MP leads calls to ‘take back’ fire-ravaged buildings on Soho Hill following death

Khalid Mahmood is pressing for a compulsory purchase order to bring back the empty buildings back into use following latest tragedy

An MP is leading calls to ‘take back’ control of fire-ravaged buildings in Handsworth following the discovery of a body after a blaze. Around 50 firefighters battled a fierce blaze which broke out at a derelict property on the corner of Villa Road and Soho Hill, in the early hours of Tuesday, December 19.

A group of four people were led to safety down a ladder by crews but it was later revealed a body had been discovered in the wreckage. The busy A41 route remained partially closed on Wednesday as attempts to safely recover the remains continued. 

Questions are now being asked about the future of the site following the third major blaze to engulf the cluster of derelict and partially-occupied buildings this year. Homeless and other vulnerable people are known to venture inside the dangerous, sprawling site seeking shelter. 

Read More: Man dies and four rescued after fire rips through Soho Hill building

For every incident, the fire service has had to deploy large numbers of personnel and equipment to control the flames and search the treacherous area which stretches nearly halfway down Villa Road. Police have been forced to seal off the key route sending the No,74 bus and heavy traffic along congested side roads. 

The closures have remained for hours at a time or, in the case of Tuesday’s incident, more than 24 hours with the route still closed on Wednesday morning, December 20. Hampered by cordons, independent businesses lose customers, parents are unable to pick up their children from schools and pedestrians face longer walks.

(Image: Nick Wilkinson/Birmingham Live)

Now MP Khalid Mahmood has urged Birmingham City Council to enforce a compulsory purchase order to avert further tragedy and disruption. Echoing the thoughts of locals, he said he wanted to see the buildings developed for the good of the community.

He said: “As the Member of Parliament for the Perry Barr constituency which was marred by yesterday’s tragic event on Soho Hill, I extend my deepest sympathies to the families affected. This devastating incident has shaken our community, and my heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones. 

“I commend the courageous efforts of the West Midlands Fire Service, ambulance teams, and police whose swift response undoubtedly averted further catastrophe. To prevent future tragedies, urgent action is imperative. 

“I am urging the council to implement a compulsory purchase order for the long-abandoned building, which has been a vacant eyesore for the past ten years. The dereliction of this property is unacceptable, and I am aware of numerous local stakeholders eager to utilise this land constructively.

“The responsibility for the site’s safety rests with its current owners. It is crucial they uphold their duty of care, and I call upon the police to hold them accountable for the deplorable state of the building. The safety and well-being of our residents, who are rightfully distressed by this situation, must be the utmost priority. 

“This neglect not only disrupts their daily lives but also poses a potential threat, particularly to children. I want the authorities to engage with the developers to ensure the safety measures on the site are adequate.

“This tragic occurrence has disrupted our community profoundly. It is imperative that immediate steps are taken to prevent such incidents from reoccurring. Our collective efforts must be focused on ensuring the safety and security of our residents and revitalising this neglected space for the benefit of all.”

Birmingham City Council has been contacted for comment.