Gildas Avenue Kings Norton: Last resident on abandoned Birmingham street agrees to move out
Carl Harris has accepted an offer from Birmingham City Council to buy his home after a 16 year legal battle
Carl Harris of Gildas Avenue has been locked in a legal stalemate with the council for 16 years as it tries to bulldoze the area to make way for new housing, but this week he has finally agreed on a price for his home.
The 65-year-old had been steadfast in his objection to relocating until he was offered what he feels his four-bedroom house is worth. But after seeking legal advice last week, Carl said he has been urged to accept the latest offer from Birmingham City Council of £275,000 and put the saga to bed.
What has Carl said about his decision to finally sell up in his own words?
“It’s all smoke and mirrors,” he told the LDRS. “They don’t want to increase the value of the house but are making the money up in other ways, making it look like a good deal. But it’s not actually a good deal at all.”
The council’s offer for the house has not budged from £175,000 for some time, but it has offered a further £10,000 for a plot of land attached to the house. Mr Harris said the whole area could fit up to 4 houses – one factor that has led him to believe the offering price should be higher.
While he feels an element of relief, the former National Express bus driver is still unhappy with the agreement. He said: “It’s relief that I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
“However, this option is the best of a bad lot. I spoke to a barrister last week and he said I could go to court and I could win, but if it didn’t go in my favour, I will lose the fees I’ve paid out already, so 20 grand or so will be gone.
“Costs are mounting up. It would be brilliant if I won in court, but if I don’t win, I’ve got no house and no money.”
When does Carl have to be out by?
Carl now has until just after Christmas to find a new home, a timeframe he said is ‘ridiculous’. He had been to view a house on Thursday last week but a bidding war had started and if the price goes over £220,000 he will have to dip into his own pocket – something he is unwilling to do.
Carl added today that even with the final sum, he is struggling to find a suitable property in the same area, nor is he allowed to purchase a home from the council. Suggestions to the local authority have been made but were rejected, Carl claims.
What has it been like living on an abandoned street for all this time?
Labelled a ‘no-go’ zone last year due to burgeoning crime rates, Gildas Avenue has fallen into disrepair and attracted criminals and thieves. Carl has also revealed that his house has been broken into three times since 2018, once by actual council officers.
“I was at work and the phone kept going,” Carl said. “It was a private number so I didn’t answer.
“I came home and arrived to find men from the council saying they had broken into my property because they thought it was one of theirs. They were in the area with a lot of boarded-up properties and couldn’t understand why this one hadn’t been voided.
“So they broke in, realised someone was still living here and then had to contact me. That tells you that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. It’s been a farce from one end to the other.”
To make matters worse, the council replaced the broken door with an ‘inferior’ wooden door, which was kicked in by real burglars in May this year. Robbers stole some power tools and a few small items, but fitting another new door was the most costly item – something Carl feels the council should pay for.
Carl’s acceptance of the council’s offer this week marks the end of an epic saga that has caused the father-of-one significant grief over the years. “I’m up against it all the time. I can’t compete with offers above £220,000,” said Carl. “It’s been 16 years of stress.”
What happens next for Gildas Avenue?
Gildas Avenue is the final part of a plan for 1,000 new homes on the former Primrose and Pool Farm Estate, which began in 2007. 117 of these are set for the area around Gildas Avenue, Barratts Road, and Bentmead Grove.
The majority of people in the area moved out more than three years ago. Some areas of the estate have been demolished to make way for the new development, while other houses are derelict and have been boarded up.
Local MP for Birmingham Northfield Gary Sambrook has been in touch with Carl and told the LDRS: “As ever, I am happy to support Carl in his case and get him a better deal from the City Council.”
But communication has been patchy and Carl has been left feeling isolated at times. The LDRS reached out to Birmingham City Council for a comment on the matter.
What has Birmingham City Council said about Carl’s decision to sell up?
A council spokesperson said: “Mr Harris’s solicitor confirmed on Thursday 11th August that he was accepting the Council’s latest offer to voluntarily purchase his property. They have also confirmed that Mr Harris will be withdrawing his objection to the Compulsory Purchase Order.
“With regard to the issue about the forced entry into his property and the damage to the door and frame, the Council was aware of the issue at the time and steps were taken to remedy the situation with the agreement of Mr Harris.”
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