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Thread: Liverpool’s Managed Decline

  1. #1
    Senior Member Colin Wilkinson's Avatar
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    Default Liverpool’s Managed Decline


    Byrom Street/Cartwright Place 1950s
    For me, the most interesting news item over Christmas was the revelation that Geoffrey Howe had advocated the managed decline of Liverpool following the Toxteth Riots. I wasn’t particularly surprised by the ‘shock’ headlines, there had been suggestions soon after the Riots that the Government had been advocating a market forces strategy with Liverpool. What I did find intriguing is that a policy of managed decline only came into Cabinet discussions in 1981 – I thought that Liverpool’s whole post-War history had been planned to scale down the city.
    Certainly the effects of wartime bombing had seriously damaged the city’s housing stock and infrastructure. Rebuilding in the immediate post-War period was frustrated by a chronic shortage of building materials and Liverpool limped through the 1950s attempting to reinstate its docks, city centre and housing. But there is more than a sneaking suspicion that the damage to the city had created a canvas that the politicians and planners could work with. Road schemes proposed in the pre-War years could become a reality and the ideas for a grandiose civic centre and new zones for shopping and business could take centre stage. (Not only in Liverpool, in Coventry the City Architect, Donald Gibson, the bombing was “a blessing in disguise. The Jerries cleared out the core of the (medieval) city, a chaotic mess, and we can start anew.”) Alderman Shennan, a practising architect and Chairman of the Planning Committee was a strong advocate of clearing out much of old Liverpool and creating a car-friendly transport system that would take out whole historic areas when implemented. In tandem, the city’s housing and industry was to be revamped by a dual policy of creating satellite towns in Kirkby, Skelmersdale, Speke, Runcorn and Northwich and by demolishing whole neighbourhoods to make way for tower block living.
    This is an over-simplification but the policies led to a near halving of Liverpool’s population in less than forty years. If that wasn’t managed decline, I am not sure what is. Yet Liverpool is still officially England’s poorest city. Some management! The tragedy is that the voice of the people is never heard. It is left to a small handful of experts to impose their plans and, as has been shown time after time, they are deeply flawed in their assumptions (high rise living, new towns, importing large-scale industry which subsequently failed, destroying historic buildings for no gain). What I would like to see is a Royal Commission on the future of our cities and have a proper discussion about the future shape and function of Liverpool and its counterparts. It might take years to come to its conclusions but it would focus attention on so many pressing issues.
    To illustrate one aspect of my point, the first photograph is of Byrom Street in the 1950s – a cobbled street with buildings of character, wide pavements for pedestrians and an efficient transport system. Below is an aerial view from 1964 showing a central block of buildings sandwiched between the Technical College (on the left – now part of Liverpool Museum) and the offices of Blackburn Assurance on the right. The next photograph captures this block in preparation for demolition to make way for road widening from the Mersey Tunnel. Finally, the 1978 photograph showing the end result. All character has been removed in favour of the motor car and the wide pavements reduced to a precarious sloping strip relegating the pedestrian to an afterthought. Geoffrey Howe couldn’t have done better!

    Byrom Street 1964

    Byrom Street 1966

    Byrom Street 1978

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    Senior Member wsteve55's Avatar
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    A great example,Colin! It's amazing how many of the roads through the city, have been altered beyond recognition,by road widening!

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    Senior Member Doris Mousdale's Avatar
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    That 44 tram to Fazakerley would have taken a bone-rattling 45 minutes to get to the East Lancs Rd.2d return for kids in the holidays, free if you had a bus pass during term time. Full of workers smoking on the upper deck and standing room only on the bottom.When it rained it was the most miserable of journeys cold ,damp and extremely smelly.

