Archives for posts with tag: Bournville Village Trust

A Moseley reader recently reflected that neither of the administrations have governed the city well. Is it simply too unwieldy?

The micro, self-reliant, self-helping project

Early in his career, Nick Cohen worked for the Birmingham Post and Mail. In the New Statesman he wrote: “I would often cover the glaring inadequacies of the city council. The micro, self-reliant and self-helping project seemed, and often was, preferable. Birmingham City Council is the largest municipality in the country. But its strength has been sapped by decades of centralisation and confidence undermined by the espousal of the pseudo-democracy of management consultants.

The award-winning Bureau of Investigative Journalism has carried out a major investigation, assisted by journalists all over the country.

It discovered that councils are selling thousands of public spaces – from libraries and community centres to playgrounds and pools – using some of the proceeds to fund further service cuts and redundancy payments.

Birmingham was the biggest spender – in terms of funding redundancies through selling assets

Though Birmingham City Council only provided partial information about sale prices and incomplete information about those receiving these public assets, we are told that between 2014 and 2018 Birmingham Council sold 334 public spaces.

To see what your council has sold, enter the name of your city into this interactive map.

The MP for Perry Barr, where the council has sold off land and buildings and spent the proceeds on making workers redundant, said, “We should never have been selling the land that we have inherited from our forefathers […] It just takes the future away from our children and grandchildren to come and that is really devastating.”

Dick Atkinson, whose work in Balsall Heath has been well-documented, advocated a return to Birmingham’s original ten villages. Many would agree that the experienced and successful Bournville Village Trust could oversee and guide the setting up of ten such village trusts with appropriate capital and income –– leaving a reduced council staff to co-ordinate city-wide services such as refuse collection and transport.








A Bournville reader has drawn attention to the research findings revealed in a BBC programme.

The BBC’s Shared Data Unit, used freedom of information requests and Land Registry data to obtain information on 92,000 Right to Buy sales across England, Scotland and Wales recording an average of £69,000 each from the scheme since 2000, according to the Times. The biggest profits were in London, with buyers in Islington making almost £100,000 each on average.

From the data gathered, it was calculated that 140 tenants bought and resold their council homes within a month, generating a collective profit of £3 million or £21,000 each.

In one case, a former council tenant in Solihull purchased his/her council home for £8,000 and sold it for £285,000 nine days later. Did s/he and others pay back some or all of the discount they received – as those who sell within five years of purchasing are required to?

State of play until 2013: source, Ampp3d, a data-journalism website for Trinity Mirror 

In January 2017, Right to Buy was halted in Wales, as it was in Scotland in 2016 after 37 years.

The devolved administrations argued that its cost to the social housing supply has been too great. Despite central government pledges to replace homes sold through Right to Buy, most receipts have been returned to the Treasury rather than reinvested in affordable housing.

The Financial Times noted that some 40% of right-to-buy homes pass into the private rented sector, where they may continue to absorb government funds through housing benefit.

The Chartered Institute of Housing once again repeated its call for Right to Buy to be suspended in England.


Our reader commented that George Cadbury encountered similar profiteering in the early days of Bournville and set up the Bournville Village Trust to administer the project. See Bournville, Model Village to Garden Suburb, Harrison pp 44 Publisher Phillimore, ISBN 1 86077 117 3.

Extract from Management and Organisational Behaviour by Laurie J. Mullins 





Bournville Village Trust has agreed to acquire and manage some of the 138 homes at the Manor House site, which is being developed by Crest Nicholson. Work on the site will also include plans to rebuild Northfield Manor House, off Bristol Road South, which was demolished after being severely damaged in an arson attack three years ago.

Northfield Manor House was the residence of the Trust’s founder George, and his wife Elizabeth, until her death in 1951. In 1953 it became a hall of residence for the university, but has been empty since 2007 as the University decided it was too expensive to upgrade.

