Tuesday, 6 December 2011

George Clarke and Channel 4 Catch Up with the Liverpool Housing Scandal

This blog has been in hibernation for a while, but our Madryn Street project is progressing well. We are currently finalising proposals to fully refurbish the SAVE house and we hope to start work early next year. Meanwhile our house guardians continue to improve the property - and seem very happy living there.

It was excellent to see the first of last night's new Channel 4 'Great British Property Scandal' series featuring plenty of footage of Madryn Street - and the Welsh Streets area in general. Click here to watch again. Tonight's episode features the SAVE house and its tenants - click here.

Politically, a lot has been happening since the late summer. While Liverpool City Council has completely failed to produce the Environmental Impact Assessment it needs to proceed with any application to demolish the Welsh Streets, the government has launched a £71m bailout fund for councils to help people stuck in Pathfinder areas. The ministerial statement from Grant Shapps is strongly worded to warn councils off using the funds for further demolition but we remain worried more destruction may follow. Knowing how determined Liverpool Council is to see the Welsh Streets bulldozed, we fear that money from the rescue fund could be used to flatten rather than refurbish these houses.

The problem, as George Clarke showed in the first episode of the new series, is that councils and housing associations in post-HMR areas have shown themselves to be incapable of initiating any refurbishment programmes. SAVE believes the only hope of breaking the cycle of neglect is for council land banks to be broken up and for selective housing stock to be disposed of to other parties - under strict conditions such as time-limits for renovation and guarantees of affordable rent.

Could the tide be turning? Make sure you join the Channel 4 campaign.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Map of Doom

Full consultation on demolition plans for the Welsh Streets began in winter 2003. However, it seems the demolition zones in south Liverpool had already been drawn up.

This hitherto unpublished map showing the areas of south Liverpool 'containing potential for redevelopment' was produced by the council in June 2003, presumably to cultivate developer interest. The map is crucial because it shows that the areas for demolition had been defined, before open consultation meetings took place with Welsh Streets residents. 

The areas shown in yellow are those earmarked for potential clearance. The Welsh Streets area is the rectangle of land to the west of Princes Park.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Toxteth Riots - 30 Years On

Managed decline? 30 years on from the riots and these council-owned houses in Jermyn Street, Granby, remain tinned-up
Sunday's newspapers carried a number of articles reflecting on the 30th anniversary of the Toxteth riots including a hard-hitting column by Charles Clover in the Sunday Times and a moving piece by Ed Vuillamy in the Observer.

A prevailing theme of the reporting was Liverpool's failure to heal the physical wounds left by the disturbances - principally in the Victorian streets around Granby. Instead of investing in renovation and repair, the council has squandered millions of pounds acquiring, boarding up and demolishing good housing stock in preparation for redevelopment which has failed to materialise. The Vuillamy article in the Observer includes a brilliantly inciteful summary of the situation by award-winning Liverpool-born scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern:

'I'm starting to hope that it is corruption,' McGovern says of the demolitions in Toxteth and beyond. 'At least that would make sense, it would mean someone is getting something dodgy out of it. Because if it isn't corruption, it's real madness. At least corruption would provide a motive. What would be really scary would be if they really are that crap.'

But of course there's the possibility, McGovern continues, 'that this is managed decline. Any fool can see that in Kensington, the bit they 'regenerated' went to seed, while the bit they left alone just got on with its life. People come in from out of town, have their 'regeneration scheme' and fuck off with the money to spend it somewhere else.

The idea is that these areas will only succeed when the people who live here can no longer afford to live here. It all makes sense if you detach the argument from the people - but what about the people? What are you going to do with them? Well, you knock their houses down and ship 'em out.'

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Charles Clover visits Madryn Street

Charles Clover (left) in Madryn Street, with Beatles Tour guide Philip Coppell (right) and taxi driver Dave
Yesterday, Madryn Street had a visit from award winning journalist and Environment Editor for the Sunday Times, Charles Clover. Charles is one of the few broadsheet journalists to have followed the Pathfinder story from the start, questioning the aims of the programme and attacking its failures. Here are two of his key articles from 12 Oct 2007 and 21 Feb 2010.

