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Old December 2nd, 2012, 12:24 PM   #1
design_man
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It's not Flint Michigan, it's Birkenhead.



I was looking a bit randomly at this nicely made youtube video made in Birkenhead. You could have made a similar video in parts of north Liverpool and other parts of the city region. And there are also an awful lot of "city edge" tracts that are under-utilised and, whilst not as scary looking, are still symbols of massive economic and demographic shock.

But this waste seems almost sinful. We have unused land (a hugely valuable asset) and under-utilised people (even more valuable than land probably), and somehow just fail to put the two together.

Why? Well, much as I admire planners, I think they are largely to blame, with their obsession with control and zoning.

An immediate response could be to start growing trees that can be coppiced for fuel-wood or for carpentry, for example willows. Communities should be able to seize such unused land and use it grow things. Allotments look great in cities, and once land is decontaminated you can grow very large amounts of vegetables and also fruit in our climate. The people are often very poor in these areas, and food and fuel are very expensive, so it's important that people can self-provision where possible (although I accept that wood burning might be problematical in homes not designed for it).

This could then move on over time to market gardens and glass houses, perhaps involving communal energy generation. The Wirral used to have lots of market gardens. Why should we be importing tomatoes from Spain when we could have "Made in Liverpool" ones?

We could gift unused plots to groups of carpenters who could live on or near the sites, making furniture and other useful things - and teaching local kids and adults how to make furniture. It's not rocket science, you don't need a PhD in advanced physics, and yet how many people these days know how to saw a piece of wood, make a joint, or generally make something with their own two hands?

But I think it has to be taken away from Councils. They are obsessed only with control of assets or people, and prefer both to be left idle than permit the risk - God forbid - that something spontaneous might happen. The most they can think of is grassing things over, or put in ludicrously expensive bids for pocket parks that actually do zero to help re-populate or re-energise a depressed community.

And where the community have all "gone away" or are just too depressed to care, then yes we should gift houses to young immigrants - perhaps on a self-build model - so the community at least has a few physically able and motivated people from which to start out again.

Some say it's somehow accepting decline - the old Flint, Michigan thing of managed declined, turning city plots over to cultivation as a sign of defeat. But the people aren't coming back. Why would they? If you look at that Birkenhead video, the children of one or two generations ago, and their kids, are now driving in 4x4s to waitroses in new suburbs of Reading and Guildford, or maybe have got as far as better suburbs in the Wirral and Chester - why would anyone want to go back to such a place?

A bit of a pity Tony isn't on here anymore to discuss, as I know he had views on this type of issue. Anyone else care to discuss? Is this something we should be looking at?
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:14 PM   #2
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gosh, that video must have been taken a long while back!!!
have you been over to have a look at possibly Europe's biggest building site?
I will try and get some photographs over the next week or so, weather has not been brilliant.

People have got to live some where when the international trade centre is built, new houses are already going up
tree planting scheme is in place
most of the slums have now been cleared in the above video
Zones 1, 2 and 4 are well under way, 4 is the demolition of the old mobil oil site, which I photographed
across the road the vacant land plots, "work is in progress", so both sides of Beauford road are now being built upon.

Last edited by kat2; December 2nd, 2012 at 10:22 PM.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 12:49 AM   #3
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Slums? They look like sound houses to me.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 07:46 PM   #4
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totally agree with you
these houses look great, beautiful, made to last on a human scale
it is a shame and a further sign of the incredible wealth of the supposedly recession bitten UK, where not only sound houses but millions of tons of food and so many other valuable goods are simply bulldozed or thrown away
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 08:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kat2 View Post
gosh, that video must have been taken a long while back!!!
have you been over to have a look at possibly Europe's biggest building site?
I will try and get some photographs over the next week or so, weather has not been brilliant.

