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City on the Edge

As the second Edge Lane inquiry gets under way, Ciara Leeming gives her own take on the long turf battle raging in the name of progress

Published on January 26th 2008.


City on the Edge

MERSEYSIDE'S ultimate David and Goliath deathmatch creaks back into action today.

In the red corner we have Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Land Development Company and government regeneration agency English Partnerships, the three public bodies who want to tear down 400 family homes to make way for Edge Lane West, a new gateway into the city.

Pascoe questions
the motives behind destroying sturdy houses and a strong community, and replacing them with
a socially engineered hotchpotch of brand new residents

In the blue corner we have Elizabeth Pascoe, a 60-year-old disabled grandmother with a fondness for cardigans, and a steely determination to save her Victorian terrace, and her community.

If the authorities are to be believed, the clearance is an essential part of the £350 million Edge Lane Project. And this isn't just any old project. This scheme will, ahem, transform the corridor from the M62 into Liverpool city centre into an urban boulevard befitting a major European city.

Pascoe, her band of supporters, and a good chunk of city dwellers are not so convinced.

Campaigners say the authorities will knock down more houses than necessary for the road-widening, and replace them with shoddy newbuild, paid for by the controversial Housing Market Renewal Fund.

That publicly-funded initiative is clearing swathes of terraced housing across nine areas in the North and Midlands, ostensibly to resolve market failure. In Merseyside it is administered by the regeneration partnership New Heartlands, which aims to bring about transformational changes through the wrecking ball.

Battles are raging across Merseyside over plans to bulldoze Victorian houses, including ones to make way for Liverpool FC's new stadium at Stanley Park.

With Edge Lane, the council and its partners believe they are doing the best thing for Kensington, an area which suffers from some of the worst urban decay and deprivation in the country.

They promise 290 new homes, including sheltered housing, apartments and family houses, environmental improvements and a state-of-the-art health centre. They also claim to have the support of most of the residents, with one group lodging a petition calling for work to go ahead.

But while Pascoe and co are being painted by the authorities as anti-progress, the situation is anything but black and white. Their campaign group, Bevel (Better Environmental Vision for Edge Lane), says it is not against regeneration.

It simply argues that the scheme is badly thought out and heavy-handed, and Pascoe questions the motives behind destroying sturdy houses and a strong community and replacing them with a socially-engineered hotchpotch of brand new residents.

It claims the council has deliberately kept the streets boarded up and blighted to give the impression of dereliction and decay. And it has put forward an alternative plan, which involves fewer demolitions.

The phrases, whisper them, "social cleansing" and "state bullying" have been used; accusations that are angrily denied by the relevant authorities.

The battle has raged for several years, with popular protests, a public inquiry and High Court hearings. Today, it starts up again.

The Edge Lane Project was, of course, meant to be finished by now, in time for Liverpool's year in the spotlight as European Capital of Culture. But while the first three phases were completed before Christmas, part four, Edge Lane West, has gone horribly wrong. And all because a community refused to roll over.

So far, about 300 of the necessary properties have been acquired by the city council, a necessary step before regeneration can take place.

But when the remaining residents challenged the original Compulsory Purchase Order in 2005, the matter went to a public inquiry, which went in the favour of the authorities.

That was hardly surprising, given that Pascoe sat through it alone, except for a part-time lawyer who gave his services for nothing. Inevitably, her well-funded opponents who had never even carried out surveys to prove that the Victorian houses were unfit to live in, had a cabal of lawyers.

But where others might have accepted defeat and stepped aside, Pascoe, a trained architect, challenged the order with the help of legal aid and managed to get the plan thrown out in November 2006.

The High Court quashed the CPO on the basis that mistakes had been made in the process.

But it takes more than a mere High Court judge to stop a formidable alliance of bureaucrats and developers. A second - almost identical CPO was duly served on home owners by English Partnerships last summer.

