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The Welsh Streets Home Group under-stand that Liverpool City Council and Plus Dane have withdrawn their legal appeal against the 2014 Welsh Streets Public Inquiry decision.

The controversial decision, made by then Secretary of State Eric Pickles, to refuse planning permission to demolish 440 houses in Liverpool’s Welsh Streets now stands. A campaign to retain at least some of the houses was fought over a 12 year period by local residents, who reluctantly agreed not to oppose the demolition plans after around 10 % of the site was earmarked for refurbishment.

The campaigners met to reflect on the announcement today, and agreed that they are relieved the appeal has now been dropped. There were concerns that it would have resulted in further delay, further cost, and increased tension among residents who from the start were divided in their ambitions for the Welsh Streets in L8. Although residents initially felt an appeal might help to move the troubled regeneration scheme forward, it offered no route to delivery of a scheme. Even if an appeal succeeded, funds to deliver the scheme, which had included the refurbishment of just 37 houses were lost in 2014. People living in or around the Welsh Streets, or who work on the scheme, all seem to want to achieve a result as soon as possible ending 12 years of uncertainty.

Nina Edge secretary and spokesperson for the Welsh Streets Home Group said

“ The appeal was announced almost a year ago, and now it has apparently been dropped. Fingers crossed that Liverpool City Council and Plus Dane have now got an alternative vision for the area. We welcome any moves on the ground to finally deliver a scheme that gives the people of the Welsh Streets the new or refurbished homes they have longed for.

We know that new financial offers to increase the number of refurbished streets were tabled with Liverpool City Council in June this year. WSHG have had informal discussions with a couple more financial backers. All of these offers are from local companies or people with experience of refurbishing with Liverpool Communities. Now the appeal has been dropped, who knows – maybe more people will step up with the resources we need to deliver a really good scheme. We are hoping for a new beginning.”

 

 

 

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Liverpool City Council have until the end of today – Thursday 27th February to appeal against Eric Pickles’ decision to block proposals to demolish most of the Welsh Streets in Liverpool’s Princess Park.

The Planning Application from Plus Dane that threatened to demolish all but 40 houses on the fiercely contested site was blocked by the Secretary of State Eric Pickles in January. The Welsh Streets Home Group and other local campaigners sadly and reluctantly accepted the now  blocked development proposals in 2012 following a campaign to save more of the site,  it’s community, and its unique sense of place.

The legendary  anti-demolition campaign was run by  residents in Welsh Streets houses or streets adjoining the demolition zone for eleven years. During this  time the (New Labour) Housing Market Renewal Scheme that lead to the deliberate blighting of the area was dropped by the (Coalition) Government in 2011. However the authorities  continually  rejected offers from the public,  from developers and local housing co-ops to buy and repair the houses. Houses that have stood – still  apparently saved, but un-repaired for a further four years……and counting.

Community tensions between people who sought new houses, and people who favoured refurbishment have suffered during as a decade of delays. Physical conditions for remaining residents have deteriorated.  Permanent tension and worry has left many people desperate for a conclusion of any kind.  The council has until tomorrow to lodge an appeal and appeal to have a  Judicial Review of the Secretary of State’s refusal of of planning content. Apparently an appeal may be heard if the Eric Pickles is seen to have exceeded his powers by blocking Plus Dane’s plan.

Our statement to the press today  is this –

 “We are weary of this situation. Nobody from the Council has bothered to contact us following Pickles shock decision in January. We don’t know what an appeal means for us, how it is decided, what it will cost, or how long it will take. It is impossible to know if an appeal will have any benefit to residents. It is impossible to know if we will be punished further.

 At the same time we don’t know what happens if there is no appeal, and we don’t know if the money earmarked to repair or replace houses here has been lost.  WSHG have written to the council and Plus offering our support with developing a solution.  Requests have been made to ring fence the money until a design solution is found. Once again we call for residents needs to be prioritized and for people in decrepit housing to be provided with decent homes immediately until such time as there is a long term solution on the site. So what next ?”

                             and how long will it take ?


 

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If you want a detailed overview of our long road to nowhere then the blog linked below  is well worth a look. Thank you to David Gibbens for being so thorough.

http://www.ehnetwork.org.uk/newsitem/pickles-plucks-liver-birds-feathers

Among the very few things missing from David’s account  is mention  that individuals,  families and heritage investors have offered to buy all or part of the site and do repairs at their own cost. Pavements, street furniture  and other public realm renewal might have to be funded separately, but as we reported to the Public Inspector over three hundred would be buyers, and five sizable investors made offers on all or part of the site in the past 11 years. This includes  local housing co-ops, and reputable heritage re-modellers. We felt their offers should be considered and encouraged as they would bring much needed diversity to the site, and help to  create a sustainable community. We mention it now,  because now seems a good time to look again at the options these investors offer. The Plus Dane proposal has been blocked by Secretary of State Eric Pickles and residents are yet again left with no end to  broken promises and false starts.

