It’s such a shame that we end the year with the divisive issue of the LTN still at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. And, if anyone is to blame, we should direct our disappointment at Birmingham City Council, which has continued to delay the scheme, has not communicated the lack of progress and is yet to publicly acknowledge any impact that the scheme may have had on the business community in Kings Heath.
That said, we do know that phase 2 of the scheme goes before the Council’s Cabinet on 17th January, after which we will have a much clearer picture of what will happen with the LTN in 2023.
Your BID has continued to meet regularly with the project team and remains committed to supporting the businesses of Kings Heath with regard to the LTN, unlike certain other groups. Indeed, it was over a year ago now that we first consulted with some businesses regarding the suspended parking bays in the central section of the high street (not a part of the LTN scheme). This was followed in the spring with another round of discussions with businesses and a full public consultation. Even as late as the start of September, we were being told that this project would be carried out by the end of October. At the time of writing this, we are expecting to see that work done in the spring.
Sadly, in the name of the Kings Heath Business Association, Stan Hems and Mark Hudson have carried out a vitriolic campaign over the course of this year, attacking individuals, spreading lies and ultimately, coercing a negative result in the BID ballot.
Stan in particular has vehemently called for the BID to undertake a simple “yes/no” referendum with respect to the LTN, which the BID maintains is not the right question to ask on what is far more complicated than a binary for or against issue.
So, having attacked the BID for not doing this, he has steered the Business Association into taking an anti-LTN stance without canvassing its own membership. The hypocrisy of this is staggering.
He has also attacked the Board of Directors of the BID as being unrepresentative of the business community. The fact is, that of the current Board, 8 out of 10 represent businesses in or directly adjacent to the BID area, the other two having historic and current legitimate business interests in Kings Heath.
And yet, of the current committee of the Business Association, seven out of 12 are not actually running businesses in Kings Heath.
One of these, Mark Hudson, a failed candidate at the local Council elections this year, has no interest in anything that falls outside of his own anti-LTN agenda and, rather than accept an invitation from the BID at the start of the year to meet and learn how the BID actually operates, he prefers to lie, bully and harass online anyone who disagrees with him.
Messrs Hudson and Hems in particular have consistently been at pains over the course of 2022 to do our fantastic high street down. Every business operating in Kings Heath has its own challenges to face, but being able to do that in a high street with low vacancy rates, a good retail mix and high footfall – not to mention a resident and visitor community who love the Kings Heath high street – is key to overcoming those challenges.
And, of course, having a BID to coordinate, support, promote and invest in Kings Heath should be a positive that businesses can get behind rather than the alternative being offered by Stan and Mark, which is, of course, actually nothing.
As we head into 2023, our business community faces the prospect of losing its BID, a respected and listened to organisation that works in partnership with West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council and other public (and private) sector bodies, as demonstrated by the business-only consultation and engagements events that the BID secured with regard to the LTN.
The likelihood is that phase 2 of the LTN will go ahead next year. No BID means no voice for the businesses of Kings Heath from any business organisation that Birmingham City Council considers to be a body that genuinely represents them.