2021: Our most-read stories of the year

Jaimon George, MD of Zen Metro - our number one story of the year

Following a year of uncertainty, it seems another year of challenges is to come, with firms across the West Midlands faced the trials and tribulations of the pandemic, using innovative ways to adapt. With climate change on everyone’s mind, green technology has emerged to safeguard the future as Coventry is set to become the UK’s first hydrogen bus city and Birmingham’s SLC ran the UK’s first fully-electric mainline passenger train at the COP26.

Whilst some have thrived such as Victoria, making several multi-million-pound acquisitions, Norton Motorcycles reopening and Flybe coming to base its new operations at Birmingham Airport, others have dived into closing as furlough ends and inflation increases with corporate insolvencies at their highest level in almost three years. The number of insolvent businesses in England and Wales rose by 87.9% to 1,674, compared to November 2020’s figure of 891. Companies such as Wyvern and Fazenda slipped into administration.

Before we can ring in the New Year, here are the top 10 most-read stories of the past year, showing how the West Midlands loves luxury property, leisure activities and a bit of drama.

1) Award-winning Birmingham restaurant set to open doors to lockdown heroes

Award-winning Thai restaurant Zen Metro offered 10 unsung community heroes and a guest an exclusive dining experience. As a way of saying thanks to those who have helped the community through the pandemic, guests could enjoy a newly launched three-course Bottomless Brunch, with wine or Prosecco available during Friday and Saturday lunchtimes.

2) Birmingham restaurant to close despite rescue deal that saves 240 jobs

Rodizio favourite Fazenda in Birmingham closed its doors following a deal to sell its parent company. The business suffered from the impact of prolonged lockdowns and restrictions caused by COVID-19. It resulted in a significant build-up of landlord and HMRC arrears which could no longer be serviced without additional funding. A pre-packaged sale was agreed to Southern Wind Group Limited that saved Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Liverpool Fazenda sites. Birmingham Fazenda and Chester Picanha were not included in the deal, making 69 staff redundant.

3) Mansion on sought after Birmingham estate sells for more than £2m

A Victorian mansion on the desirable Calthorpe Estate sold for more than £2m. The Gothic-style residence on Farquhar Road on the Calthorpe Estate in Edgbaston has six bedrooms and four bathrooms, with the potential to convert a neighbouring coach house into extra living quarters. Originally built in 1865, the freehold property was marketed at £2.25m.

4) DPD Chief Executive leaves company following internal investigation

CEO of Smethwick delivery service DPD left the firm with immediate effect following an internal investigation. Dwain McDonald had been with DPD (then Parceline) since 1988, and became CEO in 2008. Yves Delmas, as COO of DPDgroup Europe, took over as interim CEO.

5) Birmingham bar and restaurant up for sale

A victorian-style building containing a bar and restaurant in the middle of Moseley. Commercial property agents Siddall Jones invited offers in excess of £899,950 for the Coach House, at 23a St. Mary’s Row. The venue, located next to the proposed new train station has more than 3,600 sq ft of space and is licensed from 10am to 1am.

6) London development firm swoops for historic Birmingham building

The Citadel in Corporation Street was snapped up by a London developer and investment company for £3.89m. The building was acquired by Kinrise from Lasalle Investment Management and it features 46,000 sq ft of office space and retail space.

7) Major residential scheme planned for long derelict Birmingham site

Plans were revealed of a 438-home development on land at Belgrave Middleway on the site of the former Joseph Chamberlain College and Birmingham Sports Centre in Balsall Heath. The proposals by GDL (Birmingham Middleway) outline three neighbourhood areas with 219 one-bedroom and 107 one-bedroom flats, alongside 38 two-bedroom, 62 three-bedroom and 12 four-bedroom houses.

8) Grade-II listed Georgian mansion on exclusive Birmingham estate sells for £3.2m

A modern Georgian mansion, yet again on the Calthorpe Estate in Birmingham, has been sold for £1.32m. Davidson Estates completed the sale on the grade-II listed property, which features five bedrooms in an exclusive cul-de-sac in Edgbaston, had undergone an extension and extensive restoration.

9) National Grid makes £7.8bn swoop for Western Power

National Grid was set to buy Western Power, the UK’s largest electricity distribution business in a deal work £7.8bn. In addition it sold The Narragansett Electric Company (NECO) to PPL Energy Holdings – the holding company of Western Power, in a £2.7bn deal. Bosses said the deal would be transformational for its UK portfolio as the acquisition is a one-off opportunity to acquire a significant scale position in UK electricity distribution.

10) Major Birmingham leisure complex sold in £25m deal

Fiveways Entertainment Centre of Broad Street, Birmingham was bought for £25.1m. AEW UK Core Property Fund (AEW) will now let to 11 leisure tenants – Cineworld, PureGym, a casino, nightclub and seven restaurants, including Nando’s and Five Guys and leases to Euro Car Parks.