A new plan which could lead to the regeneration of the Welsh Streets has been unveiled by Liverpool City Council.
The council’s Cabinet is being asked to approve plans to enter a six month exclusivity agreement with development company PlaceFirst, during which time they will carry out surveys and investigations before developing a new masterplan and submitting a planning application.
The firm is a specialist development company with a proven track record in converting 19th century housing into high quality homes that meet modern standards whilst retaining their original character and layout.
It is hoped a significant proportion of the 300 homes can be refurbished, with some knocked ‘three in to two’ to make them larger and appeal to families.
Those in a really poor condition and too costly to repair will be demolished with the possibility of creating community open space and new properties in their place.
The move follows a decision in January 2015 by the then Secretary of State Eric Pickles to overturn his independent planning inspector’s approval for a scheme which would have seen 271 homes be replaced by 154 new houses, along with 37 refurbished terraced properties.
Mr Pickles also scrapped long standing planning and regeneration guidance which supported the need for large scale demolition, and replaced it with an approach that favours retention and refurbishment of older stock.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “All we have ever done is try to do what the residents have told us and it’s important to remember 80 percent of them backed the original plans for this area. As a result of the prevarication over this scheme from different outside interest groups we have lost a £13 million Government grant.
“However, given that the Government has changed the planning rules we need to find a way forward in order to get this area sorted out as soon as possible and I am pleased we have been able to find a partner that is willing to look into taking on the Welsh Streets.
“The residents of the Welsh Streets have been in limbo for years after the Coalition Government axed the Housing Market Renewal Initiative. To add insult to injury, Eric Pickles then overturned his own planning inspector’s decision on a subsequent scheme despite it being supported by the vast majority of the local community.
“PlaceFirst have a great track record in regenerating old houses and I know they are genuinely excited about what they can do in the Welsh Streets. I want them to crack on with the detailed survey as quickly as possible.
“We’ve demonstrated with the regeneration of Anfield and our Homes for a Pound scheme that we are leading the way in finding imaginative ways of retaining properties where it is viable to do so.”
Councillor Frank Hont, Cabinet member for housing, said: “We took some of the residents to Accrington to see some of the other projects that Place First are working on and the feedback we had from them was really positive.
“They are really focused on creating a new community for the area which has a long term future and I am really confident that we can come up with a scheme that delivers the best of the old and the new.”
“I would like to thank residents for their patience, resilience and support over the last few years and sticking with the area when some of them are in poor health as a result of the conditions they are living in.”
David Smith-Milne, Managing Director and founder of PlaceFirst said “PlaceFirst is really excited about this project. The Welsh Streets are on the doorstep of one of Europe’s most exciting and culturally distinctive cities. They are also walking distance from two of England’s best public parks, and have the benefit of highly rated local schools within a short walk.
Liverpool, like everywhere else, really needs good quality and expertly managed homes for private rent. Remodelling these Victorian properties creates an opportunity to deliver some of the most distinctive and exciting family rental homes in the city.
“We are looking forward to working alongside Liverpool City Council and local residents groups to develop and deliver this project”.
Irene Milson, Chair of the Welsh Streets Community Association, said: “This community has been waiting a long time for new homes and it is extremely frustrating that the previous scheme wasn’t approved by the Government
“We await with interest the details of this new set of proposals and will make our decision based on progress over the next few months.”
The report will be considered by the Cabinet on Friday 5 February.