WE NEED YOUR HELP

Our homes have survived because so many people have supported our 8 year campaign. They’ve written letters, signed petitions, and attended meetings, donated time, money and skills. A big thank you to everyone for the moral & practical support. Contact us if you want to join in using the donate buttons here, via Twitter @welshstreets or Welsh Streets Home on Facebook

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