30/04/2014 Midlands Today


30/04/2014

The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.


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rain. rain.

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

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success ` recovery in the construction industry at its highest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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replaced by new jet fan system this summer.

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

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

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

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twiddle your thumbs, it is not very pleasant.

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

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

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hopeless. And blue skies, fields of gold, the

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

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

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come? Find out later. Good evening. Construction firms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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driving a recovery right across the construction sector. This

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

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been sold off plan. The boss says turnover is almost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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of skills, from bricklayers to quantity surveyors. Good people

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

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

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good quality people into the industry, both at professional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So where does this increase in construction leave the housing

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market? The National Housing Federation represents housing

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associations and campaigns for affordable housing. A little earlier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Craddock raising funds for his son's cancer unit.

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

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

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

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

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

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middle busy road junction, this virually unseen building contains

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that reason that the tunnels are being shut yet again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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electric or mechanical equipment into it, ventilation equipment and

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control and communication equipment. Last year although there was some

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

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lessons were still learned and officials say that should mean fewer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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council to reduce business rates while the tunnels are close without

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it many say they might struggle to stay afloat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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website that has all the details. Thank you.

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Prime Minister David Cameron has paid tribute to the five servicemen

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

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

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in Herefordshire, and Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, who was

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

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

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deaths remind us of the continued commitment and sacrifice of our

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

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families at this very, very difficult time.

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

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leukaemia is donating part of the proceeds from his testimonial game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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donating a substantial sum from his testimonial match on Monday towards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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communities and businesses. One street in a Shropshire village has

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ofcom. But a survey from price comparison website Uswitch claims

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

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around the corner is the local village school and teachers and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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lessons. It disturbs the lesson and gets really annoying.

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

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

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

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

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

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being made. In addition the government is offering Shropshire a

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

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

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opportunities where we can actually bring in pound for pound match

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funding. We are looking for opportunities, whether through

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European funding streams or the Local Enterprise Partnership. But at

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least some positive news tonight. Remember those children in Alveley

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

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

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

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

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

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skills shortage. Shefali will be along shortly with

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your weather forecast. Also in tonight's programme:

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Celebrating 40 years of illustration, art and cartoons. But

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why is Geoff regretting not spending ?150?

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

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

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tribute to the soldier it was awarded two.

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The Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips has opened a

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

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Morton Morrell offers a water treadmill for injured animals. Joan

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

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but the latest technology to help rehabilitate horses. You really

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

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

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

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

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

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had to do something new. Warwickshire College prides itself

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on its equine training facilities. They believe this therapy centre

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will make students work ready. This whole facility is about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:18:17.:18:19.

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

:18:20.:18:22.

promotion, took the lead through Callum McManaman inside three

:18:23.:18:25.

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

:18:26.:18:28.

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

:18:29.:18:32.

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

:18:33.:18:35.

enough with Doncaster visiting the champions Leicester on the final

:18:36.:18:42.

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

:18:43.:18:48.

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

:18:49.:18:51.

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

:18:52.:18:55.

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

:18:56.:18:59.

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

:19:00.:19:03.

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

:19:04.:19:08.

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

:19:09.:19:12.

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

:19:13.:19:15.

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

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

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medal given posthumously to Private William Richards of the Kings

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

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

:19:31.:19:39.

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

:19:40.:19:46.

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

:19:47.:19:50.

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

:19:51.:19:57.

in South Wales. It was a chance find uncut toggle

:19:58.:20:06.

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

:20:07.:20:12.

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

:20:13.:20:19.

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

:20:20.:20:23.

conclusion that we should honour Private Richards. Private Richards

:20:24.:20:30.

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

:20:31.:20:35.

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

:20:36.:20:39.

action on the continent. Investigations by the allotment's

:20:40.:20:44.

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

:20:45.:20:49.

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

:20:50.:20:55.

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

:20:56.:20:58.

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

:20:59.:21:06.

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

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

:21:10.:21:16.

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

:21:17.:21:22.

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

:21:23.:21:29.

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

:21:30.:21:34.

unearthing serves as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice Private

:21:35.:21:40.

Richards made. The Private William Richards

:21:41.:21:42.

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

:21:43.:21:47.

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

:21:48.:21:53.

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

:21:54.:21:58.

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

:21:59.:22:01.

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

:22:02.:22:04.

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

:22:05.:22:07.

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

:22:08.:22:10.

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

:22:11.:22:14.

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

:22:15.:22:18.

creating artwork. He works in isolation from inside his converted

:22:19.:22:22.

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

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

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

:22:35.:22:38.

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

:22:39.:22:43.

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

:22:44.:22:47.

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

:22:48.:22:50.

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

:22:51.:22:53.

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

:22:54.:23:01.

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

:23:02.:23:10.

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

:23:11.:23:16.

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

:23:17.:23:21.

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

:23:22.:23:31.

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

:23:32.:23:34.

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

:23:35.:23:36.

caricatures over the last four decades. With that comes many

:23:37.:23:41.

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

:23:42.:23:43.

could watch Wolverhampton Wanderers from the top floor of the art

:23:44.:23:48.

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

:23:49.:23:52.

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

:23:53.:23:56.

Geoff as well as his artwork. Some beautiful sunshine around

:23:57.:23:59.

today. How's May shaping up, Shefali?

:24:00.:24:07.

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

:24:08.:24:10.

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

:24:11.:24:14.

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

:24:15.:24:20.

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

:24:21.:24:25.

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

:24:26.:24:30.

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

:24:31.:24:36.

thundery downpours from the south`west which could lead to

:24:37.:24:40.

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

:24:41.:24:44.

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

:24:45.:24:48.

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

:24:49.:24:53.

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

:24:54.:24:58.

to see things gradually going downhill through this

:24:59.:25:28.

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

:25:29.:25:30.

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

:25:31.:25:36.

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

:25:37.:25:38.

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

:25:39.:25:42.

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

:25:43.:25:48.

getting quite clobbering from them. The temperatures should rise to

:25:49.:25:57.

about 15 Celsius. These showers rumbling on into the evening

:25:58.:26:01.

tomorrow, then gradually showing signs of fading through the early

:26:02.:26:05.

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

:26:06.:26:07.

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