It is not legally listed with English Heritage, but has an informal grade A status on Birmingham City Council’s local advisory list of historic buildings. The English Heritage website (no general access) records that a farm house, part of the Manor of Northfield belonging to the Jervoise family, was recorded as being on the site circa 1750. In 1809 the estate was purchased by Daniel Ledsam, a London merchant. It is believed that he made alterations to the house and was responsible for the current main building.

This picture came from coverage on this site in 2014.

Local historian Dr Carl Chinn urged the university to stop the demolition of the fire-damaged building and consult local people through community groups and their elected representatives over the future of this building. He advocated restoration of the building, in partnership with the community.

The University’s vice-principal, Professor Adam Tickell, said that the planning application had been revived and now included provision for the rebuilding of the manor house, despite the demolition of most of the structure.

The Manor House is to be rebuilt in the original style with Georgian and Arts & Crafts facades and the decorative details of the exterior of the building in stone and brickwork, render and timber. The form and proportions of the 18th century manor will be retained but the interior will be divided into apartments.






tom greevesThe Bournville area of Birmingham has had a pioneering role in the use of solar energy in Britain and a paper which briefly describes this has been commissioned by Greening the North in memory of the late Tom Greeves, who was inspired by reading The Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome.

This book, which reported that continued economic growth using existing technology was not sustainable and could threaten everyone’s future survival, led him to study electronic engineering in order to develop the clean and efficient technologies that were going to have to replace existing fuels.

Tom Greeves was an engineer at Cadbury’s in Bournville, and became a trustee of the Bournville Village Trust (BVT), serving for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003 and acting as vice-chair for 14 years. He contributed his technical knowledge and his long term commitment to solar energy.

He worked with Professor Leslie Jesch of Birmingham University to implement designs for houses that were solar heated by very large south-facing windows and conservatories. Together with Dr. Lubo Jankovic and the Solar Energy Lab at Birmingham University, they demonstrated that ordinary houses in the British climate with solar energy could show a major reduction in the fuel required to heat them.

A new low energy housing development by the BVT at Lower Shenley, was the last housing project with which Tom Greeves was involved before he retired from the Trust. The Bournville solar principles were extended to 167 homes, using input from local eco-architect John Christophers of Associated Architects, who designed the houses with glazed sun spaces and solar water heating.

Retirement did not mean inactivity however, and he made a valuable contribution to setting up Northfield Eco-centre and improving the energy efficiency of Cotteridge Friends Meeting House which became an exemplar of a low carbon community building, having cut energy use by over 90%.

solar pioneers cover bestThe late Sir Adrian Cadbury described the draft paper as an admirable account of Tom’s practical championship, backed by his technical knowledge, of solar power:

”He understood the impact of climate change and through the Northfield Ecocentre demonstrated how at community level we could all play our part in adapting our lives to its impact. At Bournville he made a great contribution to the introduction of new methods through his work in the Research & Development Department.

“The draft is a remarkably consistent record of advances in the application of technology for community benefit, all of it driven by Tom for the public good. It is an inspiring record which through Tom’s modesty would not have been appreciated without this background research.

“Tom was a real pioneer, wonderfully modest and unassuming. His inspiration and example will be greatly missed”.

Read the well-illustrated paper here:


As many teachers, social workers, GPs, disabled and disadvantaged people are driven to desperation by their tortuous ‘reforms’, government now proposes to ‘reform’ the charitable sector.

persimmon solihullRuefully citizens watch and attempt to protest as the Conservative government spends their taxpayers’ money – so often unwisely and against the public interest. They have seen local councils robbed of their housing stock – and political devotion to the corporate sector favouring the landlord interest and delighting other potential party funders – builders of ugly, expensive and ‘poky’ housing (left, in Solihull).

Having failed to induce charities to take over social care at rock bottom prices (Big Society agenda to increase the sector’s role in public service provision) government has reduced their funding and is now attempting to break up the housing trusts set up by philanthropists.

