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Liverpool Council to investigate contentious Pathfinder scheme

Further cracks appear to be opening in the Government's controversial Pathfinder housing initiative, after it emerged Liverpool City Council was to launch its own inquiry into the programme.

The AJ has learned that the authority has set up a Housing Scrutiny Committee to look at the contentious Housing Market Renewal Initiative (HMRI) which many feared would lead to unnecessary - and widespread - demolition across the city.

The brainchild of ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, the Pathfinder programme has had a particularly tricky time in Liverpool, as have similar Compulsory Purchase Order-led development schemes such as the high-profile Edge Lane fiasco.

However, since Ruth Kelly has taken up the hot-seat at Department for Communities and Local Government - the department helping to fund the HMRIs - there have been hints that the top brass are moving away from the 'flatten and replace' approach.

Liverpool's decision to reappraise the Pathfinder schemes has delighted the city's Liberal group leader Steve Radford.

He said: '[This] policy was written for a housing market relevant to a decade ago and which bears no reflection to the current market.

'HMRI has also led to the blocking of regeneration of various derelict buildings and land sites outside the inner city.'

However he added: 'Whether the sheer fact that this committee has been established shows a 'wind of change', or is just a PR exercise to justify the current policies is yet to be seen.'

And Liverpool planner and Merseyside Civic Society Council member Jonathan Brown said: 'It does seem the New Heartlands' clearance programme is crumbling under pressure from its own costly contradictions and the gritty resistance of brave residents.

'If genuine, the review confirms Liverpool's Lib Dem leadership is at last searching for a route back from the looking-glass-land Pathfinder has led them into.

'Delay and decay in places like Prescot Road certainly cost the party several council seats.

'Whether it scuppers credibility of any review before it even starts by authorising a second Compulsory Purchase Order on Edge Lane, or commits to a moratorium on housing demolitions and forced evictions pending the outcome, will soon become clear.'

by Richard Waite

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