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Tinned up and fed up on Anfield's streets of shame

Barry Turnbull says city and club have duty to deliver the promised land

Written by . Published on September 16th 2013.

Tinned up and fed up on Anfield's streets of shame

ANFIELD is celebrated as one of the great sporting arenas. The stadium rises out of a sea of cluttered, terraced streets like a surfacing whale surrounded by a shoal of  tiddlers.

It is the stuff of footballing legend; a temple where worshippers span the ages and the class divisions to congregate on match day.

The proposals, costings and pledges are
virtually a mirror-image of plans that
were unveiled TEN YEARS AGO

It is also the venue of choice when city leaders want to impress potential investors. Suitors are wined and dined, and either given a  seat in the stand where they can appreciate ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ at full throttle, or watch from a private box where The Kop can be turned off by closing a window.

But what magnifies its presence is a jarring sense of juxtaposition; the cathedral of heroes and multi-millionaires lies cheek-by-jowl with abandoned homes, tinned up and condemned to be crushed into dust. Anfield resembles a pearl in a cowpat.

I was struck by this strange imbalance as I strolled through this scarred cityscape en route to a corporate bacon butty on a match day. I wondered how many of the would-be investors or VIP visitors think  about this and are perhaps too polite to mention it; a bit like not wanting to upset the party host who has bad B.O.

But afterwards what do they think or say about the deprivation and dereliction that blights the area and the attendant social problems of gangs, drugs, crime and vice?

And it is not just VIPs who might not be too impressed, thousands of ordinary people from Europe and beyond regularly visit the coliseum. This then is one of Liverpool’s main windows to the world.

According to the Halifax, areas with a Premier League club have seen house prices rises 135 per cent in ten years. In Anfield they have not only gone through the floorboards but carried on Down Under.

Many locals believe that not only has Liverpool FC failed to help regeneration, it has actively pursued a policy of degeneration of this community - managed decline in order to drive house prices down as part of its buy-up campaign.

The club has been acquiring houses for years as it needs room to expand its Main Stand to generate more income.

Anfield KopOn the other side of the turnstile, this failure to prevent a neighbourhood’s decline has been assisted, it is claimed, through inertia, particularly by Liverpool City Council. But there have been other contributory factors, such as the Government pulling the plug on the Housing Market Renewal Programme.

Last October, the club announced it was staying put, the same day as a new regeneration plan was announced. In June it was announced again. The Three Amigos; LFC, council and Manchester-based housing association Your Housing Group have teamed up to launch a £260m development blueprint.

Only it’s no so new. The proposals, costings and pledges are virtually a mirror-image of plans that were unveiled TEN YEARS AGO – apart from the club wanting a move to Stanley Park.

There was even the same quote from Joe Anderson, albeit then in opposition, about the importance of consulting local people.

In 2003, newspaper headlines trumpeted a £250m revival of the Anfield area led by a council/football club joint venture. In 2013 they seem to have just dusted off the plans and re-presented them complete with the same price, adjusted by £10m for inflation presumably.

I wonder how much the design consultants FVMA, Urban Splash and Shedkm have been paid to come up with this vision of a glorious new future?

The latest consultation exercise ended a few weeks ago but the consortium has yet to unveil its findings on feedback, although LFC Managing Director Ian Ayre observes, in all seriousness: “The club has a track record of working successfully with the council and others to drive forward improvements to the area.”

The revived proposals include the refurbishment of 550 homes, creation of a pedestrian way through Stanley park. a 10,000 sq ft food hub, a 100-bed hotel, village square, new offices and improved retail premises.

The 300 slum homes remaining will be cleared. All this is flagged up as creating 700 long-term jobs.

The stumbling block of unhappy residents remains, but the city has indicated it will use compulsory purchase powers if necessary.

Your Group has invested £24m in new homes and building company Keepmoat has been active too, to this end, but for many it has been too little and far too late.

The challenge now is to turn yet more ambitious talk into reality. This is not going to be easy. Regeneration on this scale requires private capital and the area is not exactly a haven for investors.

Announcing The Plans Last YearAnnouncing the plans last yearAttracting big employers is desirable but is it feasible? Probably not unless it is in the form of a supermarket and I’m sure there will be no shortage of takers on that score. Not sure local retailers, what’s left of them, would be too chuffed though.

There is also the quite natural scepticism of a lot of residents who feel they have been led down this panacea pathway before.

Also take into account the economic circumstances, flat land values and lack of obtainable credit.

Anfield is also poorly served in terms of transport unless you count the soccerbus. Maybe a park and ride facility would help.

Taking an even more cynical view, plans for a hotel and food hub in Stanley Park would seem to be chiefly directed towards Everton and Liverpool match day traffic. What other demand is there is the area for those facilities?

Let’s not forget there has been investment in Anfield - £12m on the big glasshouse in Stanley Park.

