The Friday Walks – The Welsh Streets

Friday’s walk didn’t cover too many miles, not really. But it took ten years. I’ll explain more in a bit, when we get to the Welsh Streets.

Welsh Streets, Liverpool 8
The Welsh Streets, Liverpool 8

Setting out on today’s urban Friday Walk, it’s a darkly autumnal day and it’s clearly going to rain. But not yet, setting off along Ullet Road.

A carpet of autumn leaves along Ullet Walk.
A carpet of autumn leaves along Ullet Walk.

Some of the trees more golden than green now.
Some of the trees more golden than green now.
Into Windermere Terrace.
Into stylish and genteel Windermere Terrace.
And through to Princes Park.
And through to Princes Park.
More gold.
More gold.

Opened in 1842, one of the park’s designers, Joseph Paxton later designed Birkenhead Park and also London’s Crystal Palace. This was the first purpose built park in England to have some degree of access for the public, though full public access didn’t happen until 1918 when it was taken over by Liverpool City Council.

It's well loved, like the place we'll be arriving at in a few minutes.
It’s well loved, like the place we’ll be arriving at in a few minutes.
Deep into autumn now in North West England.
Deep into autumn now in North West England.

The Welsh Streets09

The park used to have this Doric Lodge by its gates, destroyed in an air raid in World War Two.
The park used to have this Doric Lodge by its gates, destroyed in an air raid in World War Two.
Turning left at the gates to get to where we're going.
Turning left at the gates to get to where we’re going.
The Welsh Streets, Liverpool 8.
The Welsh Streets, Liverpool 8.
So close to the park you can still look back at the gates.
So close to the park you can still look back at the gates.

But while the park has prospered in the care of the Council and the people over the past ten years, the Welsh Streets have been living through a very different story. One of doubt and demolition.The Welsh Streets15Where some local people and organisations wanted the Street’s four hundred and some houses demolished and replaced with new ones, and other local people and organisations very much didn’t.

This doubt and demolition has lasted for a decade. Ever since the then government’s Housing Market Renewal Initiative declared this a Pathfinder area and sparked off the ‘Demolish or Repair?’ debate. In fact the doubt outlasted the Initiative itself, which ended in 2011.

But ‘doubt’ isn’t quite the word for what started happening just a few months ago, when all of the local parties were talking constructively with each other. Worn out by ten years of disagreement there was finally the beginnings of reconciliation and positive hopes. That maybe if there could be a bit less demolition? Maybe if the proposed new build could be denser and less suburban looking? Wine and nuts were taken together and a jointly supported future looked like it might be arriving.

And right then, as peace was breaking out, development plans for the Welsh Streets were ‘called in’ by the government on the request, it’s thought, of a national pressure group. No local people wanted this to happen, even those generally opposed to demolition. But happen it did. And the formal position is that at some point there will now need to be a Public Enquiry to sort out what comes next. No one in Liverpool wants this.

Let’s have a look around.

They don't look great after years of emptiness, but actually these would be amongst the cheapest of the houses to repair and get reoccupied.
Wynnstay Street. They don’t look great after years of emptiness, but actually these would be amongst the cheapest of the houses to repair and get reoccupied.
Wynnstay Street, these 1950s houses built to replace others lost in the War, at the same time as the Doric Lodge in Princes Park.
They’re relatively new. Built in the 1950s to replace others lost through bombing in the War, the same fate as befell the Doric Lodge in Princes Park.

Voelas Street. This was the ‘Play Street’ where little children would help adults across the road. In 2005, when Liverpool won the European Champions League, everyone here watched the Final where we beat AC Milan projected on to a big screen in the street. Only eight years ago. 

Now so many of the houses are empty some shops like the chippy have gone, while others struggle to survive.
Powys Street, painted up 'old' as a film set.
Powys Street, painted up ‘old’ as a film set.
For 'The Peaky Blinders'
For ‘Peaky Blinders’

Six weeks of brilliant drama on the BBC. Years of blight here.
Madryn Street, where Ringo's from. His and some of the other houses here are currently planned to be saved.
Madryn Street, where Ringo’s from. His and some of the other houses here are currently planned to be saved.