Wirral is an area of contrasts with leafy countryside, a varied coastline, affluent suburban areas and urban deprivation.
In 2003 the then government set up ten ‘Market Renewal Pathfinders’ across the north of England to deal with the high number of poor quality houses, problem neighbourhoods and abandoned homes in many of our inner city areas. The ‘NewHeartlands’ pathfinder was charged with tackling the problems of low demand and housing market collapse in neighbourhoods across Liverpool, Sefton and Wirral.
Birkenhead had been chosen for intervention as it has been identified as an area suffering from severe social problems such as extreme anti-social behaviour and economic difficulties such as plummeting houses prices both of which were causing severe housing market failure. The plans were to carry out significant clearance of older unpopular houses with the rebuilding of new homes to ensure that blighted parts of Birkenhead would be more attractive places to live for the future.
When the housing market renewal initiative was established in 2003 the programme was expected to last for 10 to 15 years. Not since the 1960’s, when the landscape of many of our cities changed as councils tackled large scale slum clearance, had we seen such large numbers of homes being demolished to make way for new homes and the remodelling of some of our inner city neighbourhoods. In Wirral the clearance of old houses with the replacement of new homes had taken place in the worst affected areas of Rock Ferry and Tranmere. The programme then moved on into Birkenhead.
However the programme came to an halt in March 2011 as the incoming coalition government withdrew the public funding as part of their austerity programme as a response to the severe national and international economic crisis.
Funds have been made available to finish off the clearance of the terraced houses in north Birkenhead. I went along to the last site being cleared to take some photographs before the houses in the Carrington Street and Milner Street area are bulldozed to the ground.
Whilst further down the road the site between Brill Street and Bray Street the old terraced houses have already been cleared and a private developer is building an estate of new houses; up the road the large site cleared of homes on the old Rivers Streets’ estate remains vacant and overgrown except for one last remaining house standing defiantly on Ilchester Road. The house is supported by two empty tinned up homes on either side and the Union Jack flag boldly flies in the front garden.