Demolition on Church Road

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The Tranmere area of Birkenhead was part of the then Labour Government’s Housing Market Renewal area where old unsound buildings were to be demolished and new homes and facilities were to be built in their place.

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The centre of this area is Church Road where there has been previous demolition work and the provision of a brand new local shopping area, as well as nearby St Catherine’s Hospital former workhouse building being cleared and replaced with a new modern designed health centre.

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When the Coalition government came to power in 2010 they ended the Housing Market Renewal clearance and redevelopment scheme and many areas were left in limbo.

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However there has been some recent activity on Church Road and the last remaining old boarded up shops are being demolished.

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Work started on the demolition of 25-39 Church Road Birkenhead which is a terrace of two storey buildings with flats to first floor and retail shops to the ground floor.  The shop keepers were re-located to existing shop units further down Church Road.

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I managed to take some photographs as they are being demolished in the bright June sunshine.

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The Welsh Streets Part 2 – ‘Peaky Blinders’

This article follows on my last post from December 2014 about Madryn Street where Ringo Starr of the Beatles lived in his early life.

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As I explored the ‘Welsh Streets’ I wandered into the next street to Madryn Street – Powis Street.  I wondered why all the terraced houses were painted black.

Not being a great follower of TV series I subsequently discovered that the facades of the abandoned terraces in Powis Street are painted black after posing as Birmingham’s slums for the filming of the BBC series ‘Peaky Blinders’.  The second series of the programme was screened on BBC 1 in the Autumn of 2014.  The show is set in post First World War Birmingham and draws audiences of around 2.4 million.  The story is centred on criminal gangs in Birmingham and their battle with a local chief inspector of police who is tasked with cleaning up the city’s streets.

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Producers used Liverpool to recreate the show’s historical setting, with locations including Stanley Dock and Rodney Street as well as Powis Street.  The story begins in 1919 and focuses on the Shelby family who make up the fiercest gang of all – the Peaky Blinders of the title.  Peaky Blinders takes its name from the gang’s habit of wearing flat caps with razor blades hidden in the peaks.  The Shelby family are headed by Irish actor Cillian Murphy as gang leader Thomas who is attempting to expand their criminal empire beyond the Midlands.

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Sam Neill stars as the chief inspector and the second series also featured Hollywood star Tom Hardy and new wife Charlotte Riley.  According to the local press they were spotted several times in the Hope Street Hotel whilst filming was on-going in early 2014.

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The derelict houses in Powis Street were apparently given three identities in the series – the lawless slum neighbourhoods of Birmingham, ‘Little Italy’ and ‘Watery Lane’.  Whilst shooting took place in Birmingham and Leeds as well, Liverpool was chosen because of its towering buildings and striking architecture.  The location managers wanted locations which would give a Victorian industrial heartland.  The Liverpool Film Office have brought a number of film and TV companies to film in Liverpool before and they secured the buildings for filming, which were then painted black and stripped of their TV aerials and steel security screens.

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As the picture extract from the TV series shows below, Powis Street has been transformed with the actor Sam Neill along with other policemen on horseback charging up the terraced street which has a period industrial backdrop put in place at the end of the street with a little bit CGI.

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I commented in my earlier post that walking around the mostly abandoned Welsh Streets has an eerie feeling but with the sinister mat black finish given to the houses in Powis Street the feeling is heightened even further.

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I did wonder if the houses would still be standing if they make a third series of ‘Peaky Blinders’?  But on 16 January Eric Pickles, the Government’s Communities Secretary, blocked Liverpool City Council’s planning application to demolish 271 terraced Victorian homes in the area which he had ‘called-in’ last year.  He said that this was because of the “effect on the appreciation of Liverpool’s Beatles heritage as the birth place of Ringo Starr”.  Mr Pickles ruled demolishing the streets would be “short-sighted as regards the future tourism potential of Madryn Street”.  But Joe Anderson, the Labour Mayor of Liverpool, said the ruling was a “kick in the teeth” for people who wanted to see new homes built in the area.  SAVE Britain’s Heritage who want to see the existing homes restored have supported Mr Pickles decision but the ‘Welsh Streets Home Group’, the local residents’ organisation, said Mr Pickles’ decision was “shocking news” and they have called on authorities to resolve the problem “to end our 11-year purgatory”.  They are worried about “the continuing community stress, and the antagonism between Liverpool City Council and central government that this decision creates.”

I wonder if a solution will be found soon?

There’s no place like home

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.