We visit the Birmingham council estate where empty tower blocks cast an eerie shadow over neighbourhood

Residents on the Birmingham council estate where BBC’s This Town was shot are frustrated over the derelict eye sores
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Steven Knight described the empty tower blocks in Druids Heath in Birmingham as ‘beautiful’ ahead of his new BBC series This Town airing.

The show is set in Birmingham and Coventry, where young West Midlanders attempt to start a Ska and two-tone band while dealing with the societal issues of the early 80s. There’s some humour thrown in too, with the show opening to largely positive reviews.

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Peaky Blinders writer Knight called the show a ‘love letter to the West Midlands’, with part of the the programme shot in Druids Heath in south Birmingham. One of the main locations include the Druids Heath high rises of Saxelby House, Kingswood House and Barratts House - now lying empty.

The show’s main character Dante - played by Levi Brown - lives on a council estate that’s meant to be in Chelmsley Wood. The BBC used the tower blocks in Druids Heath to film these scenes. But with the filming over with, the towers remain empty.

Back in 2022,  Birmingham Council Council rubber-stamped a proposal to kickstart the development of the Druids Heath estate, which was built in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2018, Birmingham City Council agreed on a scheme which would provide up to 250 homes for the ward.

The clearance of obsolete housing began in 2020 with the demolition of 50 homes in Heath House. In total 250 homes, across five tower blocks, have been earmarked for demolition. And despite plans for the huge tower blocks where this Town was shot to be demolished in April 2023, Saxelby, Kingswood, Barratts House, Normandy House and Pemberton House remain vacant one year later.

Druids Heath council estateDruids Heath council estate
Druids Heath council estate
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I went down to the estate to chat to residents about life in Druids Heath. The first thing you really notice when approaching the estate are the tower blocks. Although eye-catching, the towers become rather eerie when you walk up to them in Kimpton Close. Each tower is covered in graffiti with broken windows, but overall, the area is fairly quiet.

David Duggan has lived in a house opposite the tower blocks for 40 years. Speaking to BirminghamWorld, he said: “We were  supposed to be having this regeneration in 2018. It was decided six tower blocks would come down, but the trouble is that they’ve moved all of these people out (of the tower blocks) and nothing has happened since.

Normandy HouseNormandy House
Normandy House

“They (city council) have gone back on this vote that we’ve had and are now talking about knocking the whole estate down, but we just voted for the tower blocks to come down because we’ve been quite happy here - I think I'll be six feet under before the tower blocks come down.”

David says the filming of This Town brought a buzz into the area and was quite interesting, but there are problems on the estate.

David Duggan has lived on the estate for 40 yearsDavid Duggan has lived on the estate for 40 years
David Duggan has lived on the estate for 40 years

‘There’s nothing for the kids’

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“Up in the grove where the flats are, people keep dumping rubbish. They need to put a camera there and there is crime here,” David said. One resident, Alison, told me that crime is also an issue in the area.

She lives on the estate with her daughter and son who all live close to home. Although she says there is a sense of community, speaking about the estate, she said: “It’s just getting so run down - it’s depressing really.”

“The tower blocks are meant to come down but they’ve just been vacant. The council were talking about regeneration but how many new houses are you going to get on the land where the tower blocks are? Not many. There’s also nothing for the kids here.”

It’s clear to see that the area is run down, it’s certainly in need of some TLC, and residents on the Druids Heath are understandably eager to know when their area will get the regeneration it needs.

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