Government proposals will eventually benefit the landlord and corporate building sector by destroying the cherished legacies of philanthropic groups and individuals the Guinness Partnership, the Fry Housing trust, Aster, B3Living, Midland Heart, Orbit, Poplar HARCA, Riverside, Sovereign, SpectrumTrafford Housing Trust, the Haig Housing Trust and the Bournville Village Trust (below).

bournville social housing

In a Post report, Peter Roach, chief executive of Bournville Village Trust, described the plan as “unfair and shameful”. He said: “We understand people’s home ownership aspirations, but the concept of giving huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to provide discounts for people already enjoying the comfort of good quality affordable homes whilst at the same time watching waiting lists soar is unfair and shameful.”

Game set and match?

The government states that every house purchased will be replaced “on a one-for-one basis” with more affordable homes but the Department for Communities and Local Government admits that though 1.88m council homes in England have been sold since right to buy was introduced – 37% of the total stock of council homes – local authorities have built just 345,000 homes over the same period. It fails to add that this has been due to central government restrictions on the use of money derived from local housing sales. If government means to keep its word this time, profit-driven building corporations will demand subsidies – taxpayers’ money to induce them to build the social housing needed and promised by government.

The social gap widens: whilst these proposals will cheer rather than disturb government grandees with second and third homes inherited, acquired or bestowed [latest taxpayer funded stately home in the Cotswolds ironically for unelected minister for social equality], 3.4 million people are now on the national waiting list for social housing in England.

Read further:


A Financial Times article opens: “David Cameron, prime minister, this month put forward what could be one of the worst policy ideas ever: extending “Right to Buy” to allow housing association tenants to purchase their homes for less than they are worth. It would make the housing supply crisis worse, by removing housing associations capacity to build more homes. It would push up rents, by creating a buy-to-let bonanza.

“Unfair and shameful . . .”

bournville social housing

Peter Roach, chief executive of Bournville Village Trust – a housing treasure trove – described the plan as “unfair and shameful . . .”. He said: “We understand people’s home ownership aspirations, but the concept of giving huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to provide discounts for people already enjoying the comfort of good quality affordable homes whilst at the same time watching waiting lists soar is unfair and shameful.”

Points made in the FT by Peabody Trust’s CE include:

  • One in three of the homes bought under Right to Buy, has been privately rented often to recipients of housing benefit.
  • A continuation of this would mean higher rents, with the taxpayer funding housing benefit payments.
  • This would be a compulsory transfer of social and charitable assets, at a discount, to people who have already benefited from sub-market rents and security of tenure.
  • A social asset would be lost.
  • Only one in 10 social homes sold under this scheme has so far been replaced.

MEP Keith Taylor has issued a new report on the UK housing crisis which demonstrates that the current system, with its unaffordable prices and rents and a depleted stock of social housing, is directly linked to Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy, and the failures of successive governments to ensure that those in greatest need are provided for.

Its summarised recommendations:

  • Rent control and tenant protection.
  • Investment in social housing as the best way of ensuring an availability of genuinely affordable housing.
  • New taxation frameworks to ensure those who have benefited from the property boom are contributing a fair share and disincentivise speculation and land banking.
  • New powers for local authorities to deal with empty properties, and the decriminalisation of squatting.
  • Structures to support and promote housing co-operatives.
  • Improved standards for construction and maintenance of all homes, to improve quality of life for residents and tackle domestic emissions.

Mr Taylor concludes that, though the current housing system is failing people, this doesn’t have to be the case. His report demonstrates that housing has become unsustainably expensive, and that fresh political will and innovative mechanisms are needed to make housing work for people again.

Keith Taylor sits on the Environment Committee and the Transport and Tourism Committee within the European Parliament. He also sits on the delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council.


BVT estate office 2 OTL

Oak Tree Lane residents await the outcome of McCarthy & Stone’s planning application, now before Birmingham City Council. The proposal to build retirement apartments will involve demolishing the handsome former Bournville Village Trust Estate Office on Oak Tree Lane (above).

