Way back on the 5th of August 2012 I made a post entitled ‘There’s no place like home’ [see https://briansimpsons.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/theres-no-place-like-home/ for the full blog].
In this article I went along to the last site being cleared under the Government’s then ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) in Birkenhead to take some photographs before the houses in the Carrington Street and Milner Street area of north Birkenhead were bulldozed to the ground. The HMRI programme was designed to remove old obsolete houses and replace them with modern new purpose designed homes.
Almost four years to the day I returned to the area to see what has happened on the site. As I reported in my original post the area was in danger of becoming an urban wasteland. The incoming coalition government had stopped the funding for the Housing Market Renewal programme launched by the former Labour Government in 2002 as part of its austerity measures.
However during 2012 a coalition government allocation of £7m got a regeneration initiative back on track and some 60 new homes were built off Laird Street at St Josephs Place on another former clearance site.
Further up Laird Street the redevelopment of Milner, Carrington, Thorneycroft ,Plumer and Rundle Streets was in the pipeline as the second phase to this development when I visited to take photographs of the old dilapidated houses awaiting demolition.
A private sector developer Keepmoat has now built out the site and they have sold the homes despite the challenging financial climate over the last few years.
The accent of the regeneration scheme has been on housing affordability. The properties were made available to purchase through the government-backed ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. Prospective buyers are offered part ownership of properties of between 25% and 75% to help them get a foot on the housing ladder. As their financial circumstances improve they will be able to increase their share of ownership.
Plumer Street, Thorneycroft Street, Carrington Street, Milner Street and Rundle Street have been turned into a new area called St James’ Gate. This sees the cleared demolition site developed with 125 new build 2, 3 and 4 bedroom modern homes.
The St James’ Gate development cost around £12.5 million to build. The site was very popular. The first seven completed properties were snapped up within two weeks of them being released for sale ‘off plan’. The remainder of the site has been fully sold and families have all moved in to their brand new homes. As I wandered around this sunny Sunday morning the residents were all going about their business in sharp contrast to the deserted streets back in 2012.
The St James’ Gate scheme, together with the previously built St Josephs Place development, means that Keepmoat will have provided a total of 187 new homes in the north Birkenhead area on former clearance sites.
Wirral Council and Keepmoat have further plans which could see around 400 new homes built in total, completely transforming this part of Birkenhead.
The Council hopes with the new homes that this part of the town will become a popular and attractive neighbourhood again. The area is certainly much more attractive than the old dilapidated homes I photographed back in 2012. It is right on the edge of the stunning Birkenhead Park and there has been other investment in the area with a new health centre, retail facilities and good schools nearby.
I wonder what we may see if we come back in another four years time?