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War breaks out over Liverpool Pathfinder

Major controversy has been ignited this week in one of the government's first Pathfinder initiatives.

Local campaigners are furious at the way the Edge Lane project - which will see 360 homes knocked down - is currently being handled by Liverpool council and a local quango, the Liverpool Land Development Company (LLDC).

The scheme is awaiting the outcome of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) inquiry, launched after many residents objected to the schme, which is part of a plan to increase demand for homes and trigger regeneration.

However, additional frustration was generated on Monday after it emerged that the council was planning to demolish houses ( pictured) in the area that it already owns, even before the outcome of the inquiry.

Local objectors have warned that this move will mean that even if they win the inspector's support, they will be left with some surviving houses surrounded by a demolished wasteland.

These campaigners - headed up by Save our City and advised by SAVE Britain's Heritage - have also launched a bid to win a judicial review into the plans.

Florence Gersten, of Save Our City, which has been campaigning for the conservation of Liverpool's heritage since the 1970s, said: 'These Edge Lane houses have already been emptied of their occupants.

'Although good, substantial Victorian homes, they are neither listed nor within a conservation area. They therefore have no statutory protection and could be demolished almost at once.

'The demolition of these houses would destroy the architectural integrity of the south side of Edge Lane, and would leave the still-occupied remaining buildings completely isolated, with rubble on either side.

'Liverpool council is behaving like a corporate Cyclops, its one eye fixed on its victims - whose destruction will feed a short-term and unproven objective,' Gersten added.

But a spokeswoman for LLDC insisted that the current Pathfinder strategy was the right one.

'LLDC and its partners are committed to the comprehensive regeneration of the Edge Lane Corridor,' she said.

'We genuinely believe in the benefits that this regeneration will bring to the area, which include new housing as well as commercial and retail developments and employment opportunities.

'Local people have been consulted from the outset. We do understand it is a difficult time for anyone affected by the proposals and will continue to work with them to make sure the best possible outcomes are achieved,' she added.

The outcome of the CPO inquiry is expected in the new year.

See this week's AJ (AJ 17.11.05) for further analysis.

by Ed Dorrell

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