Street fighters – Welsh Streets (for and against)

Mary Huxham spent almost 70 years living on Powis Street in Liverpool’s L8 neighbourhood, before moving to a new property nearby to make way for its demolition and regeneration. She’s supported the local Housing Market Renewal partnership, New Heartlands, from the start, and argues that much of the housing in the area has long been beyond repair.

Nina Edge lives a few streets away from Huxham’s former home but her views are very different. Her Victorian villa – along with all the properties on her side of Kelvin Grove – has also been earmarked for demolition under the Welsh Streets scheme, despite being highly desirable and in good condition. She is fighting to save her street and is convinced that modern techniques could be used to bring most of the properties down for clearance under the scheme back up to a decent standard.

** I have consolidated all my regeneration work – including four years worth of written pieces and more recent multimedia pieces – on a dedicated website, STREET FIGHTERS. Please check it out **

street fighters – Leeds & Clayton



Dave Hynes (top), feels like he is living in the countryside now all the neighbouring properties have been demolished. Meanwhile East Manchester resident Bill Booth (bottom) is sick of living in limbo, not knowing whether his house will stay up or come down. Just two more streetfighters.

** I have consolidated all my regeneration work – including four years worth of written pieces and more recent multimedia pieces – on a dedicated website, STREET FIGHTERS. Please check it out **

Streetfighters #16 – Goole


Last month opponents of the planned demolition of two streets in Goole, a small town in East Yorkshire, were finally given a public inquiry at which they got to air their objections to the scheme, which is being financed under the last government’s Housing Market Renewal scheme. Not that it is likely to make a difference, mind – in March the man behind the national scheme admitted to me in a Big Issue in the North interview that the outcome of these hearings tend to be a foregone conclusion anyway (which residents of course already know). In any case, the results will take six weeks or more to arrive, after which the houses will probably move to council ownership and be bulldozed to make way for new build. Here former resident Gordon Crook, who opposes their clearance, gives his thoughts on the matter.

** All my work on regeneration, dating back to 2006, is now available at my Street Fighters project website **

It’s Elijah’s 90th birthday today

….and he’s still waiting to be be chucked out of his house.

Last time I saw him he suffered three of what I can only assume were panic attacks in an hour. His face kind of crumples up into a heart-breaking mask of pain while they’re happening. They are terrifying to watch, so I can’t imagine how they must feel for him.  It’s the stress that brings them on, he says.

Anyway I did my best to get Elijah’s story out there to a wider public but I’ve never struggled more with any story since going freelance. Two national papers took it and then spiked it (unless the second one used it over the last few days that is – now pretty doubtful). A national TV broadcaster was interested, and then wasn’t. Each time I had to tell Elijah, got his hopes up, and then he was let down. The problem is that it looks like me who’s done the stringing along and letting down.

A regional magazine has at least used it and now it looks like a current affairs radio show may also highlight his story. I am keeping everything crossed that they follow through with it. I don’t believe it can change anything for Elijah – since the ownership of his house has already legally transferred to Oldham Council under a Compulsory Purchase Order – but from his point of view, at least it will kick the authorities in the teeth with a little adverse publicity.

I hope he manages to enjoy his 90th, despite the dispicable way he’s being treated by the powers that be. Let’s just listen to his words again…..

Street fighters #15 – Barrow in Furness


Ann Hillman was the lynchpin of the campaign against the clearance of two streets in central Barrow-in-Furness (Cumbria) but she finally moved from her lifelong home just days before Christmas 2009.
Here she describes how her community lost heart as the council planned its demolition. No firm plans are in place for the streets being bulldozed.

** All my work on regeneration, dating back to 2006, is now available at my Street Fighters project website **

Streetfighters #14 – Gary Loftus, Manchester Beswick

“The end result seems to be that the people that deal with the problems are then portrayed as the problem” – Gary Loftus


I first met Gary Loftus and Jonathan Cross in spring 2007 and stayed in close touch with them over a period of about six months, until they were ready to go public with a huge list of complaints they had about the new property they had bought off plan in Beswick, part of the New East Manchester Housing Market Renewal area. We got their story into a number of publications, including this feature in Inside Housing. The result was that the developer offered to buy back their property – an offer they refused – although three years later a number of issues persist.

