12 April 2011
One of the UK's top structural engineers specialising in historic buildings has said the the Victorian terraced houses in the Welsh Streets area of Liverpool are easily capable of viable repair.
Edward Morton of the Morton Partnership revealed his findings in a report for the Welsh Streets Homes Group which is fighting to prevent the council flattening nearly 300 buildings in the area in the first phase of a Pathfinder scheme.
Mr Morton's report flatly contradicts council claims that it is not economical to repair the houses. He says '...it is clear that it is perfectly practical to retain and re-use these buildings. Repairs will of course be required but I do not see these being difficult ...' He continues, '...This approach must be more economic than demolishing and re-building, and of course will retain an interesting and viable group of Victorian terraces including Ringo Starr's birthplace in Madryn Street.'
These findings represent a major boost to the national campaign to save this historic neighbourhood. Until it was largely emptied using public funds under the HMR (Pathfinder) programme, the Welsh Streets area was thriving and popular, with a good mix of housing stock. The houses were built by Welsh artisan builders who came to Liverpool in vast numbers during the 19th century. It's most famous resident was Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, whose birthplace at 9 Madryn Street is due to be flattened as part of the planned clearances.
William Palin, Secretary of SAVE Britain's Heritage says: 'This report states what we, and local residents, have said all along - that the houses in the Welsh Streets, although shamefully neglected since being acquired and boarded up - are easily capable of economic repair. It dispels some of the myths being circulated about the condition of these properties and the prohibitive cost of their repair.
As well as the terrible human and environmental cost, simply flattening houses of this quality with an estimated market value of £30 million, without any plans for redevelopment, represents an obscene waste of public money. This report provides further evidence that the council has not been honest with the public about its reasons and motivation for these demolitions.'
In a separate statement Mr Morton has said 'It is tragic that demolition of these essentially sound buildings should even be considered. With reasonably modest sums, it is clear that these buildings can be put back into long term beneficial use for the community who previously loved living here.'
The planning application for the first phase of demolition in the Welsh Streets will be heard at a council meeting on 19 April. In January, the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, called on Liverpool Council to investigate alternatives to demolition, but so far all approaches to the council have been dismissed.