Charles knows Liverpool well. He covered the Toxteth riots in 1981, visiting the city before and after the disturbances. This Sunday (3 July) will mark the 30th anniversary of the riots.
House guardian Leah, with Phil Coppell
On this visit Charles toured the Welsh Streets, visiting the SAVE house and meeting Leah, one of our house guardians. He also met with residents in nearby Granby and discussed the situation there. Until recently Granby was also under threat of demolition, but the council has recently called for tenders to be submitted to refurbish housing stock. Despite this apparent change of heart, the demolition of 6 large houses in the area was approved by the council just last week.

Tinned up houses in Jermyn Street, Granby. Despite the many tinned up houses, the area is still home to a thriving and proud community
Granby is home to a strong and proud community. The residents, who live in streets where many houses are still tinned-up and derelict, have 'greened' the streets with plants and flowers. They have also started a thriving street market which takes place on the first Saturday of each month.

Cairns Street, Granby where residents have 'greened' the street

Friday, 24 June 2011

Let's Talk Numbers - the Huge Cost of 'Managed Decline'

Madryn Street - some of Liverpool's 2191 houses slated for demolition.
It costs as much to decommission and demolish one of these houses as it does to refurbish it.
A few figures for you - it costs Liverpool Council, on average, about £1,700 to 'tin-up' a property. In large clearance areas this means that nearly £1.5m can be spent simply on decommissioning housing stock. In figures obtained from Liverpool Council, the total cost of boarding up houses in Wavertree came to £1,719,916. In Stanley Park the figure was £1,734,524. In addition to this, demolition costs upwards of £20,000 per house, so, in one of these areas nearly £25m would be needed to empty and flatten the housing stock. Add to that the economic impact of decanting neighbourhoods. Local shops and businesses are forced to close through lack of custom, and adjacent areas are blighted by their proximity to the tinned-up or demolished streets. The greatest cost, however, is the social impact of fragmenting long-established communities.

SAVE has now had a quote for a complete renovation and eco-refit of 21 Madryn Street - £25k. This comes to about the same as tinning-up and demolition.

A recent Freedom of Information Request to the council has revealed that it is currently holding 2191 empty homes which were acquired for demolition.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

'These are Lovely Houses'

The bedroom at No.21, with boards exposed and walls painted
SAVE visited No.21 today and met Chris, one of our two house guardians. He and his partner, Leah, have already started to transform the place  - stripping wallpaper, painting rooms and varnishing some of the excellent wooden floors. Chris, soft-spoken and thoughtul, was clearly enjoying the project. 'These are lovely houses' he told me.

Seeing what Camelot and the house guardians had achieved in just 3 weeks, the council's deliberate neglect of the hundreds of other tinned-up houses in the street appears all the more shameful. With a modest cash injection - a fraction of the cost of demolition - every one of these properties could be returned to a habitable condition. But the council is not interested in the houses, just the land, even though its developer partner is no longer interested in building new houses. The power, and money, now rests with the Housing Association Plus Dane. Plus Dane is a a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) which owns many of the houses in the Welsh Streets area and stands to benefit from rebuilding. Although it receives millions of pounds of public subsidy from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) it is, like all RSLs completely unaccountable. Since 2005 it has openly colluded with the council in emptying and boarding up properties, instigating blight and contravening its own code of conduct as a registered social landlord - in order to prepare the area for clearance.
Home improvements: within a few weeks our house guardians have carried out more renovation work in the Madryn Street than the council has managed in 5 years, despite millions of pounds of HMR subsidy.

A glimpse through the grilles over the windows of adjacent properties is enough to see the potential of these buildings - stained glass in rear doorways, spacious rooms with simple but well detailed plasterwork and joinery. Thousands of similar houses across Liverpool have already been destroyed under Pathfinder schemes. In many cases their materials are 'harvested' by builders to supply reclamation yards in the south, with some of it used, no doubt, to furnish terraced houses of a similar size in Fulham or Battersea which now sell for millions of pounds.

