Tuesday, 3 June 2014

In advance of the Public Inquiry due to commence shortly we wish to publish comments by Nina Edge of the Welsh Streets Home Group which originally appeared on the Building Design Website on 24th July 2014.

These comments are published in their original unedited form.

"Clarification of the Welsh Streets and Constructive Thinking collaboration.

The Welsh Streets Home Group (WSHG) accepts the decision of LCC to consent to Plus Danes Proposal for the Welsh Streets. If at the eleventh hour the designs can be amended and improved, we will accept that too!

The Welsh Streets Home Group, along with English Heritage sought a proper design review of Welsh Streets design proposals, due to widespread concerns the design proposal in March 13. We would still welcome discussion regarding the potential to amend the existing Triangle plans to deliver higher density new housing, with potential for increased refurbishment, mature trees, small traders and street pattern. Given the proposed houses remain small, and the plots large is room for alternatives to be developed with no loss to the number of units delivered, and hence no loss HCA development grant.

WSHG commissioned some sample design options in Autumn of 2012 and Summer of 2013. The idea was to catalyse debate, improve design awareness and measure market interest in existing houses. Our feedback exceeded that which Plus gathered in response to the Triangle proposals, and showed massive interest in refurbished units and the unique park-side feel of the area. It was hoped to engage the scheme’s managers in incorporating these findings in design development, and thus avoid the critical attention the Triangle work is now attracting. The designs were sent to the chief executives of LCC and Plus Dane who have not responded to the Design Diplomacy initiative.

It is not possible nor appropriate for a small un-funded residents group to produce full scheme drawings or proposals that would be laughable. It is an achievement though for WSHG to have tabled discussion designs that show moderate amendments could deliver a scheme more suited to an important inner suburb. In doing so they had hoped to address objections, and dispense with the threat of legal action and delay. Any delay via call in or other legal challenge threatens a long-suffering community with further anguish.

It is within the power of Plus Dane the client and developer in this scheme, to produce an amended brief if they want to deliver a scheme that sits well in urban design and planning recommendations. Until or unless Plus Dane show an interest in upping the scope of their design ambitions a scheme will see houses in some cases smaller than the terraces they replace presented mostly in semi detached and terraced squares. The squares around vast 40m x 50m blocks of private gardens all fenced in individual 20m lengths. There is no criticism of Triangle, the scheme’s architect, who we appreciate have merely responded to the client’s brief. When the scheme is built we will see the number of homes on the site halved, and a scheme that reflects the client’s need to spread the HCA grant very thinly over a huge site, as if to create a situation in which mass demolition becomes necessary. Presenting designs in response to this paucity of design ambition for Toxteth was a tactic to move the polarized and highly personal debate forward."

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