    Walking along Gt Homer St through Scotland Rd to Byrom St and the Museum in the late 50s was a walk along a quite Dickensian streets. Plenty of alehouses, busy but decrepid shops,Salvation Army hostel for the homeless ( Bevington Bush)Blitz damage had left huge gaps and the Rotunda was a shadow of its former self.New housing developments were sprouting up back of the Tunnel and people were clamouring to live in them.On Sundays it was totally deserted my guess is that's a Sunday photo in the 50s shot.
    The walkways and flyovers changed the foot traffic but what took 28 years to accomplish- whether for better or worse now takes less than a year. In places like Shanghai they would have a three storey road and two ten lane motorways through in no time at all

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    Member Big where it matters's Avatar
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    The former civil servant from Prenton who was on Radio Merseyside the other day and was party to the discussions about regeneration in Liverpool during the 70s and 80s should be interviewed in depth about his experience so that we can build up a more informed picture of how 'managed decline' has shaped Whitehall's attitude to Liverpool over the decades.

    Another example he gave was the formation of the metropolitan county of Merseyside and how it couldn't have been drawn more tightly. Much of Merseyside isn't included and towns that might have balanced the dominance of Liverpool like Wigan and Warrington are left out. Why have St Helens in but Wigan out? Why isn't West Lancashire part of 'Merseyside'? If the area around Liverpool had been drawn much wider it would have given it much more economic clout and it would have been about the same size as what became Greater Manchester. Being of a similar size this would have made it more difficult to prioritise the regeneration of Manchester over Liverpool.

    I really do hope that the publication of the cabinet documents leads to a rigorous examination of the evidence for managed decline. Of course, this shouldn't blind us to the decline that occurred as a result of the incompetence of LCC administrations during this time period and since.

    Another thing this former civil servant said (and I'm quoting from memory so I apologise if I miss things out or place emphasis where it doesn't belong) was how when Britain joined the ECC as it was then, a big deal was made about how the port of Liverpool was on the wrong side of the country almost over night and how this became another nail in Liverpool's coffin despite the fact that Liverpool is ideally placed between Europe and North America! The negatives were seized upon to emphasise the notion that 'Liverpool is finished' rather the opportunities presented by the recently opened Seaforth dock. Of course the relationship between MDHB and dockers was particularly poisonous during this time (always?) so that didn't help to raise the port's profile either.

    A great deal was made last year about the reopening of a rail link that means that freight trains from the docks no longer have to reverse into Edge Hill before they can go on their journey. In the early 70s Liverpool docks had direct links to all parts of the country not just the one that exists now but they were closed down 'because Liverpool is on the wrong side of the country'. How convenient! A bit more 'managed' decline takes place because such notions aren't challenged and local politicians are more concerned getting one over on rival political parties than ensuring prosperity for the city of Liverpool and its people.

    If I were a Whitehall mandarin, I would be clapping my hands with glee as a result of being faced with such poor opposition to the State's strategic planning.

    Fortunately (for us) Storey put a spoke in the works and began the fight back but even he had to sign that shameful concordat drawn up by the North West Development Agency that acknowledged that Liverpool would no longer insist on parity with Manchester.

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    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    'Us and Them' a film documentary by Peter Leeson and The Vauxhall Neighbourhood council documentary from 1978, Homes not Roads centre on this area of Liverpool and about how the car became more important than people and communities. Both are sampled in Paul Sudbury's film 'Gardens of Stone' which has received wide acclaim from the many who have seen it.

    There is no doubt that Byrom Street contained a lot more character before its latest widening, the 3rd of its lifetime. The flyovers at times now are deserted and were a short term fix, but a blight on the landscape of the people having to live within earshot of them in the 70s and 80s.
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    Senior Member irishseashipping.com's Avatar
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    I don't think Colin pedestrians were intended to walk along the narrow sloping strip, but on the high level pedestrian walkways below the road decks!

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    Member Big where it matters's Avatar
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    Managed decline?

    Just think of all the 'green' and 'brown' spaces that there are in Vauxhall, Everton, Kirkdale, Kensington, Toxteth, etc.

    Just look at all the sycamores, buddleias, grass, weeds and split sacks of rubbish where buildings and people used to be.

    Plant trees, get rid of people!

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    Thanks for sight of the Byrom Street pictures - the one with the tram is the most interesting to me since it shows that street as it was when the family lived there (in the flat over the Byrom Arms pub on the corner of Hunter Street). It is a tragedy that so many interesting buildings were demolished at a later stage, not the least of them the old Co-Op department store "Unity House" and even the mighty Gerard Gardens.

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    Senior Member Prefrab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big where it matters View Post
    Managed decline?

