The Welsh Streets: On Site Soon

DSC04324Yesterday evening I went to a gathering at Toxteth Town Hall. It was good humoured, relaxed, positive and felt very much like a new beginning, at last, for the Welsh Streets. There’s still a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but several hundred empty homes here look like they won’t be empty much longer.

This was mainly a look at a pilot scheme.

This was mainly a look at a pilot scheme.

A pilot scheme to test out the solutions most likely to work around here. Place First are the developers selected by Liverpool City Council to survey the area and start bringing proposals forward. They’re a company that specialize in private market rentals. When I first heard about this I went to the City Council Cabinet meeting, as anyone can, to express my doubts about this sort of single tenure approach. Preferring more of a mixture of ownership, renting and social lettings to balance places. Anyway, we’ll come back to that and the solution that might be emerging.

First let's talk about drainage.

First let’s talk about drainage.

It’s long been said that many of the houses in the Welsh Streets are damp because of underground streams in the area. But Place First’s surveys have not found any streams. Instead they’ve found that the dampness has been most likely caused by the fact that there’s no street drainage, plus the small garden areas that were put there for rainwater to drain away have been long ago concreted over. This is why in the sketch above they’re proposing to reinstate areas of planting in front of the houses and have additional  areas for planting and drainage designed into the streets. ‘Because we’ve seen what’s been done over in Granby’ I was told.

Here is Voelas Street early in the 20th century, with garden areas in front of the houses.

Here is Voelas Street early in the 20th century, with garden areas in front of the houses.

And in fact Voelas Street, now only half a street full of houses, will be where the pilot building programme will start this summer. 35 properties there will be turned into 25 houses. Several two into one conversions producing three and four bedroomed houses. The remainder staying as two bedroomed or in a couple of cases single bedroomed.

Here's the pilot plan.

Here’s the pilot plan.

A closer look.

A closer look.

You’ll notice that the area outlined in blue runs from Kelvin Grove to one side of Kinmel Street. Showing that Place First are not planning to carry out work on all of the Welsh Streets. The rest, moving towards the Admiral Street end, are the roads which are still reasonably well occupied. And these will be the responsibility of the City, Plus Dane housing and of course the owners of the houses where they are not the City or Plus Dane. And this, I’d guess is the area where there might be more of a balanced tenure than the private rental approach in all of the Place First streets.DSC04332DSC04331DSC04333I suppose I’d sum up the atmosphere of the amicably detailed discussions as ‘relieved to see something happening at last after years of struggle and stalemate.’ Many years where it didn’t seem like the houses would survive at all.

Some of the people around the room here are amongst the most formidable urban activists I know and it’s huge credit to them that these streets will now be full of homes once again, even if it’s not the solution most of them envisaged.DSC04341 DSC04342 DSC04343Thanks to Martin Ellerby of Place First for talking us through the ideas and possibilities.

And to Toxteth Town Hall. Lovely place.

And to Toxteth Town Hall.

Lovely place.

Lovely place.

So the streets at this end will not be worked on by Plce First, but by Plus Dane and the City, I understand.

So the streets at this end will not be worked on by Place First, but by Plus Dane and the City, I understand.

Gwydir Street here.

Gwydir Street here.

This is where the two areas divide.

This is where the two areas divide.

The left side of Kinmel Street here being the beginning of the Place First area.

The left side of Kinmel Street here being the beginning of the Place First area.

Powis Street will be restored.

Powis Street will be restored.

After seeming like it would end its life as the backdrop for ‘Peaky Blinders’ the street now has its future back. And all that false grime will be sandblasted off.

And here is Voelas Street.

And here is Voelas Street.

Where building works will start this summer.

Where building works will start this summer.

At long, long last.

At long, long last.

And now friendly relations have been established I’d expect to see a lot more talking with community members around here on plans and ideas for the empty spaces, and building a whole new community for all of the Welsh Streets.

Nearly homes again.

Nearly homes again.

6 thoughts on “The Welsh Streets: On Site Soon

  1. Stuart St V Fitzgerald

    Many thanks for this superb piece, Ronnie. No change there, then!
    It’s exciting to see how all the blood, sweat and tears of the activists over the years might soon come to fruition and that once beautiful part of our city will quickly become a vibrant, vital and dynamic home to many families.
    But I have a query on which I’d love to have your thoughts… PlaceFirst is an organisation based in Manchester. I presume they’re primarily a commercial entity. Whilst it’s a great pity that our civic procurement arrangements didn’t enable us to find a high quality service provider which is a native of our City or even the City Region, I am very interested in knowing what PlaceFirst’s social value contribution to the city will be. I’d be very interested to meet their CEO/MD to discuss this with him/her and may well be able to help them direct their SV strategy such that they can optimise their social impact whilst leaving a legacy of significant social benefit to the city.
    Looking forward to hearing from you, mate.
    Stu

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Stewart, I mainly talked with Martin Ellerby of Place First. And while emphasising that they are a commercial operation he was very keen to stress their social conscience. We talked a bit about who’ll do the building works for example, and while Place First have their own building company Martin said they’d be expecting to take on a lot of local labour. So there is clearly room for discussing their social value contributions to the city now friendly relations have been established.

      So any time you’d like to talk Martin?

      Reply
  2. Sarah

    I do think Powis Street looks good all murky and turn of the century. I’m a sucker for nostalgia though. Love that early b&w pic.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Don’t think it’s a look the developers will go for. ‘Come and live in a REAL Peaky Blinders house! Remember those glorious days of the Great Depression when the children starved and all your teeth fell out?” Doesn’t sound very aspirational does it?

      Reply
  3. Chantelle

    I would like to own and live in one of these properties, it’s too bad they are making them all rentals

    Reply

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s