Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Chance to Save the Welsh Streets

I'm posting this message on behalf of the Welsh Streets Home Group. They are challenging the imminent demolition of the the area of Victorian terraces, the former home of Ringo Star, known as theWelsh Streets in Liverpool. If you want to see these houses saved, this may be your last chance please write to the council by Wednesday. See instructions below: 

You may be aware that Liverpool City Council have issued Liverpool residents Prior Notice that they plan to demolish 400 houses in the Welsh Streets. It featured in the media last week as Ringo Stars birthplace is involved. We want to let you know that the Council have invited responses to the Prior Notice of Demolition . If the council receive enough responses the proposal will be referred to a full planning committee and not decided by an individual officer. Your efforts could make a difference - for residents in Kelvin Grove who are not yet being bulldozed and to others living next to the demolition of a huge site.

Bulldozing is due to start on 13th September in three weeks time. Currently, the council proposal for how the houses will be demolished is vague. It could damage the health and security of residents surrounding the area. Responses to the Councils Proposal have to be received by the Council by 5 pm on Wednesday 25th August. Next week.

Planning law states that where a Prior Notice has been issued for consultation, only two issues will be considered. These are:
1) the proposed method of demolition and
2)details of the proposed restoration of the site.

You can read it yourself at Millennium House or look at the Planning on the council web-site and put ref. number 10pm/1551 into the navigator. We have a copy you can see at no.30 Kelvin Grove where there will be an open letter writing session this Sunday evening at 6pm. Letters will also be written between 3 and 5 at the Nerve Show in old Rapid Paint shop on Leece St if you want to come along and do a letter or help others do one.

Having looked at the proposal at the Planning Office and with a volunteer from Planning Aid, some serious problems have been noticed. These are:

The proposed method of demolition is given as hand/machine. This lacks the detail normally expected, which would state which machines would be used for which tasks, e.g. ball and chain, or a more careful and considered approach.

A method statement covering the health and safety of the workers and the public would also be included in the application and currently there is none.

It is stated that rubble will be dumped on a licensed tip when the authorities said previously it would be recycled for road-building.

There is no information about how gable ends of two blocks of houses left standing will be finished to keep them safe for occupants and the public and attractive for the community.

Demolition would leave a large empty patch of land ( from Kinmel Street to Kelvin Grove) to be covered with soil, fertiliser and grass-seed. No information is given in the proposal regarding the capping of sewers to reduce problems with rats, or other pests.

It appears from details given in the drawings that low metal hoop barriers will enclose each block of ex-houses. These barriers lack the strength to withstand being pushed over by vehicles so fly-tipping in these areas may be a risk.

The application shows palisade fencing will surround the site but no drawings of the fencing are supplied.

Despite the palisade fencing back gardens, sewers and drains of Kelvin Grove will be inadequately protected, creating a public health hazard & security issues for residents remaining in the even numbered side of the street.

Practicalities of living in or near a demolition zone such as dust suppression measures, working hours of heavy machines and noise pollution are not addressed.

We have also been advised that objections to this proposal would influence decisions regarding the future of Kelvin Grove which remains under threat of CPO and demolition.

If you want to help, please put your own version of these comments into a letter.

YOU MUST PLEASE Quote the Planning Application Reference 10PM/1551

Include a request to have the matter decided by full planning committee.

Ask for a receipt or acknowledgement of your letter.


It does not have to be a long letter or include all of these points .
You do not have to live in the area to be concerned about it.
If you miss the deadline send a letter anyway it all adds up.

PLEASE SEND A COPY of YOUR LETTER TO : Nina Jones, Chair Welsh Streets Home Group, 39 Kelvin Grove, L8
or by email

Please note that duplicate letters, letters with multiple signatures or petitions will be ignored by the Council. If you just copy and paste things you have read here, the letter wont count. Try to find a way of writing your letter that makes it different.

if its too late to post deliver by hand to Sherridan Scott, Development Control Division, Millennium House, 60 Victoria Street, Liverpool,L1 6JF.

ask for a dated receipt when you hand it in

by post to Liverpool City Council, Regeneration, Planning Department, Municipal Buildings, Dale Street, Liverpool, L2 2DH, to Liverpool City Councils planning department.

via email to or

please include your postal address on an e-mail letter.

Thank Your for you support now and in the past. We are deeply disappointed Liverpool City Council have failed to consider alternatives to demolition. They seem to be rushing into an irreversible action which pre-empts CPO and redevelopment decisions in a wider area. It is further seen as premature in advance of any redevelopment proposals being brought forward.
P.S. There are currently 13,500 tined up houses in the city all emptied at public expense. Meanwhile 23k people are awaiting homes. If you feel the cheapest, fastest and most eco friendly way of alleviating the housing crisis is to renovate not demolish you might like to add a note to this effect in your letter.

Writing a letter could have a material benefit for streets like Kelvin Grove which remains under threat but are not involved in next months bulldozing because the residents have refused to leave . The Welsh Streets Home Group will continue to campaign for Kelvin Grove and hope for your ongoing support. Sorry for the tight timescale we were on holiday when the council sent their Prior Notice out.

For help writing your letter , to volunteer or donate to the campaign please e-mail us

kind regards

The Welsh Streets Home Group Committee and Supporters

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sir Bob Kerslake Interview on Empty Homes

If you don't work in the housing or regeneration fields I quite expect this won't get your pulse racing. But for those of us who do, having Sir Bob Kerslake the Chief Executive of the Homes and Communities Agency speaking exclusively on why he thinks getting empty homes into use is quite a coup. Great that he's engaged, but frustrating he couldn't see the answer to his last question should have been that empty homes provide homes at lower cost. This interview was carried out by GovToday Editor, Scott Buckler earier this month.

