Welsh Streets, Liverpool
The Welsh Streets is a moniker for a collection of 19th century Victorian terraced streets located in Toxteth, Liverpool, England near Princes Park. The houses were built by Welsh workers to house immigrants seeking work from Wales.
|Type||Victorian Terraced Streets|
|Owner||Place First Northwest|
|Area||Toxteth, Liverpool, England|
|Known for||Birthplace of Ringo Starr|
Following a period of decline, plans were announced in the early 2000s as part of the Housing Market Renewal Initiative programme to demolish the housing estate and build new, but fewer, houses in their place. Despite the area being cleared of residents and houses boarded up ready for demolition at a cost to the council of nearly £22 million, funding was withdrawn in 2010 upon the change in Government and the demolition never took place. Instead, a housing renewal company took ownership of some of the properties on a pilot scheme, to renovate and make available for rent to determine expected popularity.
Place First, the company renovating the properties, won an award in November 2018 as a result of the standard of the refurbishments.
The streets include Wynnstay Street, Voelas Street, Rhiwlas Street, Powis Street, Madryn Street, Kinmel Street, Gwydir Street, Pengwern Street and Treborth Street. The Welsh Streets moniker is named as such given they were constructed by Welsh builders for immigrants seeking work and housing from Wales, named after Welsh towns, valleys and villages. When constructed, the street widths were generous, with the inclusion of trees that do not protrude upon the housing and have sufficient clearance. Maps from 1846 show that South Street, the road which runs along the end of each of the Welsh Streets, would have been a rear access lane.
The streets are within a close proximity to Liverpool City Centre and within 15 minutes walking distance to Liverpool Cathedral, which is clearly visible from the streets. Situated right next to the streets is Princes Park. The area falls within the Princes Park ward for local councillors.
By 1850, there were over 20,000 Welsh builders working within Liverpool who required housing. Land in Toxteth was leased for housing development, with the streets being built by architect Richard Owens and the builder D Roberts, Son and Co, who together built over 4,000 houses in Toxteth, predominantly during the 1870s. In the latter part of the 19th century, just under a third of the city's population of 450,000 were Irishmen born in Ireland, just ahead of Welsh immigrant numbers, of which there were 80,000 who had been persuaded to migrate by the promise of work opportunities.
Late 20th centuryEdit
The terraced houses have outlived many subsequent housing developments, such as towers and tenements. Whilst many of these houses remain, some have been demolished as a result of previous unsuccessful regeneration schemes. Around half of the houses originally constructed by Richard Owens, the Welsh Streets designer, had already been lost by 2018. The area went through decline during the latter parts of the 19th century, with half of Voelas Street being demolished and properties gradually becoming derelict as residents moved out. Most of the houses were still inhabited until early 2007.
Pathfinder renewal programmeEdit
In the early 2000s, the Housing Market Renewal Initiative programme was launched, intended to renew housing stock across the country and raise house values in perceived areas of deprivation, with the Welsh Streets area incorporated into the renewal programme. A survey in 2003 found that 72% of respondants were at least satisfied with their home and over half were at least satisfied with the quality of housing in the area, whilst only 1% believed demolition would improve the area. The renewal programme's proposals were to demolish 500 Victorian terraced houses and replace with 370 new build houses, with a smaller scale refurbishment elsewhere. When the plans were submitted, over half of the properties were under social landlord control. The basis of the demolition plans was due to the location affording an attractive development site once cleared.
Council survey data published in 2005 showed the Welsh Streets were broadly popular with residents and in better than average condition, but were condemned for demolition because of a perceived 'over-supply' of 'obsolete' terraced houses in Liverpool. When residents were consulted over the clearance plans in 2005, a 58% majority favoured retaining the houses over demolition. In Madryn Street alone, residents voted 33-1 against plans to demolish the houses. The land was offered to private developer Gleeson's and social landlord Plus Dane, with proposals published for lower density houses. Some residents were happy to be offered new homes, while others were determined to stay, dividing the local community. Some residents who were keen on staying expressed concern that the planned hew housing would cost around double (£120,000) what they were being offered for their home (£62,000), with mortgages unlikely to be offered to older residents. The Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment in 2005 stated that the environment around the Welsh Streets was bleak and that effective redevelopment following a clearance would significantly contribute towards regenerating the area. Much of the propertys' value came from investors who acquired the properties during Liverpool's European Capital of Culture period in the hope they could profit from reselling to the local authority.
