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Death knell for Welsh Streets looms

Larry Neild says it's a big mistake to bulldoze Ringo's former home

Published on April 18th 2011.

Death knell for Welsh Streets looms

LAST week, as delegates to the NUJ's conference in Southport, we heard a speech from a most unassuming South American journalist.

It is clear that it is perfectly practical to retain and re-use these buildings. Repairs will of course be required but I do not see these being difficult' – structural engineer Edward Morton

Claudia Duque told over 300 hacks what it was lack to work in Colombia, described as the most dangerous place on earth for working journalists.

She receives up to 70 death threats a day as she tries to expose wrongdoing and corruption.

Shady and anonymous characters regularly threaten to snatch her daughter and cut her into little pieces (and they would). Several times Claudia has had to flee across the border to neighbouring countries in fear of her life. This brave woman was given a deserved standing ovation.

Then I was dragged into the equation. For 30 years Claudia has been a fan of the Beatles. After a struggle to get a visa to come here (our government was initially reluctant) here she was, a grenade’s throw from the birthplace of her idols.

The top man at the NUJ asked if the Merseyside branch of the National Union of Journalists could take Claudia on a Magical Mystery Tour. Of course we could.

So for a few short hours Claudia was able to put aside the crazy life she faces as she soaked up the wonders of Mathew Street, the Eleanor Rigby statue, Hard Day’s Night Hotel (with the world’s worst statues of the Fab Four), the Beatles Story and a few other Merseybeat nuggets.

Claudia left with what she said were treasured memories of standing in the doorways of the Cavern. Not a single mention of death threats or her personal safety.

A few days later I happened on a couple from Brussels – she a Green Party MP, her companion an avid Beatles fan fulfilling a lifelong dream to see where “it all began”. He was even aware of the plight of Ringo’s childhood home, threatened with demolition.

And indeed the city council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday (19 April) takes a decision that will send in the bulldozers to erase Ringo’s one time home, number 9 Madryn Street, along with around 270 more terraced cottages collectively known as the Welsh Streets in the Dingle.

Campaigners to save the buildings argue that until it was largely emptied using public funds under the HMR (Pathfinder) programme, the Welsh Streets area was thriving and popular, with a good mix of housing stock.

The houses were built by Welsh artisan builders who came to Liverpool in vast numbers during the 19th century.

If the Planning Committee give it the thumbs up (it looks like they will), the Welsh Streets will be flattened and the whole site tidied up in the hope one day somebody might want to build new homes.

Will the committee be repeating the sins of our fathers who committed the original Cavern, dust to dust, to the annals of history.

Richard Starkey, after all, only lived in Madryn Street for a very short period of his young life. But isn’t that what makes the two-up, two down all the more remarkable? The birthplace of a man who was 25 per cent of the world’s greatest pop group and one of only two surviving?

Will Palin, of Save Britain's Heritage, believes the council will be making a grave mistake if it goes ahead with the demolition of the houses which those fighting to save them claim have a collective market value of £30 million.

Ringo’s old house is part of our social history, whether we like it or not. And, as the saying goes, when it’s gone, it’s gone.

More importantly, says Palin, the Welsh streets can stay and once again become a thriving, lively inner city community. Providing low cost starter homes for people desperate for a nice place to live.

Indeed, Edward Morton, one of the UK's top structural engineers specialising in historic buildings, has said the the Victorian terraced houses in the Welsh Streets area of Liverpool are easily capable of viable repair.

In a report for the Welsh Streets Homes Group he flatly contradicts council claims that it is not economical to repair the houses. “It is clear that it is perfectly practical to retain and re-use these buildings. Repairs will of course be required but I do not see these being difficult ...” He continues, “...This approach must be more economic than demolishing and re-building, and of course will retain an interesting and viable group of Victorian terraces including Ringo Starr's birthplace in Madryn Street.”

In January, the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, called on Liverpool City Council to investigate alternatives to demolition.

City council leader Joe Anderson however, is adamant: “A lot of properties within that area will take about £70,000 to £80,000 to bring back, and you could not sell them for that price, so it does not make economic sense,” he has said. "It's just absolute madness to try and save them.”

Interestingly the debate about the future of the Welsh Streets would hardly make headline news normally. But the fact the one-time Beatles drummer lived there has cast international eyes onto the issue.

Would Liverpool make the same mistake again? Yeah, yeah, I rather think we would.

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

Ludwig KittApril 18th 2011.

When will they realise in this city that knocking things down when we have got no money or no prospect of any money does not make sense?
Every day we are told about homeless people and long council waiting lists. Can you imagine this happening in London with these homes just a spit away from the city centre?

Windsor BoyApril 18th 2011.

Richard Starkey means little to the under-60s but people of ANY age can tell how stupid it is is to demolish these solid Victorian houses, as has been done at the Edge Hill end of Smithdown Road, on Wavertree Road and Edge Lane.

The amount of energy and quality of materials and workmanship that went into building Victorian houses could never be equalled today. To knock them down in the hope that someday they might be replaced with overpriced and flimsy cramped boxes is insane.

Anderson says that these houses could not be sold at a profit after refurbishment.

So WHY sell them?

The city is short of social housing, and if they are policed well so troublemakers are booted out promptly these houses would be a highly desirable place to live.

Windsor BoyApril 18th 2011.

P.S. And renting them out to decent people would provide an appreciable income to the City Council in the that selling them would not.

Irresponsible private landlords preside over the degeneration of residential areas; public ownership is a positive boon to an area, particularly when tenenacy agreements are actually enforced.

DigApril 18th 2011.

Knock it down? I don't think so. It's my gaff now. I'll see them in court. Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 makes it an offence to force entry to a building which is occupied, and this includes squats. Most squatters have on display or available a copy of the Legal Warning explaining this law and their rights. You can get one from ASS.

Squatters'r'riteApril 18th 2011.

Hey Dig, what a great idea. Fill them up with squatters until common sense prevails. Somebody should form a queue.

SixtiesChildApril 18th 2011.

I know its a bit naff to say Liverpool should celebrate the Beatles, but we should. Go to Gracelands and see how the Elvis industry is mega, and we could be four times as big here. The best things inb life are already here, and we want jobs, that's what we want. You just get the impression we are piss pot poor at organising anything half decent in this city of too many inadequates and not enough visionaries.

Professor ChucklebuttyApril 26th 2011.

This is the Elgin Marbles all over again. We have no right to keep them and they should be returned to the people of Wales at once. And I Include the roof slates from the childhood home of Rhyngo Fechindrummwr.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Pant Y FoelasAugust 9th 2013.

Ffechindrummwr FFS!

Reader XxxApril 27th 2011.

Tourism is not the biggest game in town, but it is worth more than a billion pounds of the city region's annual turnover. The Beatles are one of the two big attractions for international visitors, and one of the things these visitors want to see is Ringo's first home. Unfortunately nobody has come up with a proposal for saving the house, backed up by the necessary dosh. A simple solution would be to retain Madryn Street, refurbish the houses for sale or rent, and do a "Mendips" on Number 9. All we need is someone to finance it. Sir Paul has done more than his bit with LIPA, and Ringo doesn't seem interested, so we need someone with a passion for the city's heritage, a "can do" approach to getting things done, and a decent stash under the mattress. Phil Redmond, come on down.

Judith PattersonAugust 9th 2013.

Why not get together and get surage back on, get the council picking up rubbish, and get someone in Ritchie house and give them an incentive to doing the place up instead of rent, then go from there.You cant get any one in unless the council are going to do something about the amenities.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

Come again?

Pant Y FoelasAugust 9th 2013.

I have done! There's gusset!

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