Pickles blocks demolition of homes surrounding former Beatle's birthplace

Out-Law News | 19 Jan 2015 | 5:29 pm | 1 min. read

Secretary of state for communities and local government (SoS) Eric Pickles has refused planning permission for a scheme that would have resulted in the demolition of more than 400 Victorian terraced houses surrounding the birthplace of former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

Neighbourhood investor Plus Dane Group applied to Liverpool City Council in February 2013 for permission to demolish 439 Victorian terraced houses and to provide 164 new and refurbished homes in the Welsh Streets area of Liverpool. The proposed six hectare development site included the birthplace of Ringo Starr at 9 Madryn Street, which was proposed to be retained under the plans along with certain of the surrounding buildings.

The application was called in for determination by the SoS in September 2013 and a decision letter (81-page / 1.2 MB PDF) was issued on Pickles' behalf on 15 January. The decision letter said Pickles disagreed with planning inspector C Thornby's recommendation to grant permission for the scheme.

The letter said Pickles agreed with the planning inspector that the proposed scheme would widen the choice of housing types in the area, including larger family homes and accessible housing. The SoS also agreed that the scheme had been shown to be deliverable and that local construction jobs would be created should permission be granted.

However, Pickles found that the proposals were inconsistent with UK government policies for conserving and enhancing the historic environment, the letter said. Pickles found that, while a stub of the terraces surrounding Starr's birthplace would be retained under the plans, the demolition of much of Madryn Street would "significantly harm the ability to understand and appreciate this part of Liverpool's Beatles heritage".

The SoS noted that there were other surviving terraced streets in the area with similar character to those that would be lost, but placed "importance on the actual street where [Starr] was born", the letter said. Pickles also agreed with representations from campaign group Save Britain's Heritage that "the proposals would be short sighted as regards the future tourism potential of Madryn Street", the letter said.

The letter noted that bringing empty homes back into use was an intention of the UK government, stated in the National Planning Policy Framework and that the demolition and replacement of empty homes was not precluded in the Council's housing strategy. However, the SoS said that "demolition of existing homes should be the last option" and was not persuaded that all options "involving less demolition and more refurbishment" had been considered.

The SoS also found that "the design of the proposal is poor and fails to respond to the local character", the letter said. Pickles noted that the existing street line would be weakened under the proposals, housing density in the area would be halved, and mature trees would be lost.

Plus Dane Group, or any other interested party, has six weeks to challenge the decision in the High Court.