It seems absurd that  only public subsidy has been seen as a means  to fund renewal of  the area, because ultimately and after demolition   plans were to  sell most of the new homes to private buyers. The refusal of the cash strapped council to sell existing houses to willing buyers, but be willing to sell replacement new houses remains a mystery  (see a suitably mystified would be buyer   here  )

http://www.baytvliverpool.com/vod/?vid=ABV4fdb59520e359

If Plus Dane Group and LCC had  included more kinds of investment into different  kinds of property and to effectively share the site,  we perhaps would not now be facing further prolonged  delays. We call on all those involved to now put completing the Welsh Streets area renewal at the very top of their list of things to do in 2015 and to be open to a changed scheme. We particularly want to see anyone in housing distress rehoused immediately, with an option to return to a new or refurbished house in the area when the work is complete. Will this, like other calls fall on deaf ears ?

Also missing from  David’s excellent report is the  Welsh Streets Home Group community lead design project Design Diplomacy. This local  research project is also worth a mention now, as it addresses what the options might be   if the whole site were not demolished.  We commissioned energy efficiency experts Constructive Thinking Architects to produce some  discussion designs and budgets so we could see what fixing, or extending  existing houses, building new homes, and including community  amenities might look like and cost. Whilst this project was initially designed to avert the need for a Public Inquiry perhaps it can now form the foundation  to satisfy a  variety of interests  on the site, quickly and peaceably.   We certainly don’t want a war on the Welsh Streets.

This week we heard that people seem unaware that our discussion design options were properly  costed by professional architects. So for the record – Jon Morehouse from Constructive Thinking presented Design Diplomacy Project documents to senior housing staff at LCC offices in September 20,12 with costs for all units included.  He was complimented by Plus Dane’s head of Regeneration for his accurate and realistic figures.  You can see the work  for yourself linked below, a summary of the community  feedback was supplied to the Public Inquiry and will soon be published. It shows overwhelming local interest in retaining more and demolishing less.

http://constructivewelshstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/design-diplomacy.html

For those who don’t want to open the link – the per metre cost for refurbishment was the same as the square metre cost for new build to provide homes with similar running costs.

In addition SAVE Britain’s Heritage and LCC both sent surveyors into a sample of empty Welsh Street houses to asses the cost of repairs  in Spring 2014. Both parties   agreed the sums needed for repairs and insulation, and these costs   match  the sums our architects suggested.  The Design Diplomacy project was a mammoth undertaking for our small self started residents group, and  we  promote it as  as a  step towards consensus decision making. A step towards a peaceful and deliverable outcome.

We are of course  aware  that the housing associations have to work to  specifications  defined by government, that this  makes it too expensive for the existing homes to be repaired with public funds. Private buyers however can renovate the houses to a very high standard at a much lower cost. When we have suggested that some houses be released for private sale so that ordinary people, heritage developers and housing co-ops can fix them at their own expense, the idea was ridiculed.

Since Plus Dane Group and LCC don’t want to release the houses for sale we have not thought it possible to force them to, and so as David Gibbens’ report says, reluctantly accepted the proposal now thrown out by Eric Pickles.  As a measure of the seriousness of these offers to buy  skeptics take note – Princess Park Housing Co-op who have made offers to buy some of the Welsh Street empties over a period of many years   have  now  purchased  two houses on the non demolition side of Kelvin Grove and are starting repairs. There is no way to measure the frustration we feel knowing that the authorities have denied, derided, mocked and ignored offers from Princess Park Housing co-op and others in the open the market , a market  that Pickles rightly assesses as fixed. In preferring to destroy houses that others would gladly repair the housing authorities have created  both  national scandal and  local misery of truly epic proportions.

At some point in the next five weeks we will find out  if LCC plan to pursue an appeal against Eric Pickles decision. In the meantime we are hoping still – at the  eleventh hour, in the eleventh year that a sensible solution can be found by agreement, because as we have seen over the past decade the failure to do so hurts the residents and no one else.

 

 

Shocked & speechless…………………….

