Communities secretary Eric Pickles’ has halted controversial plans to demolish nearly 400 terraced houses in Liverpool
More from: Pickles stops 'Pathfinder II'
The Secretary of State has today (16 January) overruled the planning inspector by refusing proposals by Triangle Architects to replace the homes spread over 12 streets in the Welsh Street area of the city with just 220 low density houses.
The scheme had been likened by campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage to the Labour government’s scrapped Pathfinder Housing Market Renewal Programme which came in for heavy criticism due to the swathes of habitable homes it proposed bulldozing.
In his decision Pickles described the proposals for housing association Plus Dane as ‘poor’ and said they ‘failed to respond to local character, history and distinctiveness’ of the area and claimed that the scheme would have destroyed the ‘existing character of the Welsh Streets’.
He added: ‘Overall, although some demolition within the Welsh Streets may be justified, the Secretary of State is not persuaded that the scale of demolition proposed in this case - 439 units leaving just 37 for refurbishment - has been demonstrated to be necessary and that all forms of market testing and options involving more refurbishment have been exhausted.’
The public inquiry took place last summer with SAVE giving evidence against planning inspector Christine Thorby’s recommendation to approve the original planning application.
SAVE director Clem Cecil said: ‘We salute the Secretary of State’s decision. We have been arguing for the heritage value of these terraced streets for many years and we are delighted that this has now been officially acknowledged at the highest level.
She added: ‘We heartily concur with the need to place these houses on the open market to allow buyers to come forward. It is vital now to break the deadlock that has led to these houses and the area deteriorate over so many years. Many inspiring projects are bringing empty homes back into use in Liverpool today, these streets can be next. We hope that this decision will bring a final end to demolition on this scale that was the hallmark of Pathfinder.’
The Welsh Streets feature a grid-plan of streets built in the 1870s as bye-law housing very close to Grade II* Princes Park. The estate layout and the terraced houses were designed by the Welsh-born architect Richard Owens and constructed by Welsh builders. They were intended to house Welsh families, among others, seeking work in the growing economy of Liverpool. Most of the streets were given Welsh names.
Jonathan Brown of SAVE Britain’s Heritage:
‘I hope this victory gives some small comfort to those unnamed thousands displaced from their homes over the last 15 years. The destructive Pathfinder demolitions cleared over 30,000 traditional terraced houses across the north of England, around a third of them on Merseyside, and left a trail of expensively procured dereliction in their wake.
‘SAVE, a tiny charity with just three staff, have supported residents across these neighbourhoods, in a David and Goliath battle against a £2.2bn bureaucratic bulldozer.
‘This has seemed a futile effort at times as we witnessed well maintained streets becoming boarded up, and families, lose their life-long homes.
‘Liverpool’s Welsh Streets were an extreme example of the madness of market renewal by blight. At the start of the project they were in better condition than the city average, with fewer empty homes , and even the city council’s own figures accept that house prices were rising and conditions improving.
‘From 2002 onwards they were subject to a ruthlessly managed decline by social landlords Plus Dane Group and the city council, with tenants cajoled out, properties deliberately damaged, and owners forced to choose between living in ever-more run-down streets, or accepting derisory offers for their blighted houses.
‘Community efforts at compromise were rejected out of hand, and £20m in scarce public funds spent on ruining a 140 year old neighbourhood.
‘Even as national policy swung 180 degrees against demolition in favour of renovation, and alternative offers of funding came forward, the authorities insisted on completing their land assembly of the Welsh Streets, agreeing to retain a token 8% of the area as a furore over removing a Beatles birthplace exposed them to international embarrassment.
‘The Secretary of State’s decision draws a line under managed-decline as a tool of housing policy. We hope Plus Dane Group and the Council accept the news with good grace and agree to work with SAVE and renovation specialists so these houses can once again become homes. The renaissance of nearby Granby Street shows how quickly and successfully such an approach can be once the dead hand of a demolition order is lifted.’