Monday, 26 December 2011

The 10 most read stories of 2011

CLICK the headline or the link below to see the 10 most read stories of 2011 and The Sihillian’s pick of the year’s news.


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SHOPPING. That’s what readers of The Silhillian most wanted to read about in 2011.

Of more than 300 articles published about subjects from council cuts to crime to elections, only one issue dominated debate.

It was fitting then that the long debate over a Sainsbury’s plan for Forest Court, Dorridge came to an end as the year drew to a close, as planners unanimously backed the plan.

1. Dorridge Sainsbury’s approved: The Silhillian’s November 30 report, online within 90 minutes of the decision of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s planning committee, is now the most read story ever on the website, which started life in November 2009. More than two years of debate came to a head with a two-and-a-half hours of debate which, despite some concerns, was backed by all nine committee members. It immediately led to a flurry of comments, 149 at the time of writing, with residents both applauding and decrying the decision.

2. Knowle Society hits out at Sainsbury’s plan: while the Dorridge and District Residents Association supported the Sainsbury’s plan, The Knowle Society was more sceptical. It said the plan, smaller than one rejected by the council in March 2010, was too big and would have an unacceptable impact on traffic. A letter to the council said the plan was “still far in excess of what is needed to provide a local store for Dorridge residents”. The report also detailed concerns from Arden and Dorridge Junior and Infant School over traffic.

3. Sainsbury's says campaigners wrong over deadline: the Dorridge Residents Opposed to Village Superstore Group (DROVS) fought a high profile campaign against the plan but encountered a wave of hostility from some readers by suggesting the deadline for comments for the planning application was August 3 when, in fact, comments could be submitted after this time. The campaign group initially said it was “unfortunate that Sainsbury’s have chosen to submit their plans during the holiday season” and, later said it was the council which said it was not legally obliged to accept comments after the official consultation. A heated debate then took place on the comment section, 178 at the time of writing. “Innuendo, slurs and hyperbole seem to be DROVS stock in trade,” said one.

4. Arden head to leave: during her tenure as headteacher at Arden school, Ann Green was a divisive figure, who while growing the school’s high performing exam results, angered many over building plans including a new sixth form, all weather pitch and breaches of planning rules. In the summer, it was announced she would leave at the end of that term. In a letter to parents, chairman of governors Celia O'Donovan said: “Every aspect of giving students the best possible life chances for the future and opportunities for personal development has progressed markedly.” New head Martin Murphy started in September and told The Silhillian his priorities included changing admission rules to ensure local children got a place.

5. Online responses oppose Sainsbury's: back to Sainsbury’s and an August 17 report on comments left on the council’s website, of which more than 80 per cent opposed the scheme.
One comment, from Matthew Walker, said: “The traffic generated will endanger young and old alike. The car park is not big enough for shoppers, staff and surgery patients, adding to the congestion and danger.” But Andy Cowan says: “This proposal has been sensitively reviewed following the earlier rejection and will be a fantastic new centre for the village - something Dorridge has long lacked, and been in real need of.” John and Trish Taverner say “Dorridge is not a village, but a small commuter town”.


6. DDRA backs Sainsbury’s: while chairman Ian Spencer indicated support for the plan in March, the official announcement that tThe Dorridge & District Residents Association supported the scheme prompted a wave of interest. It said: “While we agree that the proposal is larger than might be appropriate, we believe that the benefits of the redevelopment outweigh the risks.” The group said it had tried for a decade for “a smaller redevelopment” by refurbishing or replacing Forest Court and supermarkets like Waitrose had been approached but to no avail.

7. Card shop to leave "depressing" Forest Court: in October it was confirmed card shop Jo Jo’s would leave Forest Court for a new premises owned by Sainsbury’s in Station Approach.
It meant only Dyhouse Pharmacy and restaurant Da Santino remained. The pharmacy will get a new premises on Station Road under the Sainsbury’s redevelopment and Da Santino announced the following month it would close on Christmas Eve. Jo Jo’s owner Linda Butler said of the superstore plan: “It will bring some life back to the place. It is quite depressing in here, it would be nice to have a bit more life in Dorridge.”

8. Sainsbury's campaign group publishes store plan: to counter criticism it was opposed to the scheme without offering an alternative, DROVS published its own plan for Forest Court in March. It proposed a store with a sales area of 1,050sqm compared to the 1,812sqm proposed by Sainsbury’s. It said: “It shows that, in spite of what Sainsbury's say, you could feasibly redevelop Forest Court, including independent retail units and a restaurant etc., but with a reasonably sized supermarket.” It was also reported the group was leafleting 3,000 homes and urging people to sign an online ‘wall of support’.

9. New Dorridge cafe and bar opens: Sainsbury’s supporters said many were crying out for new shops and facilities in the village and there was a wave of goodwill when it was announced the former HSBC bank in Station Approach would re-open as a café and bar. Dorridge residents Matt and Tina Bullock gave the branch – which closed in November 2010 - a £150,000 makeover . Mr Bullock said: “We are residents in Dorridge and we just felt there was something missing for the heart of the village.”


10. Planning application submitted for Dorridge Sainsbury's: though a revised plan had been announced in January, the official planning application was still big news as it meant the process towards getting a decision had started. While the 1,812sqm sales area was 26 per cent smaller than the rejected 2010 scheme, the overall size of the store would be 15 per cent smaller. Technical documents included in the application also revealed the overall development – to include shop units and a restaurant – was one per cent smaller than the rejected scheme. The application said: “The driving rationale for the proposals is the need for a foodstore in Dorridge able to retain trade locally.

Other notable news stories of 2011: