We visit the Birmingham ghost town in the shadow of the Commonwealth Games

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After being scrapped before the Commonwealth Games, the Perry Barr development site is more reminiscent of a ghost town these days

It was billed as the key driver behind the multi-million pound regeneration of Perry Barr as the £500m athletes’ village for the Commonwealth Games would eventually create close to 1,000 new apartments.

However, two years before the Games in 2020, the decision was made to scrap the athletes’ village all together due to the impact of the pandemic. The call was branded an “astonishing failure” by longstanding Perry Barr councillor, Jon Hunt.

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Fast-forward to October 2023 and the first few apartments – priced between £173,400 and £229,500 – have been put on the market by estate agents Connells.

According to security staff on site today (October 26), those for sale are only in one apartment block with the other three nowhere near completion.

The site itself is more reminiscent of a ghost town. It’s been 1,632 days – or four years, five months – since work officially started to transform the former UCB building into new homes.“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform an area of Birmingham that has long needed investment,” said former city council leader Ian Ward. Yet here we are – some 15 months after the Games with the city embroiled in a £1 billion financial crisis.

The ‘village’ just off Aldridge Road remains boarded up with metal fences erected all around the site to deter trespassers. Loose yellow electric cables sway with the wind while there’s plenty of litter and graffiti.

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Ashley Preece outside the Perry Barr residential schemeAshley Preece outside the Perry Barr residential scheme
Ashley Preece outside the Perry Barr residential scheme | LDRS

And despite being somewhat brand new, the site is in need of a spruce up with it being left unoccupied for so many months. It’s currently manned by a couple of security guards. One speaks to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, and says: “Three of the blocks aren’t even finished yet. I think they’re allowing viewings for the first one here but nothing’s really happening.”

One of the new roads within the development has been named Inspire Avenue which is rather ironic. It’s eerily quiet. There’s no tradesman grafting to get things done and no cars or vans on site. It’s as if the whole thing has been forgotten about.

The Perry Barr apartment development is like a ghost town. The Perry Barr apartment development is like a ghost town.
The Perry Barr apartment development is like a ghost town. | LDRS

“I don’t know what’s happening… well I do… nothing,” says one passer-by, who wanted to remain anonymous. “I’m local and these boards you see have been there for so long now. We want it finished. It’s just one big white elephant.”

Given the majority of the site is still a building site, the LDRS asked Birmingham City Council if new tenants are due to move in. We also asked if the lack of progress was linked with the city’s bleak financial standing.

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The Perry Barr apartment development The Perry Barr apartment development
The Perry Barr apartment development | LDRS

The response from a Birmingham City Council spokesperson was as follows: “The first tranche of homes within the initial phase of the award-winning Perry Barr Residential Scheme is open to purchasers and anyone interested in them can make enquiries with Connells estate agents for more information.”

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