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Monday28 July 2014

Drama as Pickles puts brakes on Liverpool terrace demolition

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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.”

 

Pathfinder

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.

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Readers' comments (6)

  • SAVE's alternative scheme, which was commissioned by Welsh Streets Home Group (WSHG), has a number of fundamental flaws and was only intended by the WSHG to be used as a catalyst to promote discussion - it was never intended to be used as a finished scheme, yet SAVE continue to do so when it is not a viable or workable solution.

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  • GREAT! Bring the students of architecture, colleges of further education for the built environment different skills and the community, and set the workshops to learn and to work together, and to discover the real sustainability!!!

    Maita Kessler, Senior tutor MSc. Sustainable Building Performance & Design, Oxford Brookes University

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  • Clarification of the Welsh Streets and Constructive Thinking collaboration.

    The Welsh Streets Home Group (WSHG) accepts the decision of LCC to consent to Plus Danes Proposal for the Welsh Streets. If at the eleventh hour the designs can be amended and improved, we will accept that too!

    The Welsh Streets Home Group, along with English Heritage sought a proper design review of Welsh Streets design proposals, due to widespread concerns the design proposal in March 13. We would still welcome discussion regarding the potential to amend the existing Triangle plans to deliver higher density new housing, with potential for increased refurbishment, mature trees, small traders and street pattern. Given the proposed houses remain small, and the plots large is room for alternatives to be developed with no loss to the number of units delivered, and hence no loss HCA development grant.

    WSHG commissioned some sample design options in Autumn of 2012 and Summer of 2013. The idea was to catalyse debate, improve design awareness and measure market interest in existing houses. Our feedback exceeded that which Plus gathered in response to the Triangle proposals, and showed massive interest in refurbished units and the unique park-side feel of the area. It was hoped to engage the scheme’s managers in incorporating these findings in design development, and thus avoid the critical attention the Triangle work is now attracting. The designs were sent to the chief executives of LCC and Plus Dane who have not responded to the Design Diplomacy initiative.

    It is not possible nor appropriate for a small un-funded residents group to produce full scheme drawings or proposals that would be laughable. It is an achievement though for WSHG to have tabled discussion designs that show moderate amendments could deliver a scheme more suited to an important inner suburb. In doing so they had hoped to address objections, and dispense with the threat of legal action and delay. Any delay via call in or other legal challenge threatens a long-suffering community with further anguish.

    It is within the power of Plus Dane the client and developer in this scheme, to produce an amended brief if they want to deliver a scheme that sits well in urban design and planning recommendations. Until or unless Plus Dane show an interest in upping the scope of their design ambitions a scheme will see houses in some cases smaller than the terraces they replace presented mostly in semi detached and terraced squares. The squares around vast 40m x 50m blocks of private gardens all fenced in individual 20m lengths. There is no criticism of Triangle, the scheme’s architect, who we appreciate have merely responded to the client’s brief. When the scheme is built we will see the number of homes on the site halved, and a scheme that reflects the client’s need to spread the HCA grant very thinly over a huge site, as if to create a situation in which mass demolition becomes necessary. Presenting designs in response to this paucity of design ambition for Toxteth was a tactic to move the polarized and highly personal debate forward.

    We can be contacted via www.welshstreets.co.uk or @welshstreets by anyone who shares an interest in the quality of our city as it re-shapes itself.


    June 13 discussion drawings here http://constructivewelshstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/design-diplomacy.html

    Sept 12 discussion drawings here

    http://constructivewelshstreets.blogspot.co.uk/

    http://issuu.com/wshg/docs/designdiplomacy

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  • D Ingram

    Well done SAVE, punching above your weight as ever to defend the built historic environment. It is always heartening to see campaigners being proactive in devising alternative schemes which more clearly produce schemes which represent sustainable development, the chief driver behind the NPPF. Development which harms the historic environment is not sustainable and your leadership on the Welsh Streets and the alternative vision for Smithfield as well shows that constructive thinking is at the heart of conservation. A hearty cheer. I wish you every success with the public inquiry (we hope) to come.

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  • It's madness to demolish fine terraces like these, which make meaningful streets, and replace them with crap new residential blocks with no meaningful space between them.

    Round where I live in London, 3-story terrace houses like these would be selling for upwards of £ 2 million !

    But the pressure from the developers is strong, and the developers don't give a shìt about what they're destroying.

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  • Sceptical - hear hear!

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