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."

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Design Diplomacy

The Current Design Diplomacy Proposals are below:

For More Information on this project please feel free to check out the rest of this blog, or go to www.welshstreets.co.uk


Stuart Clark
Constructive Thinking Studio Ltd

Thursday 8 November 2012

Great to see Nina and Pauline from the Welsh Streets Home Group on The Great British Property Scandal last night, and briefly ourselves.

(credit channel4.com)

If you missed it go to:


The welsh streets feature is in the second half of the programme, although the rest is well worth a look if you don't mind being made a bit angry.

Excellent show, but we felt it was a slight shame they didn't really cover the financial viability angle more.  This is often used as a stick to beat the refurbishment proposals down with.

Fantastic to hear Nina's designs being so highly praised though ;0D

for more info on the project please email welshstreets@constructivethinking.co.uk

(credit channel4.com)

Wednesday 26 September 2012


Constructive Thinking (Architects) became involveed in formulating proposals for the Welsh Streets via a number of different circumstances and projects we have been involved in over the last five years.

First of all, we have just completed the renovation of two large terraced houses on Botanic Rd in Kensington under the TSB retrofit for the future programme. The details for this programme can be found online, but the interesting parallel with this project is that we renovated one of the houses to current UK building regulations standard, and the other to an enhanced eco specification. Both of these renovations were from a bare brick situation similar to those on this site, and were brought up to a housing association lettable standard. So far as was practicable, all of the suppliers, contractors and tradesmen were based in Liverpool or the North West.

Secondly, over the last few years, we have run university design programmes (undergraduate) in both design and research based around the regeneration of this part of the city. Not all of them have involved retention, and not all of them have involved wholesale demolition, but over the years, with our students we have explored a number of different options , and from this have a deep understanding of the area along with the challenges and aspirations of the stakeholders involved.
Finally we have been living and working in the Liverpool area for over 20 years, and in that time have gained a wide understanding of the culture of the city and its inhabitants. As such our aim was that this in conjunction with our engagement with the community during the design process would allow any proposals or ideas to feel very much of the city.

Our Brief:

There have been a number of different proposals for the Welsh Streets (by others), most of them have ‘engaged’ with the public to a greater or lesser extent, but none of the designers seem to have been given the opportunity to look at retention and refurbishment in any meaningful way. There also appears to have been only a cursory nod to the provision of community amenities. The very real threat from demolition has eroded trust and engendered fear within the community. We were asked to take a look at the viability of retention, and remodeling where possible, and to proposed some kind of amenity which could contribute to the integration of any new residents into the already established community. We were also asked to give some options for developer-led new build within our proposals so as a direct cost comparison could be made. We were to focus on the four streets from Kelvin Grove to Powis Street. Principles set out within this study may be readily applied to a wider site.

Constructive Thinking Studio Ltd. Liverpool Science Park, 131 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5TF
t: (0151) 705 3433

It's really important to us.  So important that we've set up a few surveys for you to complete.

Design Diplomacy Feedback: 


Welsh Streets Home Group Market Research Feedback:


Many Thanks

Constructive Thinking/WSHG
Video Fly Through of Scheme 1

Scheme 1

This was the first incarnation of our proposals for the site. Our aim with this scheme was to get as many ideas on the board as possible, and gauge the reaction from a small group of residents as to the desirability or otherwise of the proposals. The main moves from a design point of view are as follows:

• Remove the tarmac finish from the roads to expose the existing cobbled surface, and repair where necessary, this would have a couple of benefits. First of all they are a great traffic calming measure, as they’re uneven, and it makes a lot of noise if you drive over them too quickly; they are also far more attractive than tarmac.

• Selective demolition to form new pedestrian & cycle route through the site in order to give the site a more inward focus, away from the traffic on High Park Street and South Street.

• The currently vacant site on the corner of High Park Street, Kelvin Grove and Wynnstay Street is, at the moment used by local children for playing games. Our proposal takes this use and formalises it by providing a semi-enclosed sports pitch. Its proximity to the main road is however an issue so we have proposed a combination of fencing and planting not only to soften the edges of the site, but also to discourage users running straight out into the road following any stray balls.

• Selective demolition in the areas adjacent to High Park Street to provide secure off street parking for some of the roads. This would allow for the front yards to be reinstated and potentially planted up giving a greater sense of privacy to the reisdents, whilst at the same time making the street more attractive to look at.

• Following on from the successful historical examples of Abercrombie and Faulkner Squares in town, we felt that the existing, vacant area to the South Street end of Voelas Street could work in a similar way. We proposed that this part of the site be put to use as a community garden to allow for the lower level of amenity space available in the retained housing stock. The area would be enclosed with new build on Wynnstay and Rhiwlas Street, and to South Street by an orchard (more on these later) . The encolsed area would then be landscaped to provide amenities for the community. The following were proposed: composting facilities; community growing beds (formed from bricks reclaimed through demolition); skate & bmx park; childrens playground; covered outdoor space for events such as farmers markets; performance area/bandstand; and a community PV array. The idea with these amenities would be that they are provided and maintained by the residents themselves, allowing them to take ownership of them, engendering pride in the locality.

• The new build mentioned above would be in the form of plots to be sold off to self builders. The demand for this type of development appears to be on the rise, and it has recently been encouraged by central government through a few schemes set out in the last budget. This should add a much greater sense of variety to the area and allow for an even greater mix of tenure.

• Currently there is a problem with drainage and flooding along South Street after particularly heavy or long periods of rain. We have been informed that this stems from the burial of a stream on the site some years ago. Our proposal to negate this is to use permeable paving across the site, with a new open attenuation tank (indicated as a circle on the plan) this would collect rainwater at peak times and run off/eveporate once the rain had stopped. Additionally this could be drained off and cleaned down in the summer to provide a sunken performance area similar to a bandstand in a park.

• Along high park street there are a couple of remaining retail units at the moment surrounded by vacant ones of similar size. Our proposal here is once more a mixture of amenity and market solutions. First of all, at ground floor level the first option is to modernise the retail units and put them back to the market, however we would also propose that a number could serve as amenity for live/work units above. For example, it has for some time been the aim of planning policy to encourage cycling, however provision of secure storage is often not sufficient to do this on its own. We would therefore propose that as an amenity to the office/ studio space at first floor, we would convert 1-2 of the units into secure indoor cycle storage, with associated shower and changing facilities.

• Finally to the orchard mentioned above. There is currently a potential issue with land contamination on the site along South Street due to one of its former uses being a tannery. This gives rise to problems with the topsoil as a growing medium, particularly in terms of its use for growing food. Given the sheer number of restaurants in the city centre, all of which have food waste to dispose of daily, we suggested that some of this waste could be collected and composted on site for use as a new growing medium not only for the orchard but for the raised planting beds as well.