Liverpool City Council and Plus Dane housing association have withdrawn their legal challenge to the government’s decision in January to refuse permission for the demolition of 440 homes
Communities secretary Eric Pickles’ overruled a planning inspector and threw out proposals by Triangle Architects to replace the homes in the Welsh Street area of the city - including the birthplace of former Beatle Ringo Starr - with just 220 low density houses.
It was announced yesterday (14 December) that the council and housing association behind the plans had abandoned their legal fight against the decision.
A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: ‘Our priority, rather than engage in protracted legal arguments, is to regenerate the Welsh Streets area and our objective all along has been to provide viable housing. We will continue to consult with the residents on how best to achieve that.’
The demolition proposals were fought vigorously by campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage. The scheme had been likened to the Labour government’s controversial Pathfinder scheme - officially the Housing Market Renewal Initiative - which saw hundreds of terraced houses flattened (AJ 29.04.10).
Today, director Clem Cecil said: ‘It would have been better for the houses, that have been standing empty all year, if this decision had been taken more expediently.
‘However, we now look forward to working with all stakeholders and assisting in finding a working solution for the site.’
She called on the council to ‘loosen its stranglehold on the site’ and work with conservation-minded developers, who she said have already come up with an alternative development plan.
The decision to drop the legal challenge came shortly after architectural practice Assemble won the Turner Prize for a project to bring empty homes back into use in the nearby Granby Four Streets area.
SAVE said it had originally introduced that community to social investors Steinbeck Studio, which in turn invited Assemble to come up with new designs for the homes, including creating winter gardens in the shells of some houses, embracing double height where ceilings have been removed.
Cecil said: ‘The fact that Assemble won the Turner Prize this week with their workshop for Granby is a clear indication of the nation’s enduring love of, and interest in, terraced housing.
‘It is a tragedy that the community was forced out of the Welsh Streets - now it is time to repopulate them and let them live as a community once more.’
Jonathan Brown of SAVE Britain’s Heritage
’SAVE’s epic victory on the Welsh Streets delivers Pathfinder’s richly-deserved coup-de-grace, although I can show you perfectly good streets that still lie trashed by the death throes of the demolition dragon, and thousands of residents have been displaced.
’Mass housing clearance was rooted in the ideology of managed decline, a heroically stupid approach in cities with a growing population. Pathfinder was about demonising density and suburbanising the inner city - its proponents actually talked of replacing Coronation Street houses with Brookside.
’It represents a lost decade of housing policy and a grand missed opportunity, when New Labour’s welcome funding and focus on poor areas was squandered by technocrats to subsidise land-take by major builders and complicit social landlords.
’We’ll see if the authorities really have given up on mass demolition - councils and housing associations will always crave the funding, land-assembly powers and big ticket development deals that went with the £2.2billion market renewal quangos, and the HCA has continued to orchestrate housing clearance for as long as possible.
’But Liverpool and Plus Dane’s admission of defeat in their 12 year attrition of the Welsh Streets signals a clear if grudging change of policy. At present, neighbourhood renewal powers have been withdrawn and the funding and political climate favour renovation. The authorities need to stop the decade-long delay and decay and let people get on with it, as has happened in Granby Street.
‘So, a good week for the subtle heirarchies of Richard Owens’ prolific architecture and masterplanning - his terraces may still be stigmatised as ‘commonplace and obsolete’ by Liverpool’s planners, but the country now recognises them as something to be celebrated - and, more importantly, lived in.’