Thinking About TenStreets: At Liverpool North Docks

No apologies, this is a big blog post about a big subject. The continuing revival, reuse, regeneration and renewal of a large area of North Liverpool, down by the docks.

It’s also where Sarah and I have the idea of walking to Leeds along the canal.dsc08213

Having been involved in what’s going on down here for the last year or so I got myself invited to a corporate launch thing last Thursday morning. At which and after which people naturally started asking me what I thought of it all?

I said “I don’t know. It’s complicated. I’ll need to have a think about it and get back to you.”

So I’ve been for a think, a walk, the same thing, and here it all is. Me and Sarah meandering round the North Docks, TenStreets if you will, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.dsc08289-1Our walk begins around the original Seven Streets from when the town was founded back in 1207.dsc08168 dsc08169 dsc08170 dsc08172Past the Echo offices and the Passport office we reach the end of the Business District, as it calls itself, and the edge of the city centre.dsc08173 dsc08174Then as we drop down towards the Dock Road and the river we actually enter a different kind of business district. One that’s always been more about making things and moving stuff around than wearing suits and talking politics in offices. Both essential, but utterly interdependent.dsc08176 dsc08177 dsc08178 dsc08179Close enough to the centre of things to read the twenty to two clock on the Liver Buildings.

“I’d never realised how beautiful some of these buildings are” says Sarah.

There is edgeland as well down here. Bits of leftover former things now gone, in the town where I was born.dsc08180 dsc08181 dsc08182

But what surprised me and maybe shouldn’t have when I first re-acquainted myself with round here just over 3 years ago was how busy these streets are. Much emptiness and some ramshakleness sure, but also much surviving and even thriving industry. Here in these Ten, and more, Streets.dsc08183 dsc08184 dsc08185 dsc08186 dsc08187 dsc08188 dsc08189 dsc08190 dsc08191 dsc08192 dsc08193 dsc08194Down Regent Street here is a mixture of long time and brand new industrial residents. Including Make Liverpool and Invisible Wind Factory, both much talked up at the corporate launch I’ll be telling you about. And both continuing the tradition round here of making things, as well as introducing new concepts to the area like ‘after-parties.’dsc08195 dsc08196 dsc08197 dsc08198 dsc08199 dsc08200We also arrive at the docks. Sarah here reading the permission Cream obtained for the temporary and big club structure they built here before Christmas, then took away again.dsc08202 dsc08203 dsc08204 dsc08205 dsc08207All the land and docks on the other side of the wall are owned by Peel now. Clearly a key partner in whatever might happen round here.

And the dock wall itself was the cause of much discussion when we ran a Beautiful Ideas conference over at Make Liverpool last April. Much talk of extending rate relief and opening up access to the docklands to the local communities of street level entrepreneurs.

As well as considering the symbolism and politics of the wall I always scan it for left-over evidence of our much missed Overhead Railway. Demolished in 1957 but still here in the occasional stanchion and bits of rail. Precious.dsc08208 dsc08209We arrive at the Bascule Bridge, the Stanley Dock and the Titanic hotel. Core parts of the corporate revival of round here. And we sit on the dockside in the warm February sunlight, eating our lunch happily in maritime and urban history, thinking about the future.dsc08210 dsc08211 dsc08212 dsc08213 dsc08214 dsc08215dsc08221 dsc08225Inside the hotel here was where the corporate TenStreets launch thing I went to took place last Thursday. Particularly involving Liverpool City Council, and Harcourt Developments who own the Titanic.dsc08216 dsc08217dsc08156dsc08155dsc08157 dsc08161 dsc08165Speakers included Mayor Joe Anderson and Liam Kelly From Make Liverpool. And the people there were a mixture of developers, politicians and doers.

The concept? ‘TenStreets’ is a branding of a loosely defined development area, mostly the Liverpool end of the North Docks, though there was also some talk of involving the Sefton end Atlantic Gateway in some way. Much talk of this being the beginning of an open conversation on what could work here, and of co-operation and community. All welcome and clearly well meant. By which you’ll probably know I’m about to be mildly critical!

Well it’s about the words. All over the big displays, the power point and the leaflets we were given. Like someone had cut up a Regeneration Thesaurus, thrown all the words up in the air, let them land in ten rough groupings (The Ten Ideas of TenStreets) and then printed them up as a concept. All perfectly fine but more or less meaningless, and definitely not inspirational, for me at least. Which this place definitely is.

