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George slays the Demolition Dragon

Posted on Mar 7, 2013 by in Renovation vs Demolition | 5 comments

Breaking news from the Architects Journal, quoting Share the City – TV Architect George Clarke, the Government’s official Empty Homes adviser, is to formally object to Plus Dane Group’s controversial demolition of Liverpool’s Welsh Streets, where Ringo Starr’s birthplace is just one of hundreds of potentially desirable Victorian properties left empty and boarded up.


Restoration Man not happy with Pathfinder Redux demolition men

7 March, 2013 | By Astragal, Architects Journal

TV’s Restoration Man George Clarke has distanced himself from the latest Return of Pathfinder-style demolitions proposed for the Welsh Streets area of Liverpool

George Clarke's Emmy Award nominated Channel 4 documentary, 'The Great British Property Scandal', for which Jonathan provided research support.

George Clarke’s Emmy Award nominated Channel 4 documentary, ‘The Great British Property Scandal’, for which Jonathan provided research support.

Last week housing association Plus Dane submitted a £15 million scheme designed by Arup and Triangle Architects which would see around 400 homes, mostly vacant terraced houses flattened and replaced with just 150 new homes.

Clarke, who delivered a 12-point Empty Homes Manifesto to the Government late last year and presented the Great British Property Scandal programme, had been in negotiations with Liverpool City Council and Plus Dane about the future of the streets and about ‘saving as many houses as possible’.

The demolition-heavy proposal which emerged was clearly not what Clarke had hoped for.

A spokesman was unequivocal about Clarke’s position. He told the AJ: ‘I must emphasise that George’s name cannot be attached to any endorsement of Plus Dane’s scheme.’

‘George will be writing a letter of objection to the proposed scheme.’

Director of Liverpool regeneration planning consultancy Share the City, Jonathan Brown said: ‘George is respected as a ‘restoration man’, not a demolition man, and he knows the Plus Dane Group scheme falls far short, both ethically and environmentally.  

‘Hopefully his objection will prove decisive in slaying the Pathfinder dragon, which ministers promised had been put down, but we see continue to breath fire across inner Liverpool and elsewhere.

He added: ‘Of almost 500 homes and businesses in the clearance zone, Plus Dane’s ‘compromise’ proposal saves under 10 per cent. And perhaps worst of all, it blights the occupied and recently facelifted houses in Gwydir, Treborth, Pengwyrn and South Streets, of which less than one in five are boarded up.  That goes directly against the Empty Homes Adviser’s recommendations to Ministers, leaving him with little option but to object.

‘Like George, I think that losing so many characterful properties to gain so few of such unremarkable design is a poor return on a decade of dereliction and £35m in grants from the HCA.  I’m sure at times George must have felt he was being ‘shot by both sides’, but by following his professional conscience he’s refused to be pushed into tacit support for this damaging process.  

It would be great if architectural practices and design schools could now use the Welsh Streets as a live case study for alternative proposals such as those from Liverpool practice Constructive Thinking. Ken Perry, Plus Dane’s chief executive, should withdraw the demolition application and embrace a more enlightened alternative approach.

Gwydir Street, Liverpool 8, 18th February 2013

Recently facelifted houses in Gwydir Street, Liverpool 8. Less than 1 in 5 homes are boarded up in Plus Dane Group’s ‘Phase 3’ demolition area (pictured taken 18th February 2013), and they have yet to identify funds for its redevelopment.


  1. i live in guilford surrey, the council are letting these beautifull part of the country to be destroyed… beautiful vitoria cottages in central guilford being demolished to built woo hatch with no soul , it seems whoever works in the planing department are not arquictects, and so much bureaucracy, ones pay a lot for then to say no, i have a small house in central guilford, had a window broken down, the window was already cheaply done and fragile, went trough a lot of expensive to have the best joinery in the area to make exactly the same in a sturd constriction and make the house safe as well they afther 6 months with a window blocked they said no, over a thousand pounds gone to the drain… so the broke window stayed broken and i havd to put inside the house heavy iron grades to protect the house, i always lived in period houses, and i know what they need to keep its caracter, and people working in the council allows beautiful pieces of history to be demoshiled, in the very central guilford while one cannot improve safety and improve an already badly job done in a period property. i wonder if all imployers who works in the council are arquictects? even sara Belling on tv programas telling people to make beautiful houses into flats for profit…. its not on. the council should grant money for people to improve theirs period properperty if one is derectected and they need to make it a home for themselves. again if people want a contemporary house decorated it as such but original figures if it was in good taste and quality in the first place should be part of the house, not take out to sell .when one moves they depreted the house to sell its caracter…yes there ia need to have the council in place but they also need to understand what is preserving and what is enchanging for the better when what is left in place on the house is already not original or of any quality… salvage yards a full of beautiful quality material for caracter house and cheaper than mdf kind of stuff… well done george to help to salvage t= these beautiful caracter properties and help people to understand history and if still stading afther over 100 years is worth keep it. all the new built diy houses wont last one generation…

  2. Thanks Helen – you are absolutely right – Britain’s new build houses are objectively the smallest, and arguably the least well designed, in Europe. The RIBA’s report ‘The Case for Space’ shows how the average new build is actually smaller than these so called ‘two up two down’ terraces.

  3. I honestly do not belive that the cardboard constructions of rabbit hutch houses are what people want to buy! The new houseing going up in Holmfirth and the Holme valley is a case in point , they sell when they’re new as people are desperate, but 3 stories with the garage under the living accomodation in an effort to give everyone a place to park an the developers more houses on the plot are awful. So many people crammed in , tiny room spaces no storage. The resale values of solidly built, beautifully detailed terraces (with through accesses I agree Or communal path round small blocks of terrace ) When IN Good repair are so much better and more humane in room size I absolutely would not buy new, would you?

  4. The houses shown can create a good community , provide excellent housing and keep city centres alive. Don’t pull them down to build inhuman structures.


  1. Now | a sense of place - [...] to the demolition of the Welsh Streets in Liverpool, there followed further support this week in the Architect’s Journal…

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