McCarthy & Stone have agreed to retain the existing building’s façade on Oak Tree Lane, as stipulated by the Bournville Village Trust, and the majority of the mature trees will be kept on the site.

BVT estate land

Its design is said to “respect surrounding roofscapes and neighbouring properties” but concern about the height of the roof ridges has been expressed by residents living near the proposed development. These are about 1.5m higher than the existing highest ridge and move about10m nearer the building to the north, Oak Tree House. The proposed structure would be overbearing and diminish the sunlight currently arriving at Oak Tree House.

A resident, who has overseen and worked to design and develop similar conversion schemes, advises that the overall proportions of the front elevation can be preserved with windows made to a smaller height and a less steep roof slope. The north elevation could then also be retained with existing roof slopes.

mccarthy & stone KHMcCarthy and Stone development in Kings Heath.

The side elevation in Firbank Close, which would also be worth retaining:

BVT estate office side fircroft close

The submitted plans can be viewed online at the council’s website, application number 2014/05572/PA. The plans are going to committee on a date yet to be confirmed. 

Further information:

nick_mathiasonIn his monograph on housing issues, business correspondent Nick Mathiason* records that – in England alone – there are 1.4 million households on council waiting lists – a 34% rise since 1997.

Almost 85,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. Few local social housing units are being built – with honourable exceptions in a few local areas, including social housing in Chelmsley Wood being built by the North Solihull Partnership and affordable homes by Bournville Village Trust in Shenley Green.

In Solihull Council’s 2012 site assessment, Lowbrook Farm and Tidbury Green Farm land was excluded from the green belt to meet the long term needs of developers for aspirational housing – not for the needs of those on the housing register. Other sites – some flood-prone – were scheduled for release in a few years’ time. A year later, possibly due to the strong local opposition, the Council’s Local Plan, which was approved by the Government’s Planning Inspector and formally adopted by Solihull Council in early December 2013, included the return of Lowbrook Farm and Tidbury Green Farm land to green belt status.

During early January 2014 a legal challenge, submitted to the High Court, by Gallagher Estates (Lowbrook Farm) and LionCourt Homes (Tidbury Green), succeeded in overturning the Council’s Local Plan.

In May 2014 the High Court found the local plan was flawed and ordered the two large sites in Tidbury Green to be removed from Green Belt. The Council challenged the decision and on 17th December the Court of Appeal dismissed the Council’s case.

greenfield site 4

The greenfield flood-prone site above, has already been covered with ugly, expensive housing described as ‘poky’ by a viewer.

Continued: 2. What hope is there for Birmingham’s Development Plan?


*Nick Mathiason, who frequently writes articles exposing links between the governing hierarchy and wealthy donors, is business correspondent at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and also works with the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development. He was previously Business Correspondent at the Guardian and Observer newspapers for 10 years.

Many objective observers see the need for radical change to address the city’s acres of dereliction, unemployment blackspots and poor levels of health and childcare, all contrasting strongly with the expenditure lavished on the city centre.

northfield manor fire

As one valued landmark after another is neglected, destroyed or scheduled for destruction, the burning of Manor Farm – renamed The Manor House by Birmingham University, who bought it in 1953 – has prompted this question.

Below is a map showing the levels of unemployment in the city’s ward. Though dated 2010 it is substantially correct. By comparing the undecipherable names on this full-sized version with the clearly named boundaries on the council’s map of ethnic distribution we can see that the worst affected are Washwood Heath, Nechells, Sparkbrook, Lozells, Handsworth, Soho, Aston and Hodge Hill.

city unemployment by ward 2010 map

 A dream team to address the city’s problems? 

Combine Dr Dick Atkinson’s early concept of returning the city’s administration to its ten original villages with Localise West Midlands’ data in their full Mainstreaming Community Economic Development report, and enlist the highly experienced and successful Bournville Village Trust to oversee and guide the setting up of ten such village trusts with appropriate capital and income – not just a Neighbourhood Community Budget – leaving a reduced council staff to co-ordinate services such as refuse collection and transport.