Let’s walk on and me and Sarah will show you.dsc08227dock_5First we’ll go through a secret door, to a place we’ve not walked through before, just seen from a train.

It's the beginning of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Another way the North Docks area links to Liverpool's industrial past and the rest of north western England's industrial places.

It’s the beginning of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Another way the North Docks area links to Liverpool’s industrial past and the rest of north western England’s industrial places.

It's where the canal enters the Liverpool docks system.

It’s where the canal enters the Liverpool docks system.

dsc08231And also begins its journey to Leeds, 128 winding miles away.

The canal took 50 years to construct, around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. A reminder that large scale social and civil engineering can be a stop-start process, requiring many visions and revisions along the way.

Notice also the two youngsters behind me at the canal doorway here. We’ll be meeting them later on.dock_6Anyway, let’s just enjoy the magnificence of this place and its locks. An inspirational centrepiece for ‘TenStreets?’dsc08233dsc08234dsc08236dsc08237dsc08238dsc08239Later on we’ll come back to here and walk along there back into town.dsc08240dsc08242But for now we’ll set off briefly in the Leeds direction, having an idea as we go.dsc08243dsc08244The idea is this:

That over the next few months Sarah and I will walk to Leeds. It’s surprising the idea has never occurred to us before, but now it has. We’ll do it in stages, at weekends and in between Sarah’s sea kayaking adventures. But aim to have it done by summer this year. Blogging about it as we go of course.

Anyway, back to this walk. We get that the ‘TenStreets’ sort of ends around about the Titanic. But we know there’s somewhere a bit further along the Dock Road that’s very much part of the future thinking round here and was specifically referenced last Thursday by Joe Anderson. So we’re off along the canal, through the Vauxhall Co-Op Estate and down Boundary Street, to Bramley Moore Dock.dsc08245 dsc08246

dsc08247dsc08248dsc08249dsc08250

Passing this reminder of what so many of us are living through at the moment.

Passing this reminder of what so many of us are living through at the moment.

dsc08253And more local enterprises.dsc08255 dsc08256To Bramley Moore Dock.dsc08254Last Thursday, in something between a wish and a hint, Joe Anderson talked about the Commonwealth Games and maybe his “own favourite football team” coming to the TenStreets area. Well this is where that would be. A vast space which is currently more dock than land. But is to let, from Peel.dsc08257 dsc08261 dsc08260 dsc08259 dsc08258dsc08262dsc08263Transforming that would be a vast undertaking and could unbalance the whole TenStreets concept. But as has been said, the conversation’s only just beginning and Everton coming here is only between a hint and a wish anyway, isn’t it?

Beautiful detail just outside the dock gates.

Beautiful detail just outside the dock gates.

And a little more Overhead Railway.

And a little more Overhead Railway.

dsc08267In fact a light Overhead Railway might be a good way of getting all those visitors to the match without flooding the area with unnecessary car parks?  I get that an extra Northern Line station is planned. But a new Overhead, as I’ve long said, would be a huge and useful attraction.

Let’s go back round to the canal.dsc08268dsc08269 dsc08271 dsc08270 dsc08272At the canal the two youngsters we passed earlier in the afternoon have been building a raft.

Meet Mollie and Casey.

Meet Mollie and Casey.

Who enthusiastically explain to us both what they’ve been manufacturing out of found materials around the jetty here. Sarah tells them she’s a kayaker and both girls sadly report there used to be kayaks here – “That’s what this jetty is for” – and they’d like to see them back.

Anyway, time to see if their own partly constructed canal craft will float. And it does! Then is safely retrieved from the water.dsc08274dsc08275

Well done Mollie and Casey. And we'll pass the message on about getting the kayaks back for you.

Well done Mollie and Casey. And we’ll pass the message on about getting the kayaks back for you.

These two, and all the people who live round here are, of course, part of what will make ‘TenStreets’ work or not. How could it be otherwise?

Getting late in the afternoon now, time for us to walk back into town. We’re going to see ‘LaLa Land.’

Along the spur of the canal that used to go through the Tate & Lyle Refinery. All the way to Leeds Street.

dsc08278dsc08279But now ends here in the Eldonian Village.dsc08282dsc08283So we walk along Vauxhall Road to town.

