Picking a Path through the Concrete Jungle; Will the Latest Big Planning Scheme to Hit Merseyside Revive Struggling Areas or Repeat the Mistakes of the Past? Peter Elson Reports

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Byline: Peter Elson

THE sixties are regularly recalled as a time of great music and fashion. But its other legacy, that of massive and often unwanted urban redevelopment is something many people do not want to see again in this country.

Yet as writer Keith Waterhouse is wont to remark, the council bulldozer is one piece of equipment that local authorities never seem to pension off. However, the temptation for sweeping renewal is difficult to resist, especially in run-down areas suffering long-term stagnation. Sorting out the chaff from the wheat is an arduous task. What could be easier that pulling it all down and starting again?

Yet we a redealing with people and seemingly depressed areas often cling to a sense of community that means much to those living there.

The launch of the Pathfinder project has promised a much more far-reaching, comprehensive and longer-term planning initiative for Liverpool. It will be on a scale not seen for severaldecades.

Pathfinder is a pounds 500mgovernment scheme concerning nine council areas around the country. Merseyside awaits the verdict on its slice from housing minister Lord Rooker. A prospectus is being drawn between Liverpool, Sefton and Wirrallocalauthorities covering 123,000 houses. It will include areas such as Abercrombie, parts of Aigburth, Anfield, Breckfield, Birkenhead, Everton, Litherland, Kensington, Smithdown and Tranmere. A large chunk is earmarked for the Stanley Road corridor between Sefton and Liverpool to try to eradicate dereliction and improve the look of properties. The underlying problems are profound: employment has disappeared and road improvement schemes have damaged or isolated swathes of property.

With the many members of the population still reeling from previous wholesale regeneration schemes that failed to deliver, will the same lack of respect be shown for city's individuality as last time?

Back then, local authorities were obsessed with the fashionable idea that cities and towns must look modern at all costs -as if they were planning a location set for The Avengers television series. They were aided in this cause by various trends. There was the explosion of private motoring (meaning far more city traffic) and wider acceptance of modern architecture of the concrete, steel and glass variety (making urban renewal much easier).

AFTER the 60s town planning party (which lasted into the early 70s) was over, we were left with fractured, windswept, town centres, anonymous dual carriage ways and monstrous roundabouts. Soon new concrete buildings were already streaked with dirt. Much durable, well-built building stock in need of renovation, rather than demolition, was sacrificed.

Alarmbells have already rung for Liverpool with the Boot Estate fiasco, in Norris Green. This pre-war development was at first so sought after when new that locals once joked you needed a reference from God to get in. Unfortunately, there was an inherent design fault in the ferro-concrete design and construction of the houses. Rusting started almost immediately and the houses were eventually declared beyond restoration a few years ago.

After the council decanted the estate's population elsewhere, amid promises they would be relocated back onto the site after redevelopment, the scheme has now flounded. The city's executive member for housing Coun Richard Kemp resigned in the fall-out.

His successor, Coun Flo Clucas, has described the Boot debacle as ``a great teacher to me''. She has not shirked her duty. …