May 29, 2010

Still Nobody Cares, And Nobody Learns

Since before I moved to Liverpool, huge areas have been boarded up or 'tinned' - part of the New Heartlands initiative to regenerate the areas. I'm not sure how long that's been the case but even so, that's almost two years and it's only in the past couple of months that the bulldozers have moved in and flattened the houses. I don't know how much longer it will take them to build the new estates, but there are houses nearing completion on another building site in Edge Hill and they must've been at least a year in the building.

So that's a minimum of three years that streets-worth of a number of communities in Liverpool have been empty. That's a long time for shops and businesses in already poor areas to survive whilst waiting for someone to sell things to or employ.

It's not like it's a small area either. One area I pass regularly is this one in Edge Hill - three or four entire streets of terraced housing have been demolished. I went up and took a few photos a couple of weeks back, you can some idea of the scale of destruction from this panorama...

And that isn't the end of it. Less than half a mile down the road there's the Edge Lane regeneration project which is going to clear another swathe of this part of Liverpool. At least with that one there's some reasoning behind it, as they'll be widening the main road route into the city centre. If you head half a mile in the opposite direction there's more of the same just off Smithdown Road. This time they've left the houses that are actually on Smithdown Road, and have just cleared the area behind, so once they're done if you don't look too closely you won't notice that the fabric of the area has been ripped out.

There have been people fighting against the schemes but the council seem to have pushed on regardless. Then once the damage is done, they have the gall to come up with a half-hearted sorry, I think we made a mistake.

What annoys me most is that we've been here before. In the 1960s and 1970s we did this wholesale replacement of streets, broke up communities and demolished huge numbers of now-desirable old houses. Could no-one in power spot that this wasn't likely to work or come up with something better?

It's not like you need to go far to find the evidence. About a mile from this site in Edge Hill is Falkner Street. At one end it's still cobbled and lined with lovely Georgian terraced houses - the houses fetch around £0.5m and the street featured in a recent Hovis commercial showing the Tommies going off to the first World War. It's one of the most desirable parts of the city. Yet when Nick Broomfield filmed his Who Cares documentary in 1971 they were busy demolishing some of the houses further down the street.

The houses in Edge Hill are a bit newer and not quite as grand as those on Falkner Street, but that just means they're more suitable as single-family homes. Lots of the Georgian terraces have been broken up into flats as there's not the same demand for eight bedroom houses now we don't have servants.

Conveniently the Google street view car passed through Edge Hill before the demolition, so I can do a few "now and then" shots. I've taken a copy of the street view images to save you having to click through and also because they'll presumably change at some point in the future, but if you follow the links you can explore what the area used to be like. There are some more photos of the area (and the location of the old Edge Hill college) over in my Edge Hill photos page.

Traffic lights by the Durning Arms: Google street view

End of Uxbridge Street: Google street view

Is this really the best we could do? Turning streets into a ghost town for a few years, then flattening them and handing them over to a developer to throw up something cheap and cheerful? It might be the easiest and cheapest option in the short term, but I don't see how it's going to achieve anything approaching regeneration of the area in the longer term.

UPDATE: There's a follow-up musical bonus track for this post.


Posted by Adrian at May 29, 2010 09:25 PM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

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