An interview with Joe Anderson, Liverpool’s first directly-elected mayor
What have been your priorities since becoming Mayor of Liverpool?
Clear priorities are to grow our economy, build 5,000 new homes and bring a further 1,500 back into use, create 20,000 new jobs and build at least 12 new schools. I am also making it a priority to transform Liverpool into one of the UK’s most business and enterprise-friendly cities.
What does the new Mayoral office bring to Liverpool that was not being met by the city council and other authorities previously?
Having an elected Mayor gives Liverpool a powerful voice which can speak on behalf of the city, giving us direct access to key decision makers, including the Prime Minister.
The City Deal with central government has unlocked a single investment pot of public and private funds, worth an initial £130m, for the continued growth of our city. And the establishment of the first Mayoral Development Corporation outside London has further strengthened our position.
The Mayoral Development Corporation will direct transformation in the new Liverpool City Enterprise Zone, the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone and five locally-designated Mayoral Development Zones. Together, these zones will help grow business, attract investment and create jobs.
What is being done outside the city centre to drive regeneration?
As well as the transformation of Anfield and the delivery of new schools, there’s a number of other major schemes now taking place outside the city centre, particularly in the north. These include work to transform Edge Lane Retail Park, the £150m Project Jennifer scheme which will transform a 45-acre site in North Liverpool, and a £20m investment in the former Boot Estate, delivering hundreds of new homes.
It’s clear that the renaissance that the city centre has enjoyed is now filtering out to the rest of the city. Development outside the city centre is at its highest level ever, with almost £300 million of regeneration schemes completed during 2012. And it’s one of my major priorities to ensure that continues.
Do you worry that Liverpool Waters scheme will cause the city to lose its UNESCO World Heritage Status?
It’s important that we maximise the benefits of this title – one that only an elite few hold – to further boost tourism, drive our economy and raise our international profile. But equally, our city cannot be fossilised or preserved in aspic – we have to keep moving forward and evolving. The challenge for us is to drive forward with our regeneration plans. But by handling regeneration sensitively, we can achieve that.
What has the city council learnt through its experience with the Pathfinder scheme?
Pathfinder came about due to housing market failure because people had moved out of areas and they were no longer popular. To reinvigorate an area you need to do far more than just do up old houses. You need a better mix of properties that attract a wider range of people such as couples and families, a decent district centre and good schools.
Contrary to popular belief, far more homes were refurbished under Pathfinder than were ever demolished. What we are now doing is being more imaginative in the way in which we look at regenerating areas so that people are not left in limbo by the cancellation of the scheme. For example we are knocking two terraced homes into one in Anfield to create bigger properties with gardens, and are also piloting a scheme where we sell Homes for a Pound to residents on condition that they do them up to a decent standard. We are also locating some of our new schools in areas going through regeneration to make them sustainable in the long term.