A shameful waste: houses in Madryn Street boarded up and left to rot in the midst of a housing crisis

The Camelot team in front of No.21

Friday, 17 June 2011

New Blow to Welsh Streets Demolition Plans

More good news today. The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, has responded to a request by SAVE and ruled that demolition plans for Madryn Street and the other Welsh Streets should be subject to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The council will now be required to submit a new, full, planning application for demolition. Permitted development rights - which the council was using to fast-track demolition - have been suspended and the controversial plans will now be subject to the full scrutiny of the EIA process. Most importantly, the council will now be required to properly examine alternatives to demolition, including renovation and refurbishment, something that it has so far refused to do. With permitted development rights suspended under EIA, it will be possible for local people and other objectors to scrutinise plans and to challenge the principle of demolition, rather than simply the method of demolition.
This is a massively important decision which could spell the end of fast-tracked mass demolitions. At last, Liverpool Council’s draconian approach to flattening neighbourhoods without full planning scrutiny, has been challenged. This will finally force the council to look at alternatives to demolition and we hope that this will open the way for individuals, housing co-ops and developers to take on and renovate these houses and reverse years of council-sponsored decline.
In a press statement, planning specialist and Pathfinder resident Jonathan Brown added this: ‘It has been obscene to see authorities acquire, evict, devalue and demolish thousands of Victorian terraced houses without even submitting a full planning application, simply so the land they stand on can be handed to development driven quangos for private profit.

For the sake of over twenty thousand people on Liverpool's waiting list, and millions more in acute housing need across Britain, we must hope this drives away the long shadow cast by the great housing market renewal scandal, and will lead to the renovation of thousands of good, solid Victorian terraces written-off by Pathfinder as obsolete.'

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A 'bright glimmer of hope' as Camelot's guardian angels move in to No.21

Madryn Street, Liverpool - emptied and 'tinned-up' by the council at huge expense.
21 Madryn Street is now occupied. A young couple (and their dog) moved in, officially, yesterday. The news elicited the following response from Jonathan Brown of the Merseyside Civic Society:

'SAVE's ability to occupy their house on Madryn Street within a week of purchase is further proof Liverpool's solid Victorian terraces have a sustainable future, even after years of planning blight. 

With 20 applications to the agents Camelot, it is obvious to everyone that local social landlord claims of 'low demand' and abandonment are simply a self-serving myth, aimed at grabbing acres of land at an artificially devalued price.

Just imagine how easy (and cheap) it would be to revive the Welsh Streets if Liverpool council were willing to lift the threat of demolition, and offer the properties back to local firms and families for reuse and refurbishment.

It is high time housing ministers Grant Shapps and Andrew Stunnell call an inquiry into housing associations' use of public funds to write off perfectly attractive neighbourhoods, when the country is in the grip of the worst housing crisis since World War 2.   

Is it not an obscenity that ten thousand similar terraces have been emptied of their residents at great expense and left to rot, simply so the land they stand on can be handed to development driven quangos for private profit?

21 Madryn Street represents a bright glimmer of hope in the twilight streets benighted by Pathfinder's grotesque addiction to the bulldozer.  For the sake of over twenty thousand people on Liverpool's waiting list, and millions more in acute housing need across Britain, we must hope it drives away the long shadow cast by the great housing market renewal scandal.'

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Welsh Streets Before and After Pathfinder - the Shocking Evidence




Add 2005



Safe and Secure

We've just received these photographs from Camelot, the firm who are now managing the SAVE house at 21 Madryn Street. The house may not represent the height of luxury, but it is now clean and habitable. There has been a slight delay on the appointment of house gardians, but all looks set for occupation over the next few days. The Camelot team, led by Tony Brennan, are doing a great job. We could not be in safer hands.

This following comment on SAVE's success in attracting occupiers through Camelot has just been emailed to us by a housing specialist and supporter: 'It completely demolishes (if you'll excuse the term) the council's low-demand rationale for demolition. It's probably the only time in the last few years that anybody has actively tried to let a property in the Welsh streets, and therefore the best and most up to date measure of demand. It's powerful stuff.'

Friday, 10 June 2011

New Hope for Welsh Streets after Council U-Turn

Liverpool Council has announced it is looking for developers to refurbish Victorian terraced housing previously earmarked for demolition under a Pathfinder scheme. The works, estimated at £14m will see housing in Edge Hill, Granby and Picton (all areas close to the Welsh Streets) brought back into use after years of neglect. In a remarkable volte-face the council has admitted that it will be easier to find developers prepared to refurbish the properties than to redevelop new housing on the site.

