Drama as Pickles puts brakes on Liverpool terrace demolition
Minister presses ‘pause’ hours after Liverpool council approves controversial housing scheme
Communities secretary Eric Pickles intervened just hours after Liverpool council approved the demolition of the historic Welsh Streets district yesterday.
After a request from Save Britain’s Heritage, he issued an Article 25 “stopper notice” forbidding demolition of the Victorian terraces while he decides whether or not to call in the proposal. He has 21 days to make a decision.
His announcement came the same afternoon that Liverpool council granted detailed permission for the first phase and outline permission for the second phase of the replacement scheme.
Designed by Triangle Architects this would replace 439 existing properties with 227 new units – 150 in phase 1 - for the council and Plus Dane housing association. A further 37 properties could be refurbished.
A public inquiry would effectively derail the scheme because the £15 million of Homes & Communities Agency funding attached to phase one will expire if the scheme cannot be built by March 2015.
But Mark Trayhorn, associate and project architect at Triangle, said he was confident Pickles would not call it in because the evidence backed their case that the buildings were beyond renovation.
Save’s director Clem Cecil said if Pickles ruled against the protestors they could still force a public inquiry by refusing to vacate a property bought by Save on Madryn Street.
“This is the first really serious indication from the government that they are willing to abandon the destructive Pathfinder policy in fact and not just in word,” she said.
“We hope that Eric Pickles takes this opportunity to bring about a truly sustainable, community-led decision on the future of the Welsh Streets, that is in line with national housing policy. We believe that an outcome is possible in which all stakeholders get what they want.”
But rather than a lengthy inquiry, the ideal solution would be for the government to refuse to spend public money on the project, she said.
Save is promoting an alternative scheme drawn up by Constructive Thinking that would retain two more of the Welsh Streets.
“Triangle’s scheme would see a drop in density of 60% at a time when Liverpool is growing again and government policy is for increasing housing in city centres,” she said. “It’s the last gasp of an outdated policy of managed decline.”
The Welsh Streets scheme is the last gasp of the unpopular Pathfinder scheme launched by John Prescott in 2002.
Also known as the Housing Market Renewal Initiative, it was scrapped by the coalition in March 2011.
The Pathfinder schemes were intended to rebuild housing markets in the Midlands and north of England which had seen populations decline for a number of reasons.
When the Homes & Communities Agency was created in 2008 it took over responsibility for the programme from the Communities Department.