Could you tell me how the HCA are working to maximise the use of empty homes?
The first thing to say is that the empty homes scheme is a crucial part of our housing and regeneration strategy. The HCA have put a significant amount of funding into empty homes, in the region of 19 million pounds to refurbish over 550 empty homes.
We have also funded major estate transformations which allows us to tackle empty council houses on a much bigger scale.
Other examples of where our investment is used proactively in dealing with empty homes can be found in our investment provided for HMR Pathfinders that focuses on dealing with low demand and abandoned stock while Decent Homes funding helps to keep local authority stock well maintained and combats the stock becoming difficult to let.
Alongside the funding we give a lot of support to local authorities to become effective in tackling the issue of empty homes.
We are, through our skills and knowledge team, supporting programmes that share expertise with local authorities across the country.
In summary, tackling the problem of empty homes can be achieved by a combination of investment through our big programmes and sharing best practice and knowledge from local authorities who have managed to tackle the problem head on with success.

Do you believe there is a private/public partnership model which could be used to reinvigorate the market for empty homes?
I think there is potential to work with the private sector, but when you look at the problem with empty homes there are two key areas, one being the local authority side, which I must say has brought down the number of empty homes in recent years and the private rented sector.
The major problem here seems to be the owners who currently may own a small number of properties. The task is how you can work with the private owners more efficiently; this may mean selling of the houses to local authorities.

What challenges are Local Authorities facing when trying to tackle issues on empty homes?
Local Authorities are facing some tough challenges when it comes to dealing with empty homes. What you tend to find is that once the houses become empty they stay empty for some time, the challenge Authorities have is dealing with landlords who may not have the skills or financial capability of bringing the houses up to the standard they require.
We’re seeing a high concentration in the North West of empty homes, where supply outweighs demand. It can be labour intensive for authorities to get empty homes back into use, so we tend to target our funding into areas across the UK where we can see best value for investment at a quicker rate of supply.

What role does empty homes play in the HCA’s approach to housing and regeneration?
The role empty homes plays in the Homes and Communities Agency housing and regeneration plans is about supply. It is about making more houses available, though it is also about estate renewal and market renewal whilst tackling low demand or low stock. So we are bringing empty houses into stock, but also regenerating communities by removing abandoned and run down housing.
As part of the local investment planning process, we are working with local authorities and partners to support the development and implementation of comprehensive strategies to maximise the use of empty homes.

What progress is being made on Kickstart and how is the HCA dealing with less funding to support housing, especially affordable housing?
I have to say Kickstart has been positively received; with the first schemes now coming to completion. We have a few remaining schemes left to fund, however the biggest task is to see through the delivery of these schemes, but I am in no doubt Kickstart has stimulated the housing market across the UK.

How do you respond to the recent announcement by the NHF who say that up to 500,000 people will be added to the social housing waiting list if the government go ahead with their 40 per cent cuts into housing?
There is no question about the high level of demand for Housing, especially social housing. The challenge we now face at the HCA following our reduced funding is delivering the maximum amount of housing with a lot less funding. The only way this can be achieved is to find alternative and less costly ways of delivering affordable housing, we need to engage with housing associations, contractors and authorities more to ensure we deliver value for money for both the buyer and the delivery authority.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

BPF on empty homes and the end of tenancies for life

Thank you to British Property Federation's Chief Executive, Liz Peace. Who intervened on the story in the Independent and others about the end of council tenancies for life. She made the excelent point that the underlying problem was not enough housing and said:
"Renovating empty homes is an opportunity for the government to get people of housing waiting lists and into good as new homes.Awarding renovation grants will remove eyesores from the local community and rectify lost incomes for the owner and surrounding landlords. It is a win-win situation for the owner of empty properties and the campaign to recycle existing housing stock."With the upcoming comprehensive spending review we can expect local authority funding to be cut however the need to supply new homes doesn't go away, renovating empty homes is a certain way of providing homes."

Resources or resourcefulness

First of all a big thank you to everybody who has contributed to the empty homes debate on the Homes and Communities Agency website. There are now over 100 comments from people involved or affected, it’s still open for comments until the end of the month.

I’m really inspired by some of the ideas here Jim Overbury’s Private EDMO idea. Using the process, but not the force of the EDMO legislation to get homes into use with the owner’s agreement. Emma Edghill’s idea about working with the YMCA to find homeless people who can work on renovating vacant properties. Gary Kirk’s ideas around local authorities pooling resources. But there are a lot of requests from local authorities here that could be summarised as “give us more money”. One contributor was even as bold as to say he wanted cash cash cash!

Away form this debate I’ve also been approached by a number of people asking that we lobby the government for more money for local authorities. I will certainly campaign for good ideas to be properly financed but I’m afraid I won’t be lobbying for cash cash cash. Here’s why:
The coalition has made it quite clear that its major priority is deficit reduction. There is going to be less not more money. Arguing for the opposite is pointless.
I have seen many many empty homes innitatives and if there is a relationship between effectiveness and resources it is that those with least money do best. Some of the best-resourced initiatives I have seen have been jaw droppingly wasteful.
The factor that is most commonly associated with success is not resources but resourcefulness. I am thinking of Jenny Wood from Harrogate council going round to young building apprentices and kicking them out of bed in the morning to get them on site renovating empty homes. I am thinking of Liz Daykin in South Derbyshire advertising empty properties on her council website as a free estate agency service to help owners sell properties that estate agents didn’t want.

These actions weren’t dependent on large amounts of money, but they took imitative and an understanding of what the problem was that needed fixing. We need more of that, and where there are ideas and where there is success I will be more than happy to argue for them to be properly funded.