Thursday, July 25, 2013
Demolishing the Welsh Streets
Liverpool council’s planning committee decision to demolish most of the Welsh Streets and replace it with a far smaller number of larger suburban housing association homes is the latest chapter in the managed decline of one of Britain’s great cities
In its favour at least it is a decison. After virtually a decade of blight and systematic winding down there is now some clarity about how the council wants the empty Welsh Streets dealt with. It’s a relief that the council has been induced into retaining and repairing some of the houses including the well maintained occupied houses in Kelvin Grove and Ringo Starr’s birthplace in Madryn Street. Quite how the council even contemplated destroying this part of its heritage is beyond belief.
But the council approved plan is still controversial and divisive and the long process has strained the community.
Although some action is better than none, the plans are very far from ideal. Whilst new housing, particularly affordable housing should be welcomed, it has come at the expense of a big net loss of housing capacity to the city. A city with a growing population shouldn’t be settling for less. Less housing means fewer homes for people. It means local services and shops struggle to function, and people will have to drive elsewhere to get the services they need.
With household sizes in Liverpool getting smaller and housing association rents rising, demand for larger houses is in decline, small houses are what the city needs. Old terraces may be unfashionable but they provide good homes for people on modest incomes. Without them more people, unable to buy homes, become reliant on social housing
The vision of this scheme is suburbia in the city with car culture replacing local services, Mono-tenure Housing association ownership replacing diverse ownership.
Of course many people do want new homes, but why the council couldn’t have commissioned Plus Dane (the housing association who stand to develop the houses here) to build them on one of the city’s many vacant sites, instead of making them dependent on demolition is unclear.
The effect of this is to give the few remaining residents the false choice of supporting demolition and getting a new house or stay living in a ghost town.
To its credit, the council has in recent months sought some more imaginative solutions for dealing with empty homes, but it refused to consider them here. If the sad story of the Welsh Streets is destined to be a chapter in the ideology of managed decline, let’s hope it’s the last one.