IT HAS been another exciting and eventful year for Redditch and as 2014 draws to a close Standard editor Ian Dipple takes a brief look back at some of the stories which have been grabbing the headlines over the last 12 months.
The future of the Alexandra Hospital finally became clearer as an independent report recommended the Woodrow Drive hospital should keep 95 per cent of its A&E services, but consultant-led births and inpatient paediatrics should be centralised into Worcester.
It wasn’t the end of the saga though.
Redditch man Naheem Akhtar was also hailed a hero after saving his neighbours from their burning home and a Conservative county councillor sparked outrage after claiming ‘there was no crisis of poverty’ in Worcestershire despite soaring demand for foodbanks.
Our most popular web story was confirmation One Direction star Harry Styles was born in Redditch.
There was shock as David Doubtfire, former headteacher of Walkwood Middle School, was arrested on charges of voyeurism and possessing indecent images. There were also fresh calls for action on a town bridge after a man attempted to jump off it, just weeks after council chiefs ruled there was no evidence action was needed.
But on a slightly more positive note council bosses did agree not to axe public funding entirely for bus services however it could not stop a number of routes from being cut later in the year.
Redditch was rocked by the tragic death of Richard Fellows after the 15-year-old Brockhill teenager drowned at the weir near the Five Tunnels. It prompted renewed efforts by Redditch Borough Council and other organisations to raise awareness of water safety and the dangers of swimming at the borough beauty spot.
Concerns were also raised about the evidence used for the number of new homes to be built in Redditch up until 2030. In the end the figure of 6,400 was not challenged by the planning inspector.
And the Redi Centre, which had been closed since 2010, was re-opened by Redditch Youth and Community Enterprise (RYCE) providing services to replace the town’s Youth House.
UKIP hit the headlines as then county councillor Martin Jenkins resigned in protest at the party’s stance on gay marriage.
We also reported how for the first time the number of residents in Redditch unhappy with the state of the county’s roads had risen above 50 per cent, as highways bosses admitted they were struggling to cope.
The Alex returned to the headlines as we revealed the ongoing review was set to cost £2.5million
And Redditch celebrated the 50th anniversary of New Town designation.
We revealed how newly elected UKIP councillor Dave Small had made homophobic and alleged racist remarks on Facebook. Within days he had been kicked out of the party and resigned his seat.
The big new story was the announcement by Tudor Grange Academy it intended to expand its admission age to take pupils from 11-years-old sparking a storm of protest amid fears it could destroy the borough’s education system.
The row over where to site the new Asda supermarket also made the headlines. Fears were raised allowing it to be located on the B&Q site would damage the town centre. In the end planners approved the proposal despite an alternative put forward by the owners of the Kingfisher Shopping Centre.
Maggie Underwood, co-founder of Redditch Heart Safe, was called into action as she used her CPR skills to save a man’s life after he collapsed in Morrisons.
And Duran Duran star John Taylor popped in to Redditch to offer support to the town’s music scene after the borough was named the least musical place in the UK.
Pop star Pixie Lott caused a storm as she popped into St Augustine’s Catholic High School to perform as part of her work with the charity CRY.
We also revealed the debacle over Dave Small’s election was set to cost borough taxpayers £10,000 to fund the resulting by-election.
And fans of Bottom star Rik Mayall said goodbye to the comedian following his sudden death. Mayall was responsible for creating Redditch investigative journalist Kevin Turvey and starred in the 1982 mockumentary Kevin Turvey – The Man Behind The Green Door in which he searches out scoops around the borough
We exposed the poor condition of First World War Graves in Plymouth Road Cemetery just a month before the 100th anniversary of Britain’s involvement in the conflict was marked.
Thieves made off with £50,000 of fish from Lodge Pool, although there were later claims vandals were to blame and police re-opened an historic attempted rape case after Victor Nealon’s conviction was quashed following fresh DNA evidence.
The death of husband and wife Christopher and Evelyn Metcalfe following a crash on the M42 near Redditch also made headlines.
There was more hospital news in August as we revealed plans to restrict births at the Alex due to a shortage of specialist neonatal nurses. A new plan was unveiled for the redundant market area in the town centre and I had some welcome news to celebrate as baby Alex Dipple was born in dramatic fashion some 164 miles away in Ipswich.
Staff at the Meadow Farm pub were left shaken after an early morning robbery in which raiders got away with a gaming machine, a handbag and purse and there were warnings repeated acts of vandalism could lead to the closure of Redditch Cricket Club.
There were also tributes to popular Redditch market trader John Beddow – known as the ‘bag man’ – following his passing in June.
Alfie the Dog was declared a hero after helping to save residents in Johnson Close after an arson attack.
GPs in Redditch and Bromsgrove went on the attack, blasting plans for the future of the Alex as a risk to patients as well as questioning the clinical and financial sustainability of the proposed model. West Midlans Clinical Senate were called in to review the plan after it failed a key NHS England check. The results are due in early 2015.
It was also confirmed the creation of a new practise arena in Lakeside could make Redditch a destination for some of the music industry’s top names.
And there was a stand-off between council officers and Wilson’s Fun Fair as they claimed they were being illegally blocked from entering the town centre.
Birmingham man Akeel Hussain was jailed for a minimum of 19 years for stabbing 21-year-old Redditch woman Kirsty Wright.
Tributes were paid to Winyates hairdresser Graeme Arundel after the sudden death of the 59-year-old and the man behind the Roundabouts of Redditch calendar Kevin Beresford was named as one of Britain’s dullest men.
Outrage was caused by a cowardly attack on a young woman in the town centre while a sickness bug caused the closure of Birchensale Middle School.
There was also time to reflect once again on the death of Lance Corporal Dale Hopkins, who lost his life during the Afghanistan war, as British troops left the country.
Peter Styler announced he was standing down as head of the town’s Poppy Appeal after being involved for more than 50 years.
We revealed the Jade Garden saga had come to an end as Papa John’s was taking part of the building gutted by fire six years ago – but not without an eleventh hour row with planners that threatened to scupper the deal.
Jessica Wiggins was found guilty after retrial of failing to act to prevent the death of her 12-week-old baby Isabella. Isabella’s father Tyler Vallance had previously admitted manslaughter.
There were record turnouts across Redditch, Alcester and the surrounding area on Remembrance Sunday as people paid tribute to those who lost their lives to war during the 100th anniversary of the start of The First World War.
We revealed the conviction of Davey James for the manslaughter of Lakeside man Nigel Shakespeare had been quashed and a retrial ordered.
Redditch celebrated as 25 individuals, community groups and businesses were declared the pride of the borough and there was good news as the number of people seeking work in Redditch fell to a record low.
Dan Reddington brought the record sale of the century to an end by flogging off what was left of his 75,000 strong collection and there was an identity crisis for a Redditch road after bungling council workers accidentally renamed Butler’s Hill Lane as Butlers Hill.
And online readers went mad for the news Burger King was making a return to the Kingfisher Shopping Centre.
There were record turnouts at this year’s Remembrance Sunday service in Redditch and across the wider area 4614013ABR25
The row over the former Jade Garden building was resolved as Papa John’s confirmed it was taking part of the building – but not before a row with planners threatened the deal
The town was left in a state of shock after the death of Brockhill teenager Richard Fellows. Picture by Marcus Mingins 1214024MMR2
Redditch Borough Council installed the wrong road sign leading to an identity crisis for Butler’s Hill Lane (or Butlers Lane according to the council). Picture by Marcus Mingins 4814001MMR2
Redditch successfully hosted the Tour Series cycle race in 2014 for the third time and it will return in 2015. Picture by Marcus Mingins 2314015MMR17