The full story is reported in the Liverpool Echo.

Welsh Streets next? Watch this space.

Meanwhile, with emergency repair works at 21 Madryn Street almost complete, Camelot has been interviewing house guardians. The guardians will be in place by Monday at the latest.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Reversing the Decline

Camelot's contractor repairs broken windows at No.21
In 2005, Madryn Street was home to a happy, functioning community with satisfaction rates above the Liverpool average. When first surveyed about plans to redevelop the street 35 residents opposed demolition with only 1 coming out in support. Since then the council has acquired and emptied the properties through its agent 20/20 and with the collusion of the social landlord Plus Dane. As more and more houses were tinned up, the satisfaction rates fell, until the council finally got the survey results it wanted, and the houses were condemned. The whole process of decline (subsidised with millions of pounds of public money) was initiated and skilfully managed by the council in order to justify its plans to demolish the houses and sell the land to the developer Gleeson Homes.

But it seems, at last, the decline is being reversed. SAVE Britain's Heritage, with the help of the property management company Camelot, has started work repairing No.21 Madryn Street. For just £2,000 the house has been made secure and habitable. Broken windows have been repaired and a new front door fitted. Inside, the house has been cleaned, plumbing renewed and hot water restored. Two house guardians will soon be in residence.

Camelot signs mark the building out as secure

Broken windows at the rear are replaced

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Welsh Builders of Liverpool

Voelas Street - another of the Welsh Streets facing demolition. This photograph was taken before the street was emptied and tinned-up.
 There is a very strong Welsh heritage element in the Madryn Street story, which has been little focussed on during the campaign. Huge numbers of people from north Wales migrated to Liverpool in the 19th century. The first Welsh church was built in the early 19th century followed by many chapels and schools. It was a common saying that 'Liverpool was more Welsh than Cardiff'. The Welsh language was commonplace.

Many of the streets now being torn down (or threatened with demolition) across the Victorian suburbs were built by Welsh owners and builders for their own kin, none more obviously than Madryn Street, now of Ringo Starr fame.

Remains of the Welsh cm Church in Stanley Road, Bootle. Read More.
Madryn was the name of a famous old estate near Caernarfon (now a Lost House of Wales), but the reason it is called Madryn Street is because the principal harbour of the Welsh colony of Patagonia (in Argentina) is called Porth Madryn. Porth Madryn was the landing place for the  'Mimosa' which sailed from Liverpool with the first Welsh emigrants to the most celebrated part of the Welsh diaspora, the Chubut Valley in Patagonia [Trelew, Trevelin, Gaiman, Cwmhyfryd, etc.]. Porth Madryn is twinned with Nefyn in North Wales. Visitors from Patagonia are especially welcome in Wales, because many people are intrigued that (unlike, for example, those returning from the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) they generally don't speak any English, only Welsh and Spanish!

Madryn is a place name, but is also an old name for a fox (particularly a 'cunning' fox). It was the name adopted for the Welsh anti-nuclear waste campaign in the 1980s.

The Liverpool Welsh - article on the BBC North East Wales website

A Corner of England Forever Wales - Liverpool Daily Post

With thanks to Tom Lloyd and Trevor Skempton for their help with this post.

Pathfinder - a Shameful Legacy

'Coronation Street' terraces in East Manchester, demolished last year despite fierce opposition from local residents and SAVE
Madryn Street, and several hundred other houses in the Welsh Streets area of the city, has been earmarked for demolition by Liverpool Council as part of a Pathfinder scheme. SAVE has long been a fierce critic of Pathfinder and, in April this year, we published our latest e-report attacking the programme.
The Housing Market Renewal (Pathfinder) Initiative was dreamt up by the previous government. Although the initiative aimed to tackle 'housing market failure' in post-industrial northern towns and cities, the result has been a catastrophe - homes and communities have been destroyed and, in most places, the promised regeneration has not taken place. It has been the most destructive government housing initiative since the mass demolitions of the 60s and early-70s. Now the Pathfinder scheme has been discontinued but some councils, including Liverpool, are pursuing demolitions, even though the state funding for new housing is no longer available.