Clearance proved highly contentious, with some taking the view that the houses are beyond rescue, while others believed them to be fundamentally sound. Campaigning charities led by Merseyside Civic Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage asserted that renovation would be preferable and cheaper. By 2009, over 100 residents had been rehoused together into a neighbourhood nearby which they had helped to design, whilst others had left the area altogether. Homes acquired by the council were reduced in value by 20% each year to allow transfer to the council's preferred development partner for a nominal sum, whilst still being within the legal parameters for achieving fair market value. A three-storey townhouse in Kelvin Grove, acquired for £110,000 in 2011 had been reduced in value to just £1100 by 2015.
In 2011, then-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles quashed planning permission for demolition and required an Environmental Impact Assessment. New proposals for demolition of 250 houses were endorsed by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson in 2012 and Housing Minister Grant Shapps, who visited the area to announce retention of 9 Madryn Street and 15 adjacent homes. Plans submitted in 2013 suggested that 150 houses could be built and 40 refurbished, including those around the house where Ringo Starr was born. The cost was estimated to be in the region of £15 million which would have seen the demolition of houses from the other surrounding Welsh Streets to be replaced with semi-detached properties. The managing director of the proposed regeneration, Claire Griffiths, suggested that 70% of residents had favoured the plans, yet housing charity Empty Homes disputed the credibility of the public opinion report, given the criteria used would have made it difficult to conclude refurbishment as a favourable option. The plans ultimately fell through when in January 2015 following a public enquiry, Eric Pickles halted the demolition plans, with specific focus on Madryn Street stating that "the demolition of much of Madryn Street will significantly harm the ability to understand and appreciate this part of Liverpool’s Beatles heritage." Pickles further disputed that the streets were of low significance, believing that the proposals would be harmful to what he perceived as a heritage asset.
With few alternate options, refurbishment was subsequently deemed viable, with the council agreeing a partnership with Placefirst, who had experience in renewing derelict properties. A pilot scheme in 2017 involved the refurbishment of houses in Voelas Street to demonstrate how the houses could be remodelled and to determine public opinion and uptake. Upon launching the scheme to prospective tenants, all properties were taken within the first weekend, with expected residents moving in around September 2017. The renovations involve remodelling some floorplans and knocking through to adjacent homes to create larger houses, whilst retaining some of the original houses in order to cater for various residential requirements.
Following the success of the pilot scheme, refurbishment of other Welsh Streets was approved, meaning that 300 homes would be refurbished or constructed, with the council hoping that around 75% of existing housing stock could be retained. The proposals involved knocking some houses together to create larger living spaces, with over two thirds available to rent and around 10 percent available to purchase. Long standing vacant land on Voelas Street, Wynnstay Street and South Street will become occupied by 52 new-build properties, described by the contractor as a continuation of the refurbishment of existing properties with the same landscaped communal spaces to replace the traditional yards and alleys.
The cost to the council to instigate and process the scheme was in the region of £21.7 million, of which the vast majority, nearly £21 million was required for the purchase of properties and the associated legal fees. The cost to secure properties was a little over £525,000 and just over £280,000 was spent to disconnect all services to properties.
In November 2018, contractor Place First won the Refurbishment Project of the Year Award 2018.
Notability and cultureEdit
Ringo Starr birthplaceEdit
Musician Ringo Starr was born in 9 Madryn Street, where he lived until the age of 4 before moving to Admiral Grove. The threat to Starr's birthplace was announced in 2003, whilst a proposal was made in September 2005 to take down the house brick by brick and rebuild it as a centrepiece for the Museum of Liverpool Life, contradicting Liverpool council's earlier claim the house had no historic value. Starr said it was not worth taking the house down simply to rebuild it elsewhere, as it would not then be his birthplace. Many suggested demolition of the area surrounding Starr's home was unsatisfactory, claiming "People liked the city's character, not packaged replicas".
By 2014, the value of the derelict house had fallen to just £525, having been valued around £60,000 just the year before. At one time, the house was owned by Merseytravel with frequent tourist groups visiting the property. Madryn Street remained derelict up to 2018, awaiting refurbishment by Place Northwest as with the surrounding streets.
Peaky Blinders TV seriesEdit
One of the Welsh Streets, Powis Street, doubled as Watery Lane in 1920s Birmingham for the TV series Peaky Blinders. All house exteriors were painted black to achieve the desired look and feel of the period. Filming on the street had to cease in 2017 due to refurbishment work commencing.
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