Highbury Trust Expressions of Interest & Public Meeting

After a period of confusion and doubt, it appears that the public meeting about Highbury Trust is going ahead.

Nearly 3 weeks ago, we received an email with the following text

Public Notice

The Highbury Trust

One of Birmingham’s most famous parliamentarian’s, Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain MP built Highbury Hall as a family home in 1878. The Highbury estate was transferred to trustees in 1919 by the eldest son of Joseph Chamberlain and the estate was finally gifted to Birmingham City Council on trust for the benefit of the citizens of Birmingham in 1932.

The estate comprises of Highbury Hall, Chamberlain House and land that is now forms part of Highbury Park.

The Council, as Sole Trustee of the Highbury Trust is looking to identify how charitable activity can be maximised at Highbury to satisfy the objects of the trust together with the commercial opportunities that can be developed in order to finance and sustain the charity into the future. The Council is currently using part of Highbury Hall as a successful conference and events centre.

Initial proposals and expressions of interest from individuals and /or organisations are requested to be submitted by 15th February and proposers will be invited to make a short initial presentation to a public meeting at the Banqueting Suite, Council House, on 24th February at 7pm.

Please reply by 15th February to:

David Tatlow
Director of Legal Services
Birmingham City Council
Ingleby House, 11-14 Cannon Street
Birmingham B2 5EN

This notice has now been published in the local press, and posted at entrances to Highbury Park and King’s Heath Library. A short conversation with another Council legal officer confirms that the expressions of interest are still being sought up to the 15th (next Monday!) and that the public meeting will focus on those proposals.

We do not know how the meeting will be conducted, such as how feedback from the audience will be taken into account, but we have asked David Tatlow to consider Highbury Coalition’s previously submitted vision document Highbury Trust – A Vibrant Future for a Historic Resource as an expression of interest, and Coalition members will be there to make the required presentation.

The vision document is meant to set out the conceptual framework, which would be followed with more specific details of governance, financing and other aspects once we’d found money for a feasibility study and/or further development. This has been our plan since 2008. We have made some progress toward identifying a management/governance structure based on similar projects in Bexley, Chiswick and elsewhere, as Alison Millward set out in her Charitable Trust Structures presentation at the previous public meeting. One way of doing this is to increase the number of trustees to include people from charitable organisations, the Chamberlain family, and local residents.

We expect the Council will have at least one proposal to continue using the Hall as an events venue, and we suspect that they won’t be offering to change the governance or diversify the range of trustees.

If you feel that the trust needs to change the way it’s managed, then it’s probably wise to attend the public meeting on the 24th.

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