Good 19th-century housing in Gateshead, boarded up and flattened without any plans for future development

Our report, written by Jonathan Brown and Bill Finlay, levels 10 charges against Pathfinder and makes 5 recommendations. The charges are:
  1. Pathfinder prevented market correction – 1990s low demand and ultra low house-values proved a passing phenomenon, and soon became a relic as the economy grew - but Pathfinder ‘sealed in the rot’. Heseltine and Prescott's best work on urban renaissance was stopped from reaching the inner city communities who needed it most.
  2. Pathfinder talked places down – inner Liverpool was characterised as an obsolete urban hell by quangocrats - no way to restore investor confidence, and a travesty of a historic metropolitan core rich with complex communities and strong architectural character.
  3. Pathfinder diagnosed the wrong causes – population decline, jobs and access to them are the real problem, not low house prices or terraced streets, which are often solutions to attracting new residents.
  4. Pathfinder prescribed the wrong medicine – demolition of the very streets that sustain urban living, and replacement by low density standard layouts just repeats 60s errors and accelerates cycles of decline.
  5. Pathfinder ignored sensible solutions – housing refurbishment grants and environmental upgrades are well tried and far better value packages of regeneration improvements - demolition was too often a first resort to facilitate major land deals.
  6. Pathfinder distorted local democracy – councils chased the grant despite the damaging terms, and suppressed opposition through sidelining and spin.  CPO and eviction became a mainstream activity, with social landlord and developer interests placed before those of individual householders.
  7. Pathfinder rewarded failure – Social landlord executives and quango bosses grew rich while ordinary people lost hard-won equity averaging £35,000.  Housing management problems were disguised as market failure, and monopoly land banks built up with huge public subsidy.
  8. Pathfinder killed local economies – removal of people means removal of networks of exchange.  Empty streets mean no customers for the shops, no locals in the pub and no cars to be repaired.  The huge negative externalities of investment forgone, residents displaced, tax revenues lost, opportunity costs and damaged confidence have never been accounted for.
  9. Pathfinder worsened social deprivation and housing need – In Liverpool, housing waiting lists have doubled and entire districts blighted. Shelter condemned increased overcrowding. Civic pride is corroded. How do you ask children not to drop litter when the council have boarded up their neighbourhood?
  10. Pathfinder was environmentally stupid – In enlightened hands £2.2bn could have pioneered low carbon retro-fit technology and kick-started green economies, giving deprived areas a head-start in building skills and supply chain networks to compete in rapidly expanding markets.
Ducie Street, Granby, Liverpool. A street of very fine Victorian homes, demolished and grassed over by the council in 2010
The report makest the following recommendations:

New funding should be targeted mainly at repair and refurbishment, and decisions placed in the control of individual occupants and owners, as were the successful area-based grant schemes 20 - 30 years ago.

Mega-Social-Landlords driven by development ambitions must be brought under tight democratic control to make them better neighbours – 70% of their income is publicly funded grant and housing benefit. They must be subject to Freedom of Information Act legislation, proper scrutiny and limits on their monopoly ownership of entire communities. If necessary, they should be broken back down into smaller tenant co-ops and housing associations, as was their original intent. The HCA should not be both funder and auditor.

Area-based retro-fit to high environmental standards will help renew market confidence and generate economic opportunity in deprived areas much more effectively than expensive HMR quangos.

The constitutional implications of Compulsory Purchase Order powers over private home owners need to be carefully reviewed by Parliament – at present, 95% of orders are granted, with new ‘Localism’ and Big City Mayoral powers extending their reach yet further. CPO of homes should be a last resort, not a mainstream activity.?

A more respectful approach to deprived neighbourhoods that does not assume those with power necessarily know best – community regeneration should be about creative ways to revalue what is there, rather than aggressively seeking to remove it altogether.  Sometimes traditional urban forms are popular simply because they work.