Room for improvement in Regeneration photo by Jeremy Hawthorn

 

Welsh Streets Home Group have sent out the following press statement, following the announcement today that the Plus Dane planning application has been blocked by the Home Secretary, despite being approved by the Planning Inspector. The group are has put considerable resources   attempting to avoid  this scenario, through design, dialogue, and consultation. We hope that work to develop a viable route to area renewal can begin immediately.

Statement
Welsh Streets Home Group

“Eric Pickles refusal of planning consent for the Plus Dane proposal comes as shocking news to residents today. We have no way of knowing what will become of us now, or how long rebuilding our area will take. We call on the authorities to immediately resolve problems for residents in damp homes, and urgently progress with new plans for the Welsh Streets until they are restored or replaced. Our biggest worries are the continuing community stress, and the antagonism between LCC and central government that this decision creates. We hope all parties will find some common ground and come together swiftly. We need a plan to end our 11 year purgatory ”

 

photo by Jeremy Hawthorn

 

Season’s Greetings from the Welsh Streets 

Progress is frozen in our parallel Narnia where its always Winter and never Christmas

 The authorities thought there might be a verdict from the Welsh Streets Public Inquiry this month.  Yet  still we await  the Inspector’s Report,  Eric Pickles’ response to it,  and word from the Council about what’s next.

And so we enter 2015 – our eleventh year of waiting for the spell to be lifted,  and for the  the ruined Welshies to be repaired or replaced,  repopulated and replanted.

Perhaps next year will see the delivery of a housing scheme and a new beginning. It can’t come soon enough for the residents who are striving for the kind of normality most people think of as their right. A kind of normal we have all but forgotten in the oubliette of regeneration failures.

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Welsh Streets Homes Group wishes everyone Peace & Joy in 2015.

 

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blighted lives ; rat skeleton 2014

 

Welsh Streets Public Inquiry opens at Cunard Building 10 am Tuesday 17th June

 

We can work it out …..

Ten years go a regeneration scheme was proposed for Liverpool’s Welsh Streets. It quickly became controversial as residents opposed to the demolition of their homes, organized as the Welsh Streets Home Group (WSHG)

 

With a membership of residents from the clearance zone, and neighbouring streets, the WSHG have spent a decade communicating about design possibilities that retained more of the existing Welsh Streets. They did surveys and newsletters, helped people write letters, and attended Council meetings. Their mantra was to ask the Council to look at alternatives to demolition for part of the site. After a decade of seeking a compromise, 40 houses in Madryn Street High Park Street and Kelvin Grove were withdrawn from demolition, on the proviso that all the remaining 280 houses would be demolished. It is very disappointing that so few houses escaped demolition, given the thousands of letters written by locals in support of the existing houses. However WSHG accept that saving more houses is unlikely and did not oppose the current application or campaign against it. They felt that after ten years of trying they could achieve no more, and the construction of 150 new houses should begin, allowing people stuck in poor housing to finally arrive in new homes.

 

This view was not shared by SAVE Britain’s Heritage who have called for the Public Inquiry that opens today (17.6.14) in a move that increases concerns that further delays will be inflicted on hapless residents who have lived with an uncertain future for a decade already.

 

For further houses to be spared it would take a leap of faith – a change of heart by LCC, their partners Plus Dane, and the approval of residents on the South end of the site, who seek new homes, because their existing walls are crumbling around them. It would also need more money than is currently available.

 

WSHG research shows that changing the balance of refurbished and new-build properties retains strong support, and if there were more houses spared SAVE and other objectors may then feel satisfied that heritage, place-making, and choice had been better represented in the final outcome and exit the situation allowing work to begin on site.

 

The priority for Welsh Streets Home Group, and many of the clearance area residents, is to press for the speedy delivery of new and refurbished homes. Fears that the Inspector’s recommendations in December may be followed by a time consuming Judicial Review are mounting. WSHG wanted to avoid a Public Inquiry but since it is happening, we will be asking The Inspector to encourage all parties back to the negotiating table in search of an agreement that would allow work to begin on site in 2015 before the allocated funding is withdrawn.

 

‘Every empty home in the Welsh Streets is an empty dream. It’s a blank space where someone either wanted to stay, or repair, or leave and demolish for redevelopment. In ten long years not one of these dreams has been fulfilled and the space is frozen by the inability of the stakeholders to respect each others wishes. The Welsh Streets have become a vale of tears”

nina edge spokesperson Welsh Streets Home Group

 

 

 

 

Wynnstay Street in 2010 photo by Mark Loudoun

Wynnstay St May 2013

 

The Welsh Streets Public Inquiry starts next Tuesday 17th June 2014 just over ten years after we discovered the Welsh Streets were  in a clearance scheme. Now with 42 houses spared from demolition, work on the site has been delayed by a call in from Eric Pickles.  This delays delivery of new and refurbished homes,  and threatens funding earmarked for the area.