Passing Eldon Street.

Passing Eldon Street.

Eldon Grove there at the end of it.

Eldon Grove there at the end of it.

disused land waiting for new purposes.

Disused land waiting for new purposes.

A plucky surviving pub waiting for new customers.

A plucky surviving pub waiting for new customers.

To Leeds Street, where the walk ends and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal used to.

To Leeds Street, where the walk ends and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal used to.

And we did get to ‘LaLa Land’ on time, thanks for asking. A good story well told as we hope ‘TenStreets’ will one day be. So long as it’s really a creative conversation that leaves plenty of room for the people already living and working here to stay here, take part in shaping the place and then stay on to live and thrive here. And not merely be a clear out by the big developers once the creatives, the locals and their needs and ideas come to be seen as in the way of corporate progress. In the way of a future already set and lurking inside the corporate speak of last week? Perish the thought.

This North Docks, this ‘TenStreets’ is pure Liverpool and whatever is done it needs to retain that essence. That’s what people will be encouraged by, join in with, visit, buy from and treasure as its new future is created.

So yes, I didn’t like the corporate power point but that’s what happens at corporate events, for some reason. What matters most from now on is the quality of the listening and the conversations we all have as the mutual and sincere desire to do good things around the North Docks gets turned into a reality. Let’s, as was said on Thursday, get on with it.

More news and opinions on TenStreets from Angie Sammons of Liverpool Confidential who was also at the Launch.

Consultation details on the TenStreets Liverpool website, where you’ll notice that the consultation period is very short, given we’re told we’re just getting going here?

 

18 thoughts on “Thinking About TenStreets: At Liverpool North Docks

  1. John Morris

    The locks are one of Liverpool’s hidden pleasures. And yes the “secret” door. All the hurly burly of traffic on one side; and solitude on the other. Sit there, watch closely. You may see a kingfisher. The only place in Liverpool I’ve ever seen one!!

    Reply
  2. John Morris

    Walking to Leeds on the canal, is fun but sometimes challenging. Anne and I did it about 6 years ago. No major problems with using public transport (to get back to your starting point) in Merseyside/Lancashire/Yorkshire. Although I do recall having to call up a couple of private hires around Chorley and Burnley. But getting back after going over the tops by Foulridge Tunnel, was difficult. No buses, no trains and very limited taxis. Looking forward to hearing about your adventure.

    Reply
  3. Kenn Taylor

    Lovely piece Ronnie. Years ago I helped out on a film they made about the pub singing scene in Liverpool for 2008 and we had a good night filming in The Goat. Be great to see that opened up again.

    Maybe I’m just an eternal silly optimist, but I do hope all the different things going on round there can work together. If it could happen anywhere it would be Liverpool. As an Evertonian I find the idea of a dockside stadium exciting, but I know what you mean about balance.

    Now I live the ‘other end’ I’ve pondered more than once walking the length of the canal when I’ve seen the ‘L’pool 127 Miles’ signs. Managed to do as far as Leeds – Skipton over two legs but no more. Good luck with it!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Kenn, we start our canal walk on Sunday. And we’ve planned seven stages, the last being a continuous one from Burnley and over the Pennines, into Leeds sometime late in May. Writing and photographing as we go – obviously!

      Reply
  4. robertday154

    With a project of any sort of size that involves a lot of upfront capital, there’s always going to be different interests – developers, residents (present and future), social entrepreneurs, activists, government (local and national), housing providers and quite a few more that I’m sure you can think of – that will have different perspectives, pressures and ambitions. Sometimes they will all end up pulling in the same direction; sometimes they will just lock themselves in place and strain against each other, expending a lot of energy and achieving nothing. A stakeholder (badly misused word, that, but still) might be an impediment one day and a major motivator the next.

    By keeping it small, local and focused, what you and the residents achieved in Granby was and is a beacon. But beacons attract moths, and there will be those who come to a project with their own agendas. Thinking along the same lines as you, I think any project like the Ten Streets needs some local residents to ground the project and keep the focus where it belongs; and if there is going to be commercial development, then those interests have to be represented as well and a suitable balance found. Of course, in an ideal world those commercial interests would be represented not only by commerce but by organised labour, most likely through the local Trades Council – but there I go, coming out with unfashionable ideas again.