Kiron Reid was an Anfield Liberal Democrat councillor when the regeneration blueprint was first aired 10 years ago. He said: "I was supportive of the plans then and will say that there have been some positive signs but nowhere near enough has been done.

Anfield ClippingThe news - in 2003

"I can fully understand if some people remain cynical about what the football club is saying now. I am sure the managing director Ian Ayre is passionate about what he believes but local people have suffered too many false dawns to suddenly start thinking here is a great new future.

"When I was first active around 1998 there were grumblings about the club and local housing. It will take a lot to convince people.

Mr Reid, now a lecturer at the University if Liverpool law school, added: "I will say that Steve Rotherham and Joe Anderson have always insisted the local community comes first."

Mayor Joe declares that he will ensure this project is deliverable: “For far too long people have been given the impression things would change and improve, but they didn’t.”

But Darron Eden, who  runs rockfieldtriangle, a campaigning website aimed at revealing the truth about the football club’s relationship with the local community, said: “I support regeneration of the community but the problem with all of this is it is just expansion of the club. My website contains tons of  evidence and is 100 percent accurate although it is embarrassing to the club and its reputation as a bastion of community spirit.”

In short, the £260m Anfield Project is a great ambition and a step forward from utter malaise. However, could we see homes knocked down, an increased stadium capacity, more amenities for fans and little else in five years? I hope not.

'Holding the club to ransom'

Campaigning website Rockfield Triange describes the residents left living around the stadium as normal families whose lives have been plagued in the ghost town which has become a magnet to gangs of youths, thieves, opportunist scrap metal dealers and thugs.

Even a TV crew from Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire was forced to flee in 2009 - yet another wretched headline for locals to bear.

Some homeowners say they will stay put unless they receive substantial compensation for years of misery living in boarded up streets, as well as the pitiful £40-000-£60,000 some of the Victorian terraces are now estimated to be worth.

Anfield %281%29
But their critics accuse them of simply staying put and waiting for the club's big pay day.

“As residents of a derelict area next to such a famous football stadium the local people face daily embarrassment and humiliation," says Rockfieldtriangle.

"Vast amounts of visitors and fans constantly take photographs of the empty houses while pointing and laughing at the remaining residents seemingly petty existence.

"Visitors have been overheard  accusing the 'residents' of holding the club to ransom by not moving out."

Tweets by Barry Turnbull: @barryturnbull2

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

HenrySeptember 16th 2013.

If a private organisation, landlord or otherwise, had contributed towards leaving an area of the city looking like a bomb-shredded town in Syria the city council would have torn them apart and no doubt have taken urgent legal action. But not when it comes to LFC of course. A scandalous collusion between the club and council that has blighted this community for a decade and more.

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2013.

Of course people still believe that politicians have some sort of power and they don't. They are voted by the people and then become nothing more than the poodle of private enterprise. Same as national governments with the banks. It is all very well Storey, Bradley and now Anderson throwing money at creative agencies to draw pictures but private concerns will always win because our elected councillors haven't got the gumption to tell them what to do and mean it. All property is theft and this will only come right if and when LFC decide they are good and ready.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 18th 2013.

They are taking the piss

John ShawSeptember 16th 2013.

Well written article that should touch a nerve or two, it is to be hoped it does. The good people of Anfield deserve better, malaise and inactivity, have been the order of the day for far too long.

Harry MillerSeptember 17th 2013.

I sometimes entertain potential business prospects in Liverpool and like to show them the city at its best. Last time someone asked about driving upto Anfield to 'have a look around'. Im not embarrassed to say I made up an excuse about traffic works in the area. Showcase for Liverpool it is not.

PhilSeptember 18th 2013.

This won't touch any nerves, the people that matter don't really care, the time that has passed by with this 'managed decline is proof of that. It's been a dumping ground for years now but i have to say some of the residents don' help themselves, sitting on their front step in pyjamas on a match day drinking cans of Lager sneering at people walking past, i've been verbally abused at least a couple of times for just walking past...then there are the beggars scrounging for money whilst they can barely stand... Harry, i completely agree, i get the soccer bus and therefore have to do the 'walk of shame' to the ground with fans from all over the place...not nice, then there is the litter, i've reported it but just get fobbed off!!

1 Response: Reply To This...
John ShawSeptember 18th 2013.

You and Harry obviously care, I suppose your not alone, by hi-liting the problems perhaps those in a position to influence the powers that be, will do so, and hopefully kick start tackling the problem.

Kiron ReidSeptember 22nd 2013.

Just to clarify, I mentioned supporting regeneration - only some of which happened - not the football club's plans per se; and my specific point is that Steve Rotherham and Joe Anderson have always supported jobs going to local people, which must be part of any schemes. I disagree with them on many other things but they did propose contracts being conditional on genuine local jobs earlier than most people.

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