Save Druids Heath
Residents fight council plans to rebuild their homes that ignore their community.
Photo: Druids Heath and Monyhull Forum
Druids Heath is one of the most deprived areas in Birmingham. It has suffered, in the words of one of its residents, “deliberate decline” due to decades of underinvestment regionally and nationally. But it is home to a strong and diverse community which provides essential support networks, friendships and stability to any resident who needs it.
Now this is threatened. The council estate was built in the 1960s and needs repair and renovation. Instead it is getting regeneration: 11 towers of 50 homes each will be demolished, and replaced with a mix of private and social housing. Residents say hundreds of units of social housing will be lost, as well as their community, their friendships, and the place they and their children call home. Some have been there since it was built.
Residents have organised to oppose the council’s regeneration, with support from organisers at the New Economics Foundation. Tenants want their own, community-led regeneration which allows them to stay in the area, provides sustainable housing built for their needs, avoids gentrification, and builds on the current number of social homes rather than scaling back. They have so far won the right to return to equal or better properties after the regeneration is complete, and are continuing to fight for their other demands.
Resident and community worker Anne-Marie Alder told Birmingham Mail: “They are going to destroy this community. They are demolishing far more properties than they are building. I don’t think they realise the impact and the community connections there are.”
New rules needed
Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.
Start an English Land Commission
Commission will design a strategy for a fairer, more inclusive system of land and land ownership.
Reform compulsory purchase laws
Changes would mean that public authorities, rather than landowners, would capture the uplift in land value.
Create a Common Ground Trust
Buying land from underneath houses and leasing it to members will expand the number of people ready to buy a house.
Increase the supply of social housing
Expanding social housing is the only way government can meet its 300,000 target for new homes each year.
Austerity has pummelled living standards and public services. Now is the time to end it.
Roll out universal basic services
Quality public services allow us all to live better lives, and should be expanded beyond health and education.
Introduce an NHS land community-lock
Any land asset sold by the NHS through choice, necessity or obligation should be used for community benefit.
Create a Land Development Corporation
A corporation with the power to purchase, develop and sell land can ensure it is managed in the public interest.
Close the viability loophole
Stop private developers from evading affordable housing requirements.
Tax unfair landowner gains
Redistribute unfair gains which landowners derive through public investment and land value increases.