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Pathfinder that lost its way

Thousands of inner-city terraces are boarded up or gone, so what now, asks Larry Neild

Published on November 4th 2010.


Pathfinder that lost its way

REMEMBER the Northern Way – John Prescott’s brainwave aimed at showing southerners that the kingdom didn’t come to an abrupt end at Watford Gap?

'Perfectly good houses have been demolished when they could have been refurbished or renovated'

In it. Lancashire (which includes Liverpool of course) would join forces with its Yorkshire and Geordie cousins to give ‘t’North’ the economic leg-up it needed to compete with the affluent South East.

Regeneration, jobs, new homes, better communities. Could we ask for more?

The one-time ship’s steward, now Lord Prescott, launched the Northern Way over six years ago to establish the upper end of the country as an area of exceptional opportunity combining a world-class economy with a superb quality of life.

The challenge: to close £30bn economic gap between the north and south, essentially ending the north/south divide, all steered by three regional development agencies covering the west-to-east belt, including the NWDA. All three RDAs are now doomed after the Coalition pulled the plug.

As part of the Northern Way, Lord Prescott also announced ambitious plans to clear thousands of “Coronation Streets”: terraces with backyards would be bulldozed and new homes built with proper gardens in sustainable communities.

Such talk may have led some consultants to imagine northerners still used tin baths in front of the coal fire in the back kitchen. It was estimated as many as 400,000 homes would be replaced, including thousands in Merseyside.

The Housing Market Renewal scheme would create a collection of “Pathfinder” areas to target areas most in need of renewal. The logic was that the homes destined for demolition were in low-demand areas or were of poor quality. One of the 10 Pathfinder areas covers Liverpool, Wirral and Sefton.

Yet there was resistance from some residents demanding refurbishment of their terraced houses. It was a scheme described by one campaigner as an exercise in social cleansing.

There were verbal battles in Bootle, Edge Lane, Toxteth and, still raging, the future of the Welsh Streets in the Dingle – birthplace of Ringo Starr.

As I reported a few weeks ago, (click here) hundreds of terraced homes around Liverpool FC’s Anfield stadium are boarded up awaiting demolition.

The Coalition Government is now to end the £1bn programme four years earlier than planned.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps says committed HRM schemes will be finished, but the rest would compete for part of regional development funding.

The end of Pathfinder was welcomed by Will Palin of campaign group Save Britain's Heritage who said it had been "an expensive failure".

"Perfectly good houses have been demolished when they could have been refurbished or renovated," claimed Mr Palin.

"We estimate that 16,000 homes have been demolished and only 3,000 new ones have been built."

The pressure group claim the Pathfinder Initiative has resulted in the destruction of thousands of terraced houses across the north of England, ripping the heart out of communities and repeating the mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s.

SAVE, a fierce critic of Pathfinder, teamed up with architect Mark Hines to look at how housing earmarked for demolition could be adapted, upgraded and remodelled to a high standard of energy efficiency, creating a range of accommodation and forming exemplar “eco-communities” of the future.

Property Week recently revealed Pathfinder nationally has so far has cost £2.2 billion and knocked down four times as many homes as it created.

Liverpool-based NewHeartlands confirmed that schemes already under way in Merseyside will continue. But at the moment nobody knows the fate of schemes in the pipeline.

In a statement, it said funding will now come from the £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund, allocated on a competitive basis, which means there will be a mad scramble for the cash.

NewHeartlands, which launched its 10-to-15 year programme in 2003, said: ”This switch to competitive allocation will create some uncertainty for residents and regeneration partners in the short term.”

NewHeartlands’ Managing Director Brendan Nevin said: “NewHeartlands, residents and the three local authorities (Liverpool, Wirral and Sefton) all remain committed to finish the Housing Market Renewal programme. We will seek to increase the resources coming into the area through dialogue with central government and developing innovative approaches to funding new development.”

Larry Neild

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

BewilderedNovember 1st 2010.

Too late! It's a pity we didn't have a politician to stand up a few years ago and tell these community destroyers to B***** Off. I look at the waste lands around Edge Lane, Smithdown Road, the Welsh Streets, Anfield and you could cry.
Consultants and quango groupies have made a fortune out of this lamentable initiative.
History will show that the Pathfinder Project did more damage to communities in Liverpool and all along the Northern Way than Hitler's air rais in WW2. Reading the report it seems the Heartland people are determined to carry on till there's not a terraced home left. Perhaps the UN should be draft in to do the re-construction caused by these attacks on many decent communities.

Confused of WavertreeNovember 2nd 2010.

I've always wondered about something - the powers that be say we need better access into Liverpool because there's so many people. So they make the families flit, shutter the houses, pull them down to build roads that are no longer needed because the people who needed the roads in the first place have been chucked out to make way for the roads that they would have needed had they been allowed to stay. Does that make me stupid or wot?
Far too many people who make decisions about our lives live on banana diets I reckon.

Vauxhall VictorNovember 2nd 2010.

What's the point of giving Liverpool City Council any more roads? The dim planners only narrow them, obstruct them or block them altogether as they have done with so many once-important routes in the centre.

Whatever was the point of widening Edge Lane to conduct motorway traffic more quickly into the city centre anyway? With crawling traffic gridlocked on the narrow, crooked, single-file lanes that were once proud urban thoroughfares in the city centre there is nowhere for this traffic to go – it´ll be like trying to put a quart in a pint pot!

Edge Lane will simply provide a car park to accommodate a tailback right to the M62.

TourmanNovember 2nd 2010.

The costs of this scheme would not have been tolerated in the private sector, so why has it been allowed in the public sector? Because we are paying that's why.

London RoadNovember 2nd 2010.

Hear hear. But we have had years to protest this and all we are doing is moaning after the event. As it ever was.

Wrecking BallNovember 2nd 2010.

The Pathfinder scheme will not only destroy communities, it will also destroy perfectly good housing when the need for social cohesion, and social housing is not just at it's greatest, but also when, given the current incumbents in Westminster, the likelihood of new housing for those most in need is, something for dreamers. The Welsh Streets in Toxteth are a good example. It has been estimated that the cost of knocking down each of the homes is £30,000. Yes, the current homeowners will be compensated but, the level of compensation will only be just enough to put down a deposit on the replacement home in the same area, leaving them for a generation or more mired in debt they currently don't have. Madness. It has been demonstrated beyond any doubt that, if you used the £30,000 it took to destroy each property and invested that same sum in bringing all the properties up to modern standards, you would re-invigorate the area, sustain communities, retain what little heritage working class districts have and eliminate the appalling debt that would blight those least able to afford it. This, I fear, is idealogically driven by the kind of people who'll never go to these places unless there's a vote at stake, and by the developers who'll suck the life, and every last penny, out of those who live there. The very same sort of people who dropped the Cavern and, were it not for a stroke of luck......oh...er..the Toxteth riots, would have dropped the Albert Dock buildings too. People with no imagination, and who couldn't care less about the impact they'll have, all in pursuit of filthy lucre.

steve14598November 2nd 2010.

Help they've destroyed my community.....everytime I drive down Edge Lane Kensington I get a sickly feeling in the pit of my ample stomach, what makes it worse especially when people from outside the area say its looking better,lovely Victorain venacular houses reduced to dust and people's lives and homes ruined, there's also a rumour we're being twinned with Hisoshima, but I think I started that one myself

Bob the BuilderNovember 3rd 2010.

The private sector will do very nicely out of this; pocketing the public money, profiteering from the property sales, even from looting the architectural features from the demolished houses and selling them to decorate trendy flats in the South.

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