The Report with Introduction by Jonathan Brown and Critique by Finlay Research, is now available as 3 PDF files from Here

House Guardianship - how it works

Madryn Street, Liverpool - one of several streets earmarked for demolition as part of a land deal with Gleeson Homes. 5 years ago the street was 95% occupied with residents opposing demolition by 35 to 1. Since then the council has colluded with its social landlord to empty the properties and board them up. £8m has been knocked off the value of these properties since they were left to decay.
21 Madryn Street is currently being managed by Camelot Property Management, a company which pioneered the system of property guardians - people who occupy empty properties for a minimal fee, to keep them safe and secure. I've asked Tony Brennan to explain how his company operates its house guardianship scheme. Here is what he said:

The back yard at 21 Madryn Street, now cleared of rubbish

Camelot has been successfully operating throughout the UK for 9 years. We were the first company to introduce the live-in guardians system of property protection to the UK.  We have since achieved ISO 9001:2000 accreditation for Quality Management from the British Standard Institute (BSI).
We comply fully with all health and safety, environmental health, electrical and gas safety regulations.  We work alongside the London Fire Brigade to ensure the fire safety aspects of our service are always fully compliant with current regulation.

Camelot Senior Managers have all attended the Fire Protection Association (FPA) fire safety course required to undertake property fire risk assessments.

All of our front line staff are Security Industry Authority (SIA) qualified; we also have company wide SIA (ACS) accreditation, the only live-in guardian company to achieve this.  For further information on the SIA, including the law relating to services such as ours, please visit www.the-sia.org.uk

We have both Employers Liability and Public and Products liability, including efficacy and contract liability, up to £10 million, with Zurich.  We can provide details on request.

One of the bedrooms at 21 Madryn Street. Camelot will be placing two house guardians in the property once the rooms have been cleaned up and the services checked
Essentially we protect through licensed occupation, a very cost effective form of security and management. It is considerably cheaper than alarms and patrols and has the advantage of not requiring the property to be boarded, which in itself can tend to present a target. Our solution can be used in an extremely wide range of applications.

We only accept professional working people as guardians. They occupy the premises as full time residents and manage the day-to-day protection of the buildings, preventing the property being hit by vandalism and squatting.
Guardians do not have any Tenancy rights. They are Licensed  to live in the property only for such time as we manage it for you. When you give us notice of the return of the building (Normally 3 weeks)  the guardians are given notice and vacate the property as requested.

Our weekly management fee can be as little as £50.00 per week. Our service is described generally below.

  • Minimum contract period of 13 weeks
  • Your notice period is 3 weeks after which the property will be delivered clean and empty on a Monday morning.
  • Each month an experienced property manager will visit the premises.  A written report will then be posted on 'My Castle', your web based interface with Camelot, to keep you fully updated on the condition or your property.
  • The property will be listed in our 24 hour alert service in case of emergencies.
  • Camelot will place its signs visibly on several of the windows at the front and back of the building.
  • Camelot reserves the right to use the company name of their clients in their external communications.
  • Each guardian will place a smoke detector, fire blanket and fire extinguisher in their living area.
  • Camelot will inform the neighbours and local police officers about the property protection unless you tell us not to do so. The reason for that is so that they know the occupation of the building is with consent of the owner.
Visit the Camelot website.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ringo Speaks

Despite what the council leader tried to claim recently, Ringo Starr was born at No.9 Madryn Street. To prove this, not only do we have a copy of his birth certificate in the SAVE office, but we also have the words of Ringo himself.

'I was born at Number 9 Madryn Street, Liverpool 8' are the first words, highlighted in bold, of Ringo's section of the Beatles Anthology, the band's authorised autobiography. 'Said goodbye to Madryn Street' is the lyric of his valedictory single 'Liverpool I love you', on his valedicoty solo album 'Liverpool 8'. A picture of an imposing Victorian pub at the end of the street, the Empress, fills the cover of his first solo album 'Journey'.

Ringo has spoken out in the past about the threatened demolition of Madryn Street under the controversial Pathfinder scheme. In an interview given in 2006 he said:

'Why are they knocking them down? If it is economically viable, they should do them up. Are they going to knock out the centre of Liverpool again? That's what they did before. They moved everybody to high-rise apartments outside the city and forgot to rebuild. I believe it's now very nice. They even have bathrooms, which we never had.'

