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Prescott back contentious Merseyside Pathfinder demolition plans

The government has given the green light to one of the most controversial residential demolition proposals of recent years.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has backed proposals to knock down a large number of Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses in the Edge Lane area of Liverpool, as part of the contentious Pathfinder programme.

The decision, which emerged late yesterday, will clear the way for the demolition to begin.

This clearance programme forms part of the New Heartlands scheme in Liverpool, one of the furthest advanced of the Pathfinder schemes.

Pathfinder, officially called the Housing Market Renewal Initiative, essentially aims to demolish wide swathes of rundown housing in the North of England as a tool to force up house prices.

Prescott's approval will be met with disgust from both conservationists, such as Save Britain's Heritage, and a vocal group of local residents. Both have publicly denied that the housing set for demolition is either run-down or neglected.

In a recent publication, Save's secretary, Adam Wilkinson, castigated local authorities over the way the Edge Lane pathfinder was being run.

'Pathfinder in Liverpool should be about stitching back together the city centre and other areas,' the document says. 'Not about continuing wholesale demolition of the city's heritage.

'In theory, this could be the case, with the Pathfinder scheme offering three levels of intervention: manage, intermediate and new build, but the new-build option seems to be centred around mass demolition rather than filling in the gaps in the townscape.

'Practice, however, is rather different, and it appears that Liverpool is not planning for its future beyond the city centre. The impression given by the New Heartlands Pathfinder is of the council finishing the heartless job it started in the 1960s.

'In the process it is throwing away opportunities to do something great with its large well-built existing housing stock,' Wilkinson adds.

by Ed Dorrell

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