    Plant trees, get rid of people!
    A managed decline or privatisation of the NHS will ensure plenty of people will end up being "planted"

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    The Howe paper was secret and known at the time of creation via leaks. The likes of Hatton etc said like hell you will. I mentioned it here on this forum in 6 years ago:

    #9

    Quote Originally Posted by Big where it matters View Post
    Another example he gave was the formation of the metropolitan county of Merseyside and how it couldn't have been drawn more tightly. Much of Merseyside isn't included and towns that might have balanced the dominance of Liverpool like Wigan and Warrington are left out.
    The boundaries of Merseyside were formed under the Tories in the early 1970s. The chipping at the Liverpool mountain has been going on for over 100 years. All of the Wirral should have been in Merseyside -and all around the estuary's banks, inc Ellesmere Port, Runcorn & Widnes and to the north at Ormskirk. Southport requested to be in Merseyside, then have whinged since to be out. I do not agree that Wigan should not have been in Merseyside. Merseyside is predominantly the estuary banks, the Wirral and the solid blocks of Towns around liverpool. Wigan was to be on Merseyrail in the initial planning, but removed.

    "managed decline", really meant "managed dismantling".

    Another thing this former civil servant said (and I'm quoting from memory so I apologise if I miss things out or place emphasis where it doesn't belong) was how when Britain joined the ECC as it was then, a big deal was made about how the port of Liverpool was on the wrong side of the country almost over night and how this became another nail in Liverpool's coffin despite the fact that Liverpool is ideally placed between Europe and North America! The negatives were seized upon to emphasise the notion that 'Liverpool is finished' rather the opportunities presented by the recently opened Seaforth dock. Of course the relationship between MDHB and dockers was particularly poisonous during this time (always?) so that didn't help to raise the port's profile either.
    Trade with the rest of the world is still greater than with the EU. Yes this, "on the wrong side" was used to convince the ignorant masses Liverpool was finished. I have lost count of the times that line was spun to me.

    Fortunately (for us) Storey put a spoke in the works and began the fight back
    As did the likes of Hatton. He asked for £25 million and got £20m when they wanted to give zero, he actually won. His budget was illegal but he got a wedge for the city to build the bungalows. In the Hatton spat, the media only focused on Liverpool when Lambeth in London were with Liverpool all the way, yet they never got top negative media billing and have not since being air-brushed from popular history.

    but even he had to sign that shameful concordat drawn up by the North West Development Agency that acknowledged that Liverpool would no longer insist on parity with Manchester.
    Storey didn't have to sign anything.

    In the 1970s Liverpool prepared for the future:


    1. With one of the world's largest container docks, maintaining the port as leading edge.
    2. Massive grain handling facilities.
    3. In 1978 a new underground urban railway network was opened after extensive tunnel boring under the city - Merseyrail, the largest outside London. Metros create economic growth.
    4. Newish car factories were expanded.
    5. The new Giro Bank was set up and based in the city.
    6. The City Council had a new massive runway built at the airport with plans for terminal expansion after neglect and decline under the Air Ministry until the 1960s.
    7. New motorways served the city from every direction even with a ring Motorway.
    8. A large new road tunnel was built under the Mersey.
    9. The city had a thriving arts sector mainly based on music.



    The list is endless. All the infrastructure was there. New modern industries were emerging with the old adapting well. The building blocks were all in place to attract industry and create economic growth. The city had it all to catapult to the next level.

    Why did this mixed economy "commercial" city, not a one industry manufacturing city, which at one time in the 1800s was richer than London, decline in few short years? It just happened to have been when Thatcher and the Tories came to power.

    The decline of Liverpool was engineered. No city with so much going for it could naturally collapse in a few short years. The London based media certainly were 100% involved in the decline in character assassination. Many profitable companies pulled out of the city - which were externally owned - as they did not want to be associated with the city.

    The London media put it across that Liverpool was full of left-wing strike prone people. Yet the political history of the city said something very different. The days lost per industrial dispute were less than the average.

    Hesseltine did nothing for Liverpool. He asked for £100 million and got £15 million. He was a part of the "managed dismantlement", but putting on another face.
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