The Public Inquiry that now takes place has left residents dismayed and in dread that further delays might prevent work starting into a second decade of decay. The possibility of Judicial Review as a further spanner in the works has been mentioned.

Are the plans on offer as good as they could be ? Are there enough refurbishments already agreed for the  site at 42 out  of some 400 houses, and are SAVE right to bring the Planning Inspector here to look at the situation ?

What do you think ?  Do you want to give say anything to the Public Inspector about the Welsh Streets  –  and did you know anyone can speak as a member of the public.

You’d need to

1          tell Yvonne Parker 01282 450 522 e-mail posltd@virginmedia.com

2          go to the Cunard Building on the waterfront, Water St, Liverpool, L3  on Tuesday June 17th at 10 am

and   register to speak.

 

(If you can’t make it to the Cunard on the 17th just call Yvonne and ask what to do)

 

2          Write down what you want to say – as much or as little as you want.

 

3          Turn up to speak on July 1st or 2nd TBC

If you can’t attend you can put a written statement in.

 

WSHG are going to ask the Inspector to advise all concerned to reach an agreement and start work on site as soon as possible after a decade of decay.

We are worried there may be further judicial delays, and the loss of funds if the Inquiry is not used as an opportunity for Plus Dane, SAVE Britain’s Heritage and Liverpool City Council to negotiate and agree a solution to develop the site

 

The Public Inquiry has a site where you can read the evidence presented by the big guys. http://programmeofficers.co.uk./liverpool/

 

You can attend on any day to hear the evidence. The general public speak at the end on 1st and 2nd July….. come and hear what we have to say ?

Madryn Street_Marc Loudoun

Madryn St March 2004

 

 

Solstice Greetings to all our readers.

We have spent a few weeks trying to haul the Welsh Streets development back from the abyss of Public Inquiry this winter.

The good news is all key stakeholders have now  said they’d  prefer to use  negotiation to reach an  agreement on a plan for the area rather than face an expensive, time consuming, and soul destroying Public Inquiry.  As we have always said, if a better design option could be devised, agreed and funded it would have a good chance of delivery. But if either a Public Inspector or the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, impose a ‘ruling’ on the existing designs, we still don’t have a  clear route to resolution and delivery of a scheme. We have never thought of Public Inquiry as a useful tool for Place-making. And we have never felt it possible to amend the current designs unless government are prepared to invest an amended – as in  increased budget in the area. Unless both an agreement from Plus Dance the site developers, and additional funds from HCA there is no deliverable alternative for the site, (which is why we reluctantly but realistically accepted the current  planning application )

The bad news is that negotiations would have been a far  easier, and more realistic option BEFORE the Plus Dane submitted their Planning Application in June 2013. But at that time they were not interested in that route. We have been told that the Empty Homes fund money for the repair of Kelvin Grove will not be spent until the whole site design is resolved. So 40 houses in  Kelvin Grove and Madryn Street will not be refurbished and remain in limbo. And the residents in phase 2 who are desperate to escape cold & damp houses remain in limbo too. Vermin, arson and fly-tipping are a problem for all residents. The gap between the promise of area renewal and living conditions is vast.

The Welsh Streets Home Group invested a great deal of thought and action into encouraging a design debate in September 2012, with the Design Diplomacy taster drawings. The process was aimed at encouraging people to see multiple possibilities for the site, to imagine many new houses,  more existing houses, the inclusion of community assets, and higher density houses. It was hoped that designs tabled by Plus Dane could be improved to avert delays that objections or a  Public Inquiry threatened but there was no will to adapt or amend designs prior to the Planning Application. We are trying to discover if there is now any opportunity to revisit negotiation and design amendment with the aim of reaching a swift decisive conclusion so that work can begin.

After a decade of living in the blighted and increasingly hazardous Welsh Streets residents across the site need building work to start, and living conditions to improve. So this year, we have photo-shopped some neighbours in. Next year ?

Who knows………………

 

HappyXmas

 

madryn retained

Following the announcement this week that Eric Pickles is  ‘Calling In’ the Welsh Streets Planning Application and has announced  a Public Inquiry , remaining Welsh Streets residents  have been shocked and disappointed. It is the last thing we need.  There is no timescale for the public Inquiry, no information about the remit or powers it might have.  Something will happen, sometime, and we don’t know what it can achieve. BOOM !

