A row of derelict Victorian villas in Liverpool, which had faced demolition under the Pathfinder programme by Ruth Kelly, has become the target for a spate of 'mysterious' arson attacks.
Last year the Communities Minister forced Liverpool City Council to sell off the impressive homes in the ironically named Prescot Drive after the authority had 'sat on' the properties for almost a decade (Kelly saves Liverpool homes from Pathfinder threat
It was hoped the move - one of only a handful of occasions where a minister has relied on a PROD (Public Request to Order Disposal) - would open the doors to developers, allowing the villas to be renovated.
However, since the news of the order, the council has refused to accept any offers.
Eight of the 11 villas on Prescot Drive, a conservation area which overlooks historic Newsham Park, have now been demolished or stand as burned-out ruins.
And in recent days, several more three-storey Victorian townhouses on adjacent Prescot Road, within the same 'regeneration blueprint' boundary, have been destroyed by fire.
Jonathan Brown, a planner and Merseyside Civic Society council member, said he is angry that the rundown, architectural gems have been allowed to be razed to the ground.
He said: 'It is a fact that the council has been turning down written offers from reputable refurbishment specialists, effectively delaying a decision while Rome burns.
'The council has repeatedly promised action - including setting up a special task force - but nothing has happened.'
He added: 'This is demolition by stealth. I can only surmise the council has another agenda. As the conservation area continues to be run down its historic importance becomes more diluted and becomes easier to develop.'by Richard Waite