And so the news we’ve been expecting for a week now has broken this morning.
“LIVERPOOL Council bosses have pulled the plug on a £25m scheme to regenerate derelict housing in the city.
Marc Waddington’s article in the Liverpool Echo confirms that the latest possibility in the long struggle for justice and refurbishment of the last remaining four original streets of Granby, in Liverpool 8 is, for now, over.
In the fallout now it will no doubt be observed that the 60 or so residents and the 140 empty houses have waited since March this year for things to get moving. To get moving after the announcement that Leader 1 had been chosen from all the bidders in the City Council’s tendering process. The Echo article indeed says:
“Council insiders said city leaders were “frustrated” with the lack of progress being made by Leader1 (Liverpool), and that several deadlines had expired.”
But the wider truth is that Granby 4 Streets has been waiting for years, since at least the mid-1990s. As wave after wave of regeneration initiatives have washed over the area to little or no positive effect. And that now the residents face yet another winter of living next to cold, empty houses with, to say the least, uncertain futures.
So what should happen next? The Council says:
“We would like to reassure residents that these areas are a priority for the council, and we will provide further information on the redevelopment plans at the earliest opportunity.”
Which is not particularly reassuring, given past performance.
Opposition politicians are calling for a public scrutiny panel to look into what has gone wrong.
So it could all build up into the kind of political and administrative scenario that’s gone on above the heads of the people who live in the Granby 4 Streets for years. Or we could listen to what the people of Granby suggest. Again from The Echo article, Granby resident Theresa MacDermott:
“I think people round here vary from being disappointed to angry.
Most of us thought this was better than nothing but it never really rested easy with us that public housing, if you’re allowed to call it that any more, was being given over to a private company.
Maybe now we can look at what’s going on in other cities and come up with innovative ideas of bringing housing associations, councils and residents together to do something exciting.”
What Theresa is touching on here is the work we’ve all been doing in Granby over the last 18 months to develop a solution that works for the place and the people, rather than for the ‘housing market.’ A solution that will create mixed and affordable housing, where the community has a stake in its own future. Rather than yet again being made to stand by while yet another failed ‘regeneration’ scheme happens around them. This is a place to be celebrated and cared for.
It’s time to listen to the people of Granby.
I’ll write more on this as it develops, but for now I just wanted to do my part in getting the news out and stressing that this could be an opportunity for a more locally driven solution, and not one that bets the whole area on a single developer and a one-off solution.
Marc Waddington’s Echo article here
Confirmation in writing now from the City Council. This in the Liverpool Echo, Saturday 10th November
Housing a priority
“I WOULD like to reassure readers that the city council’s decision to withdraw the offer to Leader 1 to refurbish vacant properties in Granby Four Streets, Arnside Road and Webster Triangle was not one which was taken lightly.
I am really surprised by Mr Kilfoyle’s comments in his letter, given the city has worked so hard to attract interest and potential investment into this project.
Had he asked me, I would have gladly explained how much ground this administration has covered in such a short space of time to deliver the city’s housing new build and refurbishment targets.
A comprehensive tendering exercise took place and bids from organisations were vigorously evaluated. Leader 1 was given preferred bidder status because they scored highest in the priority areas set out in the tendering process. This gave us confidence that they would be able to deliver the scheme and over the summer, the city council and Leader 1 agreed the details of the delivery plan. Following completion of negotiations in early August 2012, Leader 1 was presented with a contract by the council to sign. However, disappointingly, they failed to sign the contract. As a result, we took the decision to withdraw the offer.
These areas remain a priority for us. We are working as hard as we can to ensure this vital housing renewal is delivered as quickly as possible. We will be talking to residents very soon about how we plan to move things forward.”
Councillor Ann O’Byrne, Cabinet Member for Housing, Liverpool City Council
Well Ann, maybe this time it would be better to truly involve the residents, rather than just turn up and tell them how you ‘plan to move things forward.’
Update statement from Ann O’Byrne, Friday 23rd November.
In answer to written questions from a Granby resident:
“I would like to reassure you that the City Council’s decision to withdraw the offer to Leader 1 was not one which was taken lightly. Leader 1 was presented with a contract by the Council to sign. However, disappointingly, they failed to sign the contract. I am disappointed and frustrated about this situation, as I know how long local people have been waiting for this work to take place. These areas remain a priority for us. We are working as hard as we can to ensure this vital housing renewal is delivered as quickly as possible.
The Council is currently exploring delivery options and we will be announcing soon how we intend to take a project forward for these areas and meetings with the local communities will be organised as soon as possible, when further information is available.”
So no change there Ann. Just to re-iterate, meeting local people needs to be part of deciding what to do, not the end result of discussions from which they are, as usual, excluded.
Update 9th December.
Can’t give any details yet, but I understand there will be discussions in the new year, with Granby residents, about future possibilities.
February 19th 2013, update.
This morning the Liverpool Echo published news that some of the Granby 4 Streets houses will be sold for a pound. Their article does not go into the full details of what is being discussed as the solution for the area, as I know that discussions with existing residents are continuing. But it does look like there is now, finally, a chance of a reasonable and honourable solution to years of neglect.
Unlike the Echo, we’ll wait to see the details.
But is this all a case of supposed ‘good news’ being drummed up to deflect attention from something else? The Liverpool Echo story was repeated in the Daily Telegraph and got generally wide coverage with its novelty ‘buy a house for a £1’ angle. While this story about the demolition of most of the houses in nearby Welsh Streets, issued as a Council press release on the same day as the Granby press release, went virtually unnoticed.
Intelligent and positive comment on the whole situation from journalist Ciara Leeming in the Guardian here.
February 21st 2013, update to this post from November last year.
The ‘House for £1’ is being boosted by the local press as popular, saying 400 people are already interested.
Meanwhile the parallel story of the demolition of most of the Welsh Streets homes is ‘unveiled’ as a good thing that has now been ‘put before city bosses.’ It’s claimed that 70% of residents are in favour of the plans. But the methodology of arriving at this is questioned in this article, as of course most of the Welsh Streets have no residents.
The plans are now on show at Toxteth Town Hall.
Update 25th April 2013
This update from the residents of Granby 4 Streets
“At last, demolition is no longer planned for Granby Four Streets. Houses in Beaconsfield, Cairns Street, Jermyn Street are going to be refurbished. It seems likely – though not final – that Ducie Street will be new build, but the other houses will be renovated.
Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust is planning to acquire and renovate some properties, working with a private developer, H-D Social Investments, a local housing co-operative and housing associations Plus Dane & Liverpool Mutual Homes. We’re keen to put together a register of people who would like to move into the four streets. If you’re interested in either buying or renting some of these properties, you can now register your interest. Registering your interest doesn’t commit you to anything – but it means we will keep you informed as plans and refurbishment progress,and will let you know when open information and consultation meetings are held. We’ll also be keen to get your feedback on different forms of tenure we’re putting together.”
Living for the City
Looks like we’re getting somewhere, 1st June 2013.