Their continued opposition has triggered this second public inquiry. The hearing could last as long as six weeks, and cost the taxpayer millions of pounds. Should the decision go in favour of the council, work will not begin until 2009.

Pascoe warns that should she lose this time around, a dangerous precedent would be set. Anyone's property, whether home, back garden or business, could be up for grabs if councils or other public bodies set their sights on it and set up a deal with developers. I, for one, am inclined to agree.

*Ciara Leeming is a freelance journalist who has written about regeneration for publications including the Big Issue in the North, Inside Housing, the Sunday Express and the Guardian. www.ciaraleeming.co.uk

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26 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Head shakerJanuary 15th 2008.

So theblind Liverpool Vision people and council have got their way again, have refused to listen to the people and now Edge Lane and its beautiful old houses are to go. A real tragedy. When will these idiots learn?

SimonJanuary 15th 2008.

It is just the same with the lovely terraces off Princes Avenue which are destined for the wrecking ball. Why oh why are the council so shorrt sighted. These are beautiful buildings of character in communties with schools and shops that families would love a chance at living in.

scousekrautJanuary 15th 2008.

It is encouraging to see that community spirit is not dead and that the courts are not totally in the hands of the money.Knocking down all these old houses instead of modernising them just does not seem neccessary.

Crazy Paving PathwaysJanuary 15th 2008.

I would mind betting that if a new road was planned to go through Bradley's or Storey's street, they'd be offered a damned sight more than £60,000!

angieJanuary 15th 2008.

Please stick to your guns and fight the Council etc. This happened to us in London and a small band stuck together and saved our lovely Georgian House from being demolished..

Graham BandageJanuary 15th 2008.

I personally would welcome a road running through my back garden, as my lawnmower is broken and I could do with some CPO money to buy a new one. Of course then I wouldn't need a lawnmower, which would mean I didn't need the money in the first place. Food for thought, I think you'll agree.

Cyprian ChurchJanuary 15th 2008.

If the Council gets its way, destroys Edge Lane and they transform the corridor from the M62 into Liverpool city centre into an urban boulevard befitting a major European city, what the heck is going to happen when the 70mph heavy traffic from the M62 hits the gridlocked traffic in the city centre?

MattJanuary 15th 2008.

Good article in so many ways...and why we like LivConf so much. You would never read this kind of insightful, rational discussion in the Echo. Anyroadup, Mrs Pascoe is a hero of the proletariat - good on her for standing up to the 'cabal' of bully boys as Ciara so accurately described them, who appear to be able to spend millions of pounds of taxpayer's money with equanimity. Anyone who has been to Edge Lane, or driven along it, looks at the houses and thinks - why do those numbskulls want to tear these down? They could be beautiful. However, it is much more complicated and demanding for the bureaucrats to involve residents in a sensitive, well organised, inclusive and genuinely empowering discussion about the best solutions for their community and their homes. Much more difficult to renovate and improve and modernise. And they can't be arsed. They would much rather flatten the lot and start again. Simpletons. No imagination, no creativity, no values. Good on Mrs Pascoe - all power to her elbow.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2008.

Reading your article I have at last found reference to 239 Edge Lane which is where my great grandfather lived in the 1890's only to find out that it may be pulled down I would so love a photo of it?

EvJanuary 15th 2008.

The Liverpool Echo recently reported that the metal shutters & bilious designs were meant to give uniformity & smarten the area up! Wouldn't inhabited houses with curtains up & lights on etc give the same effect?!! What is wrong with the council? There's no end to the pot of money for the hideous flats, sorry, 'luxury apartments' the out of town developers want to build (I'm sure I built sturdier things with my Lego in days gone by) but nothing for regeneration. A farce in this time where recycling is being encouraged in other aspects of life.

Lynn MillsJanuary 15th 2008.

Why destroy these houses? They are part of our heritage. Didn't we see too many of yesterday's buildings being knocked down in the 80's? These buildings are what make Liverpool unique and give us our history. Get a grip and save these homes. These were built to last, not like the garbage we see being built today. SAVE THSESE HOUSES, they will last another hundred years.

Radovan KaradžićJanuary 15th 2008.

Ha! I clap my hands with joy to see such legally-sanctioned social cleansing!I was made a war criminal and had to go into hiding for my amateurish efforts! I could learn a lot from Liverpool City Council! I particularly admire the way they are not pursued for their crimes after leaving office!

A. E. ScousemanJanuary 15th 2008.

It is an absolute disgrace that such well-built, substantial houses are being demolished, it is worse that the owners are being booted out of three and four-bedroomed houses and given a paltry £60,000 to start life anew, in what exactly? Even the cardboard flats in the vaunted new tower blocks in the centre cost four times that and they don't have the room to swing a cat!I have no doubt the City Council earnestly believes it is a good thing to cause all this misery, heartbreak and vandalism, but I am equally sure that they earnestly thought that the big dig was a good idea, and the present gridlocked traffic chaos in the city centre was a good idea and the appointment of a collection of overpaid dunces to run the Capital of Culture was a good idea!

Old *artJanuary 15th 2008.

I am totally opposed to this crazy mass demolition of family homes. I have come into Liverpool every working day of my 40 year working life, travelling along Edge Lane. Only in the last two to three years was there any regular and significant delay and that was caused by the council-sponsored "Big-Dig" fiasco which still hasn't even eased the flow of traffic. The 2 or 3 minutes that might regularly have to be spent queuing at the Holt Road/Durning Road junction could largely be resolved simply by banning inbound and outbound traffic from turning right off Edge Lane at this point. Anyone with any sense knows it does not require the expenditure of £350million and the destruction of 400 family homes to ease that small bottleneck. There is no justification whatsoever for the proposed environmental, economic and human rights disaster which this City Council is intent on foisting on the taxpayers of Liverpool and the residents of Edge Hill. Whose home will be safe if councils and property developers are allowed to engineer the compulsory purchase of perfectly sound properties simply bcause they don't like the look of them?

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2008.

Edge Lane ?????? to coin an old phrase, 'If it wasn't so sad it would be funny'.

A. TaxpayerJanuary 15th 2008.

I wonder how much those hideous metal shutters with the bilious 'designs' on them nailed across all those windows in Edge Lane cost us?

council disgraceJanuary 15th 2008.

Hi all.I am an ex resident of 239 and 241 Edge Lane.The flat I had in 239 Edge Lane was my first home after leaving my mum and dads.I was employed as a Bus Conductor at the old Crosville depot that used to be on Edge Lane,this site is now derilict.The big houses were/are magnificent they could be restored with very little cost but what you all have to relise is the Liverpool City Council is in my opinion only after back handers from propertiy developers.Look at some of the crazy planing aplications that have been passed in our city.The first I can think of is the Tesco store in St 0swald street Old Swan.Old Swan for years has been one of the citys worst bottlenecks,how with no new roads whatsoever serving it the Council gives permisson for a major superstore.I am sure you are all aware of the traffic jams in the area.Then we had the Edge Lane project almost 2 years of absoloute traffic gridlock and for what ?.No road widening whatsoever,no benifits at all for the traffic trying to get to or from Junc 4 of the M62 (what ever happend to Junctions 1.2 and 3 of the M62 but thatsanother story of Liverpool Council Ineptitude in the 1970/80s )After putting up for 2 years of traffic gridlock we have some new pavement flags,some fancy street lights and another Government money making camera on Edge Lane Drive.Nothing at all to benifit the traffic.Liverpool needs a proper trunk road into the city centre.Instead of knocking down Edge Lanes houses the like of which we will never see again the old M62 plan to take the M62 to the dock road should be put into action from Broadgreen Station the Railway cutting used to be 4 track it has been reduced to 2 tracks for over 20 years leaving enough romm for a single lane trunk road (Like they have done into the centre of Blackpool from the M55 )This would take traffic from Broadgreen Station to Edge Hill.Then we could reopen the old railway tunnel from Edge Hill Station to the old Riverside Station at the Pier Head.Before anyone tells me this would cost to much I know it would not be cheap but the main cost items are allready there.I.E. the unused space in the railway cutting and the tunnel to the Pier Head.

