Community activists are up in arms at plans by Birmingham City Council to sell part of Joseph Chamberlain’s historic Highbury estate.
The move, which could raise up to £1 million, has been described as a betrayal of the city’s duty to keep the 31-acres of land and Victorian buildings intact for the enjoyment of the people of Birmingham.
Highbury Hall itself, built by Chamberlain in 1879, will not be sold, but the council has applied to the Charities Commission for permission to dispose of Park Lodge, which marks the original entrance to the estate, and Chamberlain House.
Several of the estate homes would also be sold.
The council insists it has no other way of raising money to meet a £700,000 bill for refurbishing and repairing Highbury Hall.
A further £2 million must be found to settle a long-running dispute over “inappropriate” use of Highbury Hall and Chamberlain House.
Compensation has to be paid by the council to the Highbury trust because buildings are being used for non-charitable purposes.
Highbury Hall stages conferences, banquets, weddings and entertaining, while Chamberlain House is used by the social services department.
The estate has been run by the council under the terms of a trust set up by the Chamberlain family since 1932.
Moseley Community Development Trust, which is campaigning for local people to take over responsibility for running Highbury, wants campaigners to complain to the Charities Commission about the sale plan.
Spokesman Tony Thapar said: “We want to keep the site intact because it is a historic landscape and was given in legacy to the people of Birmingham.
“The council, which has been acting as both landlord and tenant, has a clear conflict of interest. How can it be the sole trustee and then sell the assets to generate funding for itself?
“I would urge everyone who cares about Highbury to contact the Charities Commission by February 20, the deadline for consultation. If the commission doesn’t hear from people, then the council will probably get permission to sell Chamberlain House and Park Lodge.”
Mr Thapar said the council had a duty to consult local communities about its plans, but had not yet done so.
He added: “A coalition of local community groups has for the last three years been trying to open up a dialogue with the city council about the future of Highbury Trust and its estate.
“Unfortunately, the officers and councillors have ignored the coalition’s alternative proposals for developing Highbury.”
He is demanding that a new trust be set up to “preserve the hall and grounds for future generations whilst making use of this historic resource for education, employment, health and environmental enhancement”.
No one at the council was available to comment.