No.9 Madryn Street (left) before it was emptied and boarded up
Since then Ringo has, understandably,  kept his distance from the controversey surrounding the proposed demolition of No.9. Yet, in a recent interview to mark the start of his European tour he made it clear that he would support the retention of the property:

Asked about the controversy over tearing down his birthplace at 9 Madryn Street, he said, 'Yeah, I keep getting letters. 'We're gonna tear your house down.' Then three months later, 'We're gonna save your house.' Then they were gonna save the house and put it somewhere else, which I didn't think was the right thing to do. If you're gonna save the house, save it where it was. So if they're saving it where it is, I'm all for it.'

The Madryn Street Appeal

SAVE Britain's Heritage is appealing for funds to cover the cost of purchase and repair of 21 Madryn Street. The total bill will about £100,000.

SAVE is an independent charity which depends purely on donations for its survival. You can give money in various ways, and if you label your donation 'Madryn Street Appeal' every penny we receive will go to the Madryn Street project. Visit our website for information on how you can support us.

Give now to keep 21 Madryn Street alive!

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Clear Out

Jonathan Brown outside No.21

Met Tony Brennan of Camelot on site to supervise the clean up of the house. A local firm undertook the clearance and as the rubbish went out the house came back to life. We even found that the emersion heater still worked. On this visit I was accompanied by Jonathan Brown of the Merseyside Civic Society and author of SAVE's latest report on Pathfinder. Jonathan reminded me that a freedom of information request had confirmed that almost £8m had been written off the value of the Welsh Streets Houses since the council left them to rot.

Before leaving we admired the graffiti on the metal door of Ringo's house at No.9. Dozens of tourists still visit the house each day. Few can believe the council is actually planning to flatten it.

I walked to Lime Street Station in glorious sunshine past the Welsh Presbyterian Church on Prince's Avenue, a magnificent building, featured in the SAVE 2009 Liverpool exhibition and catalogue, which is continuing to decay.

The Welsh Presbyterian Church, Princes Avenue
Graffiti on the tinned-up door of No.9

No.9 Madryn Street, birthplace of Ringo Starr

Camelot to the Rescue

Madryn Street even in its tinned-up state is strangely beautiful. We arrived there on a cloudy June morning. The pavement was overgrown with weeds but the fine street trees and simple but elegant houses showed this was once a dignified neighbourhood. No.21 has a rebuilt front and prior to purchase it had been targeted by vandals - windows were smashed and the door was kicked in, an inevitable result of its isolated position. 

Thankfully, I was accompanied on this first visit by Tony Brennan of Camelot and his assistant Paul. Camelot is a property management company with a difference. It specialises in finding guardians for empty buildings, people who will inhabit and look after places until a long term use can be found. They will consider guardians for virtually any property and, to my amazement, Tony was not put off in the slightest by the sad condition of No.21. The front door was barricaded and the house full of black bags of rubbish, and there was a strong smell of gas. Paul dealt with the front door, whilst Tony called the gas board, and contacted both house clearance company and his friendly firm of builders. They did a quick audit of the property and identified the minimal changes that would be needed to make it habitable (hot water heaters etc). They reckoned on recruiting two house guardians by the following week.

Paul deals with the broken door
The Madryn Street houses are deceptively large. Two rooms, plus a kitchen and bathroom on the ground floor and three bedrooms upstairs. Although the front wall had been rebuilt, good interior details survive including original joinery, staircase and plasterwork. There were no serious signs of structural weakness and (although the back bedroom was a little damp) no leaks. 

I left Tony and Paul to it, taking time to look at the other houses in the street. I noticed that the roofs of many of them had been renewed recently - probably just before the houses were condemned. I walked round the corner to Kelvin Grove, another street earmarked for clearance (but with only one side of it falling inside the demolition zone) with fine 3-storey, bay-fronted Victorian houses. It was tragic to see such superior housing stock tinned up and stripped of exterior detailing. These houses have a value of £120k-plus but they are still destined for landfill. Welcome to the insane world of Pathfinder.

From there I walked towards the centre of town along the majestic Princes Avenue (listed buildings and a conservation area). Occasionally, I glimpsed streets of boarded up and demolished houses behind - as if the grand avenue was a stage set just one house deep. As ever I was left wondering why, if we could get 21 Madryn Street improved and inhabited for the price of a second hand car, thousands of other properties in post-Pathfinder Liverpool were still being left to rot. Housing waiting lists in the city have doubled in the last 5 years and yet the council is still flattening excellent housing stock.