Cyprian ChurchJanuary 15th 2008.

There is depressing news in today's Daily P*st about how the bully boys have won, how the taxpayer will give them even more money and how Mrs. Pascoe is cast as the villain of the piece by the P*st! Perhaps Ciara Leeming can be invited to do a follow-up to her splendid article above?

LegomanJanuary 15th 2008.

I'm pleased to see that every comment here, supports the efforts to keep these lovely houses. In other parts of the country these buildings would be cherished. Liverpool urban landscape needs to be distinctive, not just a bland any-town feel to it which is what the new properties would be.Pathfinder is an evil scheme. Edge Lane could be widened by just lopping a bit off most of the front gardens in Edge Lane West. Its a disgrace that the scheme is being pushed forward as the only option to sort out the congestion.Please do everything you can to support this brave womans fight. It wasn't so long ago that they wanted to tear down Princes Avenue, an idea now which seems totally crazy.Thank god for LC putting forward real peoples opinions. The Echo is just a mouthpiece for LCC's propaganda.

manc in liverpoolJanuary 15th 2008.

Having lived in Manchester for a long time and recently moved to Liverpool. I can't help but say how cr*p, disorganized, unprofessional Liverpool council are. This area is a nightmare as the houses are or were magnificent pieces of architecture. If they were to be replaced with like London road says. Little over priced poorly finished box flats i think i'll cry. But they can't be left like they are now as its a disgrace. Urban splash did something in Salford with terraced houses it was called the Chimney pot park. Were they didn't tear down the houses they just brought a load of crap streets back to life. And keeping the original buildings looks. Have they not looked at something like this instead of tearing down the buildings???

Fight Urban BlightJanuary 15th 2008.

Learn what? They arse about looking after their cronies, do their best to bugger up Capital of Culture, bring their positions into disrepute, then they not only go unpunished, but are actually rewarded - they get to be made Lord Mayor!As it says on the Josephine Butler House article, we just don'thave enough lynchings...

London RoadJanuary 15th 2008.

They are quite happy to allow thousands of little boxes to be built in the city centre, which no one wants to live in, while places like the Picket are told to **** off because now we're turning it into flats. Nice one

MartinJanuary 15th 2008.

I wish Elisabeth and everyone from Bevel all success. I live in Granby, and if the council get's their way, we will face CPO's some time in the near future. There was a time when Cath Green and Pauline Davies reacted to articles like this with their standard: " ... a minority is opposing the plans, for various reasons" - cr*p. Maybe they are overwhelmed by the support for Bevel here on this website?

Egg LaneJanuary 15th 2008.

Hear hear!

Lindley StreetJanuary 15th 2008.

I remember how in the early seventies the then Liberal Party swept into power in Liverpool City Council mainly because they opposed the so-called slum clearances, when houses were to be demolished even though the people living in them didn't want to move and it was much cheaper to pay grants to modernise them. This made the Liberals a major force in Liverpool politics and banished the Tories from the Council chamber for decades. So what is this madness now? Where are Sir Trevor Jones and Lord Alton now? Their cry used to be "They are tearing the heart out of our city!" Today's Lib-Dem equivalent is meaningless managementspeak gobbledygook which roughly translated means let's tear the heart out of this city! We have all retired and be miles away living it up by the time people find out the mess we've made of the place!

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2008.

I worked in Liverpool today and drove through this area to get home. I agree it is a shame to knock down what could be such superb houses, in fact when I got home I searched the web thinking I would find details of a planned renovation project - I am truly shocked and very sad for the people of this area! Fight them to the end I say.

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