People have got to live some where when the international trade centre is built, new houses are already going up
tree planting scheme is in place
most of the slums have now been cleared in the above video
Zones 1, 2 and 4 are well under way, 4 is the demolition of the old mobil oil site, which I photographed
across the road the vacant land plots, "work is in progress", so both sides of Beauford road are now being built upon.
You are missing the point - as I said, the video was a bit random - to illustrate a wider pattern of de-population and under-utilisation of urban lands and "city edge" lands around Merseyside. I'm up to speed on the EZ plans, but they don't acutally alter my proposal one jot - we still have the problem of what to do with major tracts of under-utilised land and under-energised communities.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 08:29 PM   #6
design_man
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dane_e View Post
Slums? They look like sound houses to me.
Quite so. I wonder how can we get people to choose to live in them? I think those areas need fundamental re-working to be made attractive to people again. And that involves new economic and social activities as well as far more creative land-use policies.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 08:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baias View Post
totally agree with you
these houses look great, beautiful, made to last on a human scale
it is a shame and a further sign of the incredible wealth of the supposedly recession bitten UK, where not only sound houses but millions of tons of food and so many other valuable goods are simply bulldozed or thrown away
I agree. If people could grow their own food, and knew how to cook their own food, it would be such an improvement on the situation where people think the only option is to buy cheap and nasty food from a supermarket and bung it in a microwave. The poor used to self-provision or mutually provide, and it seems this has virtually been eliminated now. Childcare has been "professionalised" (god help us), clothes are so cheap in Primark that people don't even need to know how to repair torn or worn clothes anymore, and people aren't given the space or resources to store fresh food properly or to grow it.

It's just nasty and unnecessary and the poor are the biggest victims of the "convenience" lifestyle because they are served up shit they can't really afford, not nice things they can afford. People are not encouraged to look after themselves and their families and neighbours, they are actively discouraged and told it's not appropriate. Is it any wonder some people disengage from society and from their communities?
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Old December 4th, 2012, 12:01 AM   #8
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Your assessment doesn't make one bit of sense! the slums have been cleared because they are part of the current building and re generation, all the houses and plots of land you see are in the process of being built upon.

the houses are slums, they were called slums when I was a kid back in the 1950s indeed many an argument existed to say they were not fit for human inhabitation, thankfully today those slums are now long gone, you can argue all you wish, there not there any more, gone! flattend.
New houses with gardens have started to take shape along with the proposed tree lined boulevard which will form part of Wirral international trade centre
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Old December 4th, 2012, 09:43 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kat2 View Post
Your assessment doesn't make one bit of sense! the slums have been cleared because they are part of the current building and re generation, all the houses and plots of land you see are in the process of being built upon.

the houses are slums, they were called slums when I was a kid back in the 1950s indeed many an argument existed to say they were not fit for human inhabitation, thankfully today those slums are now long gone, you can argue all you wish, there not there any more, gone! flattend.
New houses with gardens have started to take shape along with the proposed tree lined boulevard which will form part of Wirral international trade centre
Oh I see, so there are no areas of abandonment and derelection in the city region? Mayor Joe is fantasising when he says that attention must be turned to Everton and other areas of the north of the city?

Which bit of this don't you understand? As I've said the video is a bit of a random illustration of a wider problem found around parts of Birkenhead and north Liverpool, and a related problem on the urban fringe found in parts of Knowsley. Do you know the city at all?
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Old December 4th, 2012, 09:57 AM   #10
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The derelict houses in that video look like substantial family homes built for the lower middle classes or above in the late C19th and C20th. I presume that the meaner dwellings in Birkenhead weren't located in the later suburbs of its north end but in the inner city, close to where development of the district began adjacent to the river. And these areas, what was once described as 'slums', are long since cleared. The more recent abandonment of solid, large family dwellings in non-"slum" areas, that in other parts of the city such as Waterloo or Wavertree let alone elsewhere in the country as well as other suburbs of Birkenhead, is baffling. And I think it's not just because of economic decline and the choice of people not to live there. Some unholy alliance of local and national housing policies and the RSLs must be blame here. Go on Streetview and a few streets away from the disgrace of that area and its unnecessarily rebuilding as Legoland are entirely intact and seemingly desirable neighbourhoods built of the very same types of houses that have been run down, emptied of people and demolished.
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Old December 10th, 2012, 12:59 AM   #11
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The development of Birkenhead North, and Trade port
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:01 AM   #12
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Birkenhead North And Trade Center development
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:03 AM   #13
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Birkenhead North Development
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:06 AM   #14
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:08 AM   #15
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:10 AM   #16
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:12 AM   #17
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:13 AM   #18
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:16 AM   #19
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Old December 10th, 2012, 01:17 AM   #20
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