Another Step Toward Sale of Highbury Land & Buildings

It looks as though the Charity Commission supports sale of Chamberlain House & the four gardener’s/caretaker’s cottages. This is quoted from a letter dated 6 August 2007 written by Kate Waring of the Charity Commission to Rajesh Parmar, legal officer for Birmingham City Council and presented as part of a report to the Trusts & Charities Sub-Committee on 21 November.

• The Commission acknowledges that the sub-committee is exploring options other than the disposal of Chamberlain House to fund repairs to Highbury Hall. However, we consider that based on the information provided this is still an option it may need to pursue to ensure the future financial viability of the charity. We consider that the Council should be given the flexibility to decide to dispose of this property if it is not required for the charity’s purposes and if funds cannot be found from other sources to maintain Highbury Hall. A power of disposal for this property will therefore be given by scheme.

• There are four dwelling houses on the charity’s land. The Commission will also grant a power to dispose of these properties by sale or lease in the scheme, extending the existing power in the charity’s governing document to let properties for a term of up to seven years. It will be a matter for the Council to determine whether it is in the best interests of the charity to proceed by sale or by leases at market rent. The Council could only let at below market rent if this furthers the objects of the charity. A lease at below market rent to a caretaker as part of his overall remuneration package to ensure the security of the site would be acceptable.

One of the associated documents sets out the authority to sell land identified in ‘Part 2 of the schedule’, which is described as ‘Chamberlain House and other dwelling houses’. A third document is a report to the Trusts & Charities Sub-Committee summarising and making recommendations.

Does this mean that the Council can go ahead and sell parts of the estate, including houses, without considering the effects on the historic landscape, the ecological impact and the wishes of residents? I hope not, but this needs clarification. Given that the subcommittee meeting was nearly two months ago, it’s important to find out what has happened since.

This is expected to be a topic of discussion at the next Moseley & Kings Heath Ward Committee meeting, Wednesday 16 January, 7pm at Moseley CDT (the post office building). If you have an interest in maintaining the integrity of the former estate, or in protecting the historic and natural features, it might be a good idea to turn up for that meeting. More information will be posted here as plans become clearer.

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