last four decades. With that comes many


stories! We used to get up on Saturdays to pretend to work so we


could watch Wolverhampton Wanderers from the top floor of the art


college, and this was a painting of Steve to celebrate his 306 and final


goal for them before he retired. This exhibition is as much about


Geoff as well as his artwork. Some beautiful sunshine around


today. How's May shaping up, Shefali?


After such a beautiful day, someone has flicked the switch and


everything is turning for the better as soon as May comes around. The


bank holiday weekend is still looking good, dry, largely sunny and


warm as well. But it is going to dip in temperatures for Friday. Things


will turn a little bit cooler for those temperatures start to rise.


Tomorrow will pose some problems. We have got a yellow alert is a heavy


thundery downpours from the south`west which could lead to


localised flooding. Most of that activity is centred on the western


half of the region. This front to the south will be creating all of


this rain. That is going to cradle those heavy downpours, share is


pushing in from the south west. After such a lovely day, we're going


to see things gradually going downhill through this


muggy and warm. We start off that way tomorrow, but there is a


constant feed of showers from the south west. They are starting to pep


up into some thunder in the middle part of the day, and we could see


fairly heavy ones cropping up anywhere. Most of that activity is


greatly centred across the western half of the region and the south is


getting quite clobbering from them. The temperatures should rise to


about 15 Celsius. These showers rumbling on into the evening


tomorrow, then gradually showing signs of fading through the early


hours of Friday morning, by which stage temperatures will dip to seven


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