Tuesday, 15 December 2009

12 months is a long time in a terrace house (but not long enough)

Its been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog and the reason for that has been a lack of time rather than a lack of material. During the last 12 months, I have moved house so no longer live in the terrace that I was living in. However, I loved my terrace so much that I moved to another one just around the corner. This terrace is even better than the other one. Neighbours are great. When we were moving in, some guy from across the road came over and offered us cups of tea whereas other neighbours stopped to chat. The terrace has a lovely little yard where I enjoy playing football with my young son. In fact, 4 of us had a football match in the yard the other week which just goes to show that these arguments - about the 'need' for gardens - to justfiy demolition of working class terraces are just spurious. Such arguments are ignorant of the fact that (a) people make creative use of space and value it accordingly and that (b) Liverpool is one of the richest cities for green space in the country so why would we all need gardens? The city is littered with parks. In fact, my son and I are never out of the parks. And we also love our yard because it suits us: Its not too much upkeep and we are not gardeners. In fact how many people are gardeners or want gardens? Interesting statistic here:

The architects of HMR have sought to justify the demolition of terrace houses on the grounds that they are ‘predominant’ thereby restricting choice and furthermore because they lack gardens. Yet a survey of residents in one part of Liverpool (that is now being demolished) showed that only 1% of residents surveyed mentioned choice of housing as one of the top 4 things that needed improving in their area, whereas only 3% of people wanting to move wanted a garden. This survey was undertaken by some of the self-proclaimed 'architects' of - and arch apologists for - housing market renewal themselves. Strange that they have not had much to say about these statistics.

In fact, how about this for (yet more) hypocricy in Liverpool. We all know the rhetoric about the 'need' for green space (for which read 'gardens') being used as a justification for the demolition of working class terrace housing in Liverpool. Well, residents in one part of Liverpool were telling me last week how they have been fighting to protect the green space (village green) that is attached to their estate because it is well used by the residents. The issue was so contentious that it went to a public inquiry where 'regeneration experts' tried, but failed, to prove that residents did not use the space. The regeneration agencies were so desperate to show that it was not used that they sent photographers out every 15 minutes to try to get photos of it in an empty state. They failed to prove their case because, unfortunately for them, it was well used. But that did not stop the residents' green space being passed onto developers to build new houses for sale.

So, yet again, we are confronted with key questions about HMR. Is it really about giving people green space? Or is it about taking away green space from residents? And is it really about residential development on green space by large scale construction companies? The standard question that sociologists would ask of all of this - who benefits?