Highbury, built in 1879, is an impressive red-brick Grade II* listed Victorian mansion with beautiful high quality interiors. It is located within its own designed landscape that now forms part of Highbury Park which is bordered by Moseley and Kings Heath and about 4 miles to the south of Birmingham City Centre. As the former estate of Joseph Chamberlain, one of the greatest municipal leaders of Birmingham, it is one of Birmingham’s key historic sites.
In 1932 the Highbury Estate was bequeathed to Birmingham City Council as sole trustee ‘for the general benefit of the citizens of Birmingham’. The house is currently used by the Catering Department of the City Council for weddings, conferences and other functions, but requires urgent repairs to keep it sound for the next 3-5 years.
Chamberlain House also needs repair and a new use. There are also areas within the park that need repair and maintenance. These are pressing reasons to review the management of the estate and find new and sustainable uses, which reflect the strong heritage of the place and deliver benefit for the people of Birmingham.
Highbury Park is a high priority for the city council as part of its heritage strategy. Last year we were commissioned by the City Council to develop an Options Appraisal for the future of the Highbury Trust Estate. Our objective has been to find a way to make the estate sustainable, whilst achieving its charitable aims and preserving its heritage.
To do this we have had to identify and evaluate possible options for conservation, repair and future management of the assets, and to determine how the preferred option identified can be implemented. This report built on previous consultation and reports that have been carried out since 2003.
There is very strong local support and interest in the park and estate and part of developing the options has involved talking to different groups. The Friends of Highbury Park are particularly active and use the park for a range of community uses. Further details about projects run in the park can be found at http://highburyparkfriends.org.uk
The report will be going out for public consultation over the summer and the decision about its future is expected to be made by the end of the year.