Welsh Streets decision condemned

MAYOR of Liverpool Joe Anderson has condemned a decision by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles to turn down the proposed regeneration of the Welsh Streets – despite it being recommended for approval by an independent Planning Inspector.

Under the plans – backed by 70 percent of the local community – 271 damp and run down homes were to have been demolished and replaced by 154 new houses. Another 37 terraced properties, including the former home of Beatle Ringo Starr, would have been refurbished.

Today the council has been informed that the Secretary of State has overruled planning inspector Christine Thornby’s decision that it should be given the green light.

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Mayor Anderson said: “This is yet another kick in the teeth for the long-suffering residents of the Welsh Streets, who have now been waiting more than a decade for new homes.

“I was prepared to abide by the decision of an independent inspector even if it had gone against us, but it is unacceptable, dishonourable and completely perverse for Eric Pickles to continue to ignore local leadership, local people and then hold and pay for an independent Public Inquiry using taxpayers money, which he then ignores for naked political posturing.

“Yet again, this Government talks about localism but then interferes in the wishes of local people. It is absolutely appalling and smacks of the very worst type of political interference from Whitehall.

“This scheme was carefully developed and supported by the vast majority of local people in a thorough and detailed consultation.

“The residents of the Welsh Streets have already waited far too long for regeneration. They have shown real determination, resilience and fantastic community spirit, to fight for modern, family homes.

“I would like to reassure them that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in finding a way through this to deliver the new homes that they long for, and deserve.

“We will be looking straight away at how we can challenge this dreadful decision.”

Assistant Mayor, Councillor Ann O’Byrne, said: “Some people have been living in damp, cold conditions for far too long and it is having a major impact on their health.

“This decision is absolutely nonsensical and heartbreaking, but we are committed to finding a way forward.”

The decision, announced today by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), follows a public inquiry last summer which looked in detail at plans by the council to compulsorily purchase the last eight of the 311 interests needed to deliver phases one and two of the £15 million scheme. Three have already been cleared, two are residential properties and three are commercial units. Five are already vacant.

Under the proposals, the new homes for the local community and new residents would have been built to a high standard and will be available for affordable rent and sale, providing a diverse mix of housing for the area designed to be energy efficient and spacious, with many including gardens.

The Welsh Streets plans formed part of the wider regeneration of the Princes Park neighbourhood, with more than 80 percent of the 2,500 properties in the renewal area being retained.

The scheme was approved by the council’s planning committee in August 2013 but called in for public inquiry by the Secretary of State.