A BBC Northwest Today interview yesterday sadly edited some of the key issues in Welsh Streets debate. We know they were short of time to prepare the report, and don’t think there was any mischief making on their part. However it is important for our supporters to know that our position remains to support the refurbishment of more houses on the site, especially if that could speed up delivery and increase housing supply. We agree it is a matter of National significance in that the methods used to clear the site, and then effectively abandon it create inescapable problems that ought at all costs, to be avoided in future. We need to remember many more communities and districts in the UK have been trapped by the same HMR scheme. Welsh Streets is one of the few surviving districts with an in tact campaign an awareness of urban design  and an archive that shows how the authorities can be seen as  failing the people. If lessons are to be learned it appears they will be learned here.  Over the last year WSHG have collaborated with local architects to produce drawings that show alternatives to mass demolition with the hope of negotiating design amendments thus  avoiding a Public Inquiry, and yet more delay.

 

Although well received at two exhibitions and online, our  taster designs have yet to receive serous consideration. Local feedback to the design project shows stronger interest in refurbishment than Plus Dane can show for new homes –  so we know if the authorities released more homes for refurbishment it would have support across the city and particularly from Liverpool 8. It is hard to see how WSHG as an unfunded volunteer residents group could have done more to support retention of further houses whilst still trying to  avoid a dreaded Public Inquiry.

 

Remember we were warned if the planning application was not approved the 40  houses currently earmarked for retention may be back at risk of demolition. Liverpool City Council’s  failure begin a single refurbishment despite having the funds in place to start work, and having had clear instruction from DCLG  to start refurbishing the retained 40 houses in Madryn St and Kelvin Grove  implies they mean what they say. No planning approval – no refurbishment.

 

If as Eric Pickles has briefed, a Planning Inquiry is really going to happen the group will try and assist, but would still much prefer a negotiated outcome, based on extended housing choice, good urban  design, and place making. There is no assumption that a Planning Inquiry will  deliver a better place to live, attract the funds for delivery of a scheme and that  that is what residents need. Delivery.  A public Inquiry may satisfy public curiosity about what happened, and it will certainly cost a huge amount of money, effort and emotional resource. Lots of consultants will be happy, lots of residents will be unhappy. That kind of thing…….

So back to the BBC interview yesterday – Just for clarity there is no support from Welsh Streets Home Group for demolition. There is however an acceptance that demolition is likely to happen, if residents are to be released from the living hell of a failed regeneration scheme. All the problems of living alongside blighted and derelict properties for a decade, combined with the impact of poor housing in phase B streets, make it untenable for residents to continue living in the nightmare limbo imposed on them by the powers that be. Ten years is too long for any household to endure damp, arson , rats, cockroaches, theft, and fly tipping. Ten years is too long to not know where home is. It is certainly too long to have our community divided  so current plans, however feeble they are  have been reluctantly  accepted by the WSHG campaigners, since  they are the only plans currently tabled, with funding attached for delivery.  The Welsh Streets residents – all of them from phase A (Kelvin end)  and phase B (Treborth St end) will not be divided now since we are the people living on the site.  We have drunk beer and eaten crisps together , there will be no turning back, We inhabit  the same  nightmare, haunted by reports of all sorts, but waiting as if in Narnia, for a Christmas that never comes.

 

 As WSHG said at the planning committee meeting in June 2013 we do not think the current plans are the best or only option for the area – we don’t support current plans , but we do accept them, in the hope of  seeing some action to repair the damage and have life return to normal.  Even though in large parts of Liverpool decades of living in areas blighted and crushed by demolition schemes has become a regular experience it should never be considered normal or acceptable, and can always be considered fixable.

 

 All over the city in the library, in the airport, and on the streets, Lennon’s refrain IMAGINE is writ large. Imagine – we dare you, a future where the adversarial politics of regeneration as an activity with too many victims becomes a design collaboration that embraces diversity and understand criticism as a tool to improving plans. Imagine that…….

 

 

Description: adryn retained

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 about the potential to amend the existing Triangle plans to deliver higher density new housing, possibly with increased refurbishment, mature trees, small traders and street pattern.  Given the proposed houses remain small, and the plots large there  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 Dane 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 tweeted @welshstreets by anyone who shares an interest in the quality of our city as it re-shapes itself.

 

this blog appears on BD online, and was priduced in response to comments from Triangle Architects on that site

http://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/drama-as-pickles-puts-brakes-on-liverpool-terrace-demolition/5058209.article

 

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

 

WSHG Sept 12 discussion drawings here

 

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

 

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