Gary and Jonathan are exactly the kind of people regeneration schemes like New East Manchester are meant to be about….bright professionals who have lived in East Manchester their whole lives and who bought into the vision of lovely, modern mixed tenure communities. The reality, as Gary explains in the clip above, hasn’t been quite so rosy.

Quoting from my orginal piece:

“We’ve had in excess of 300 faults. We’ve had two en-suite showers, two kitchens, six front doors and three lawns.

“All the rear windows had to be replaced, we’ve had problems with our patio doors and tiles replaced…”

He takes a deep breath and carries on: “All the properties were fitted with Whispergens – a combined heat and power system which keeps breaking down. We’re meant to be having them replaced, but they’ve been taken off the market.

“On top of this, the builders have breached their planning consent. Our house ended up around 60 sq ft bigger than it should have been, and we’ve been advised by the council’s planning department that a retrospective application is now needed.”

…….Cross is not a one-off. I met residents of more than 10 neighbouring properties, and all told a similar story.

“We’ve faced fault after fault,” says Alan Jones, who chose the development for its proximity to his beloved Manchester City FC.

“Twelve windows had to be replaced because they were scratched. Ceilings have been replastered because it was all falling off. The kitchen was put in wrong.

“Lead blew off the roof in the high winds and smashed our shed. The render was cracked and three internal doors have been replaced. Electric wires had not been screwed in properly. The list goes on.”

** All my work on regeneration, dating back to 2006, is now available at my Street Fighters project website **

Street fighters #13 – Elizabeth Pascoe

Interesting murmurs in Liverpool, where the new Labour council administration has vowed to launch an “urgent review” of the Housing Market Renewal (HMR) scheme which has seen so many communities decimated and decent homes demolished over the past seven years, amid claims that people no longer aspire to live in terraced housing.

This thinking will be of cold comfort to the many residents who have already gone through years of stress as they watch their areas decline, topped off by being forced out by Compulsory Purchase Order.

I’m prepared to accept that there are many people who do okay out of this process but it’s not really their voices that I’ve been trying to capture here.

And any pastiche of Housing Market Renewal campaigners would be incomplete without Elizabeth Pascoe, who – along with a group of neighbours – fought unsuccessfully through two public inquiries and numerous high court hearings to prevent her home from being bulldozed as part of a road-widening scheme.

Elizabeth was forced to leave her home off Edge Lane, Liverpool, in March this year and her house may well have been cleared by now. New housing in its place will be funded by HMR.

Or will it?

None of the nine HMR Pathfinder schemes running across the North of England has any funding agreed beyond the current 2010-11 financial year. The Tories haven’t said a huge amount about what they plan to do but it’s possible that a change in government – not to mention the UK’s huge public sector deficit – could herald a change in direction for the programme.

Over to Elizabeth. [** apologies in advance for the extremely ropey audio here. This was recorded before I honed my skills with some training with duckrabbit]


Street fighters #12 – Liverpool Picton

The leader of Liverpool Council made quite an astonishing admission today – but also quite a calculated one. He admitted publicly – for the first time as I understand it – that the city’s Housing Market Renewal scheme has been a shambles which has wreaked untold damage on the communities it is meant to be regenerating.

Quite a confession, but the timing is no accident. The city council is, after all, a Lib Dem administration which has been behind the rolling out of this heavy-handed New Labour regeneration scheme. Now, with two weeks to go before the general election and when the writing would appear to be on the wall for the government, it would seem that the council is trying to distance itself from what has been a controversial and divisive programme.

I found out about this interview in an email from a housing campaigner in Liverpool, who forwarded it onto a number of contacts. One of the responses I was copied in to was from Steve Ord, a former Liverpool resident and landlord who I’ve interviewed for my Street Fighters project.

“So does that mean I can have my house back?” was his bitter response.

Steve Ord’s former family home in Picton, an area in Liverpool’s Wavertree neighbourhood, was taken from him after his opposition group lost a public inquiry into a Compulsory Purchase Order. The property, which he was renting out to students – accounting for 45 per cent of his total income -may well have been demolished by now. Along with most of his childhood landmarks.

Please listen to it in Steve’s own words: