Conservationists have renewed their attack on Birmingham's largest private landowner, accusing Calthorpe Estates of not doing enough to save the last remaining house designed by one of the city's greatest Victorian architects.
There are fears that 324 Hagley Road, boarded up and unoccupied, is in such a poor state of repair that it will suffer the fate of scores of similar properties by being pulled down and replaced by flats or offices.
The Victorian Society is urging the city council to step in and use its powers to force Calthorpe Estates to put the building back into a decent state of repair.
Designed by Ernest Barnsley in 1895, 324 Hagley Road lies in the Barnsley Road conservation area. Similar imposing Victorian gentlemen's villas with extensive gardens have gradually disappeared in recent years as developers snap up vacant sites to build apartments and new homes.
With Birmingham being urged by the Government to identify locations for up to 60,000 new homes over the next 20 years, all available land in sought-after areas such as Edgbaston is increasingly being targeted by developers.
The city planning committee was asked last week to approve the demolition of the third oldest property in Hall Green - Highfield House, which was built in 1850.
Stone Developments, who want to build four four-bedroom houses and six flats on the site, insist Highfield House is structurally unsound and the cost of repair would be prohibitive.
The committee deferred a decision following a huge protest campaign, with more than 1,000 people signing petitions calling for Highfield House to be saved. Council conservation officers have been asked by the planning committee to look at ways in which the property might be restored.
The Victorian Society has been critical in the past of Calthorpe Estates and of the council's "failure to enforce the duty on property owners in conservation areas to keep buildings in good condition and to retain original features.
Once allowed to remain unoccupied for any period of time, the large properties in the Barnsley Road conservation area become a target for vandals. Six houses were badly damaged in arson attacks between 2000 and 2005.
The council website defines a conservation area as "an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance".
It adds: "We have a duty to preserve and enhance the character and appearance of each conservation area."
Victorian Society chairman Barbara Shackley said it would be a "crime against Birmingham's rich architectural heritage" if 324 Hagley Road was demolished. She said Mr Barnsley, whose family building firm built Birmingham Council House, was one of the Midlands' most respected architects at the end of the 19th century.
Although examples of his work remain in Gloucestershire, 324 Hagley Road is the only survivor in Birmingham.
Mrs Shackley added: "We call upon Calthorpe Estates to demonstrate their commitment to this part of Edgbaston and restore the building for future generations."
Birmingham city councillor Deirdre Alden, the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Edgbaston, has held several meetings with Calthorpe Estates to talk about the state of properties along the Hagley Road.
Coun Alden (Con Edgbaston) added: "This road is a gateway to Birmingham, yet it looks awful, it is an eyesore. I have asked Calthorpe Estates for ages to do something about it. They keep saying they will do something, but nothing happens."