    Local business leaders, no matter how well-grounded in their communities and no matter how community-spirited they may be, won’t have the same perspective. For instance; I started a new job last November on a business park adjacent to Warwick University in Coventry. We are looking at a mix of small and medium employers (plus a few outstations of national Names), and I’m sure that someone from the companies has some sort of link in to local development through formal or informal links. But I’ve noticed that the business park is a major travel bottleneck at peak times, and whilst it has at least got a single shop on the estate, for anything more than a sandwich you have to go ten minutes (by car) down the road to a small out-of-town shopping park which serves the university, local residents and local businesses, but which is inadequate for all three combined at the same time. Public transport to this business park actually exists, but it very much at the mercy of competing road users and consists of a couple of windy bus stops on some outer wilderness route and not much more. If we still had an expectation that workers would also have a say in these matters, I’m sure something better would have emerged in the planning.

    I suppose it’s better that there’s some sort of forum than just a decision taken from On High. But it’s never going to be a perfect answer, and disappointment may be expected at some point or other. Ho hum.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Robert, my friends at Make Liverpool are co-ordinating the production of a Local Plan for the area to help with balancing the different perspectives you mention and keeping things grounded. So we’ll have to see how we get on. to a greater extent than the Baltic there are a lot of existing businesses around the streets here, well entrenched and not to be easily swept aside. So let’s see?

      Reply
  5. John Viggars

    We went down to the Titanic on Friday to see the display on Ten Streets.. It needed a little more flesh on the bones but that I’m sure will come.

    Good to note you walking in one of the areas I also like to roam. The ‘secret door’ became less secret a few years ago after they removed the steel door & let people see they could access the locks from Gt Howard St. A good move to encourage walkers as even the inner-city reaches of the L&L can be of interest.

    On another note, I was talking to one of my wifes surviving aunts recently about being brought up in Regent Street (11 siblings being born there between 1921 & 1935. At no 40 approximately where the Make building stands now.)
    I don’t believe the environment was particularly favourable to children back then as she described the street as a dark & horrible place & does not appear to look back with any affection? A sign of those poor times?
    I’m really glad to see that the surrounding area is to gain a new lease of life. Perhaps new residents in the area will see it in a different light? I’m hopeful for the project however it needs to be different from the Baltic Triangle lest its ideas become diluted by the trade off between business & residential

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi John, I remembered you telling me about the secret door a few years back, and was delighted to see it’s been taken off.

      As for Regent Street and the surrounding places, the various resident businesses are in the process of doing a Local Plan – which TenStreets isn’t – to give them some say and security as the big developers start nosing around.

      Reply
  6. Malcolm McFarlin

    Very interesting blog as always. Photos are excellent. I no longer live in Liverpool but find your blogs excellent

    Reply
  7. memoirsofahusk

    Fab piece Ronnie. I love that area and occasionally stop to try and take pictures of the great heaps of scrap metal further down. Don’t really know why! There’s an engineering business run by a woman I met once – yes, woman – from Crosby somewhere down near the Titanic end too, they mend ships.
    I’ll get out and slip through the wall next time. I’m passing through.
    Thanks also for bringing me back down to earth. Being married to an American I’ve become a bit preoccupied with the daily servings of the new administration over there….

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Mary, it was a great moment slipping through the wall into a new adventure. We’re going to start our walk from there to Leeds on Sunday.

      And carrying on, resisting where we can, is all we can do in the political madness of Trump and Brexit right now. The sky, probably, won’t fall in, happier times will come – and I’m certainly not going to respond to the craziness by going crazy.

      Reply
      1. memoirsofahusk

        Ha, have you been reading my mind? I finally wrote an optimistic piece this week – am determined too not to let it drive me insane. Watch out world, I’m being nice!

  8. blithespirit

    Will follow your walk to Leeds with great interest. I’ve always wanted to do the walk myself, but to start in Leeds and walk home. I especially like the canal as it goes through Saltaire where my family are from. Good luck with it!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      We might do it that way round ourselves one day. Love Saltaire too.

      Our walk to Leeds begins this Sunday. From Liverpool, out through Bootle, Netherton, Aintree and Melling to Maghull. Then the train home.

      Reply
  9. hirstsj

    Fantastic post Ronnie. Interesting, meaningful, inspiring. I really get a lot of enjoyment reading the blog. Thank you.

    Reply

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