Saturday, 22 July 2017

Kirkdale impasse

Kirkdale sits to the north of Liverpool city centre, it stretches all the way from Leeds street to the border with Sefton and from the River to Scotland Road & Walton Vale. It used to be a densely packed area and was often described as having "great community spirit" but that also went with "great sectarian violence".
Kirkdale centered on the site of application 17F/0587


It was an area with great pockets of the deepest poverty, the earliest records of my paternal grandfather's family have all 7 of them living in a cellar on Limekiln Lane. Each floor of the house would be rented out to different families, I believe it was the English who got the ground floor and the Scots the upper, though it may be the other way around, whichever way it was the English got the best floor. Oh, and by floor, this could be a single room and the stairs would be a ladder.
My earliest memories of the area date from the early 70s getting a bus through the area it was a bit run down but largely intact. The main roads were lined the entire length by buildings mostly terraces with shops on the ground floor and the occasional ornate pub.
Towards the end of the 70s when my family got a car I can remember going along Vauxhall and I swear I remember the heat when driving past the Tate and Lyle refinery. Further, at around Marybone, there was a petrol station but under a set of offices.


Drive down either Scotland Road or Stanley Road and then you are in for a grim journey, what was once an entirely built-up area of terraces both great and small, is now a patchwork of derelict land, grassed over with the odd tree and interspersed with the corpses of roads that ran through it. The residential part used to be to the east of Vauxhall Road to the west of the was industrial and the docks, most of the industry is gone as is the housing to the east. In place of the Tate and Lyle factory has sprung up the Eldonian Village a scab of semi-detached suburbia, taking what should be prime sites for offices or industry.
You'll often hear complaints that areas like Kirkdale do not have the same services as other parts of the city, often accompanied by comments that they have lost various ones. It is true they have but the services that were in the area were there to serve a large community both residential and industrial. When the infrastructure needs replacing or cuts need to be made, Kirkdale's reduced population meant that it didn't have a large enough population to justify the services. So whether they be council or private businesses they either closed down or moved out. If you want them back then you need a bigger population and that will not happen with bungalows and semi-detached houses.


Looking north

A recent planning application 17F/0587 has caused a lot of debate, one organisation, whose HQ is opposite the proposed site, it is to the left of the above image, put up the following tweet.
It uses some interesting phrases "absent landlord", I'll assume this is shorthand for "Absentee landlord", this in a derogatory sense applied to 2 groups, one is landlords who rent out their property but do not ensure the maintenance of the property, they are absent from the life of the property, not simply absent from the local area. The other is to do with the large holdings in Ireland granted during the plantation of Ireland to English landlords who simply rented out the entire holding and still resided in England and simply took the wealth out of Ireland and spent it in England.
The term is not really applicable in either sense here as the owners of these properties have to release them on a regular basis if they fall into disappear people will go elsewhere. It also unclear how they are irresponsible.
The other claim is that they are putting "profit before people", this kind of phrase was often used when dangerous working practices cause harm to employees or to the surrounding people. It is not entirely clear which people are being harmed by this building. Sure some do not want the building but that doesn't really constitute meaningful harm especially when the site being taken is far from unique.
Apparently "Kirkdale is an inclusive community" this quite clearly questionable as one of the things that have come up is that the locals want to control who comes into their area when that was suggested it garnered at least one like.
Students seem to attract a particular ire, it is interesting to ask why someone who had ambitions for their children who wanted them to get an education and get on would look at their children and see potential students but in this area, they seem almost a different species something that is nothing to do with them.
While I haven't seen it mentioned in this context yet, gentrification seems to be one of the fears of the community. Gentrification, where is it bad, is where it forces out those already resident in an area, it would take a lot of building in the Kirkdale ward before there was any chance of the locals being pushed out. The only building in Kirkdale at the moment could never be described as gentrification it simple regeneration of derelict land.
"real people" was another term used this is a worrying phrase at it suggests there are some non-real people, people who are in someone way fake or fraudulent and don't require being treated like "real people" it is a horrible phrase which covers up all sorts of bigotries and hatred. It is a phrase that UKIP & the EDL like to use when differentiating their knuckle-dragging followers from those they see as "the urban elite". Controlling who moves into your area is not usually something associated with inclusive communities.
One of the other phrases used as criticism was "multi-storey" anything over a bungalow is "multi-storey", in this case, the proposed development is the same height as the surrounding buildings, though being flat-roofed it fits in one more habitable floor but, this makes it the dread "multi-storey". The phrase is used to conjure up images of the 15 storey buildings that were badly built in the 1960s, some were awful but a lot were simply trashed by the locals.
What are the elected representatives of the area doing to illustrate the contradictions in what the residents have said they want, well it seems nothing. Instead, they seem intent on blocking development and possibly incurring extra expenses for the council. The recent blocking of application 17F/0441, a modest affair on Scotland road was blocked against the advice of the Planning Dept on what seems spurious ground, any appeal outside the council will all most certainly to succeed but will, of course, cost everyone involve cash, but it will allow the councillors to say look at what we did. In the case of 17F/0441, no locals registered objections with the council.


Some have suggested the site should be a Village Green, this is a bit of problem as Kirkdale is not a village but I think it gives an insight into the mind of some of the protestors, they want a return to the rural life in Cranford et al. but of course those are fictional sugar-coated idealisations, which never existed. While it might be difficult for us to understand today but the reason people moved to the horrors of Victorian Cities from the countryside was that life was actually better in the cities. Even today being poor in the countryside is probably worse than in the city, as everything is more expensive or far further away and the transport is very bad. What cities have is not village greens but squares like Abercromby Square and Falkner Square with gardens at the heart of them.

The future

This entire episode looks like a massive combination of childishness, NIMBYism all tied up with inverse snobbery. Individuals have conflicting ambitions and like children will not give up any but simply insist they should get there way. There is an unhealthy chunk of small-minded isolationism when it comes to people who might possibly be from a different socio-economic group. There is a complete lack of leadership from elected representatives, who know that their best chance of keeping votes is just to play along as they think the locals can be fobbed off with blaming others when their plans trip each other up.
It is pretty appalling and is not good for the city, the residents of Kirkdale want their own "managed decline" well if they want to live in the suburbs or the countryside perhaps they should go and live there. Kirkdale's location within the city determines what its inner-city nature should be, that is what made it what it was and defines what it needs to be, the city as a whole will have to decide to end the selfish NIMBY attitude surrounding the area for good and have to expose the self-serving attitude of those who seek to be community leaders exposed.
The community is a fractious one the Eldonian Village Hall was burnt down in an arson attack, I do not think anyone was prosecuted but the suspicion was that it was connected to some internecine rivalries. Who knows how many people are for or against this development, it is only the loudest voices the can be heard and they seem to hail from a far wider area than just Kirkdale.


This application was turned down today.