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Pathfinder schemes – a path to corruption?

Keith Parkins | 14.03.2005 16:06 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles | Liverpool

Pathfinder schemes are operating in some of our most deprived areas. Nominally they are about urban regeneration, in reality pushing up property prices for the lucky few and providing 'development opportunities' for property developers.

Kai Andersen has recently highlighted yet another housing scandal in Liverpool. The city council is pouring £7.2 million into a private housing estate, Kensington Fields, a run-down estate of Victorian housing.

Liverpool cannot find the money to spend a penny on its own run-down council stock, but can find £7.2 million, that is £6,000 per house, to upgrade the Victorian housing in Kensington Fields, in a bid to get heritage status for the estate.

Liverpool is awash with European Union Objective One money, not that anyone knows what has happened to much of it, but cannot find the money to spend on its dilapidated council housing.

£7.2 million can be found to spruce up Victorian housing in one part of Liverpool, and yet in other parts of Liverpool, Victorian housing is being destroyed to provide 'development opportunities' for private property developers.

The New Heartlands project is laying waste, not only to an area of over one thousand houses, it is also laying waste to local communities.

New Heartlands is part of the government's Pathfinder scheme. It is allegedly urban regeneration, community involvement, in practice it about forcing up property prices for the lucky few, providing 'development opportunities' for private property developers.

By laying waste to whole areas, new 'brown field' sites are created, and in march the property developers to make a fast buck.

Demolition is supposed to be the last resort, but too often, it is not only the first resort, it is the only option considered.

In Burnley in Lancashire, a council official admitted to the BBC Radio 4 programme, File on Four, that if they did not demolish there would be no incentive for developers to come in.

In evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee inquiring into Pathfinder, New Heartlands in Liverpool admitted that they were demolishing housing stock to provide development opportunities. When pushed on File on Four, the chief executive of New Heartlands admitted, in so many weasel words, that yes, they were demolishing to provide development opportunities. She seemed to regard it as one big joke.

Consultation? There is supposed to be consultation, community involvement, but it is none existent.

In Burnley, the consultation was a PR exercise. In Liverpool, people who have spoken out have been shouted down, victimised, attacked. No one is under any doubt, that when community activist Mike Lane had his car fire-bombed it was because he was an outspoken critic not only of New Heartlands but also the housing associations and councillors who are working hand-in-glove with them.

Consultants are employed to lie and deceive. In Burnley, it was claimed that the housing earmarked for demolition was unfit. An independent survey by a leading expert showed that was not the case. It was claimed residents were not happy with the area in which they live, now due to be demolished, and yet when questioned on File on Four, they said they had made no such comments. They also said the so-called surveys that had surveyed their properties as unfit, had been cursory inspections at best.

It is far cheaper to renovate the run-down housing stock than it is to demolish and rebuild. The lifetime running costs are less for the renovated housing stock, than for the new build.

In Salford, derelict Victorian housing is being rebuilt, not only is it viable to do so, it is more cost effective to do so. Housing minister Jeff Rooker has even praised Urban Splash for its regeneration work in Salford.

The people living in the areas to be demolished don't want demolition, don't want to be kicked out of their homes and see their houses and communities destroyed. They wish to be left alone, to live their lives in peace. But yes, if there is some spare cash floating around, they'd like to see some of it go into renovation of their homes, into genuine urban regeneration.

So why demolish?

Demolition provides new sites for property developers. The sites are handed to them on the cheap. The costs are met by the public purse.

Local councillors are pushing through these schemes, even though they are clearly not in the long term best interest of the affected local communities. Why?

There is a lot of money sloshing about. Some people are making a nice little earner. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that sticky palms are being well greased.

Pathfinder schemes are not about urban regeneration. They are about creating development opportunities for developers and granting corrupt councillors and their officials the opportunities to get their snouts even deeper into the trough then they already are.


Kai Andersen, Housing – is still – the Big Issue!, Indymedia UK, 11 March 2005

Mike Lane, Whole communities will be decimated through gentrification!, Indymedia UK, 2 September 2004

Keith Parkins, pathfinder schemes, Indymedia UK, 14 February 2005

Keith Parkins, article on housing to be published by Corporate Watch in the near future

Pathfinder Schemes, File on Four, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 13 March 2005 {repeated from previous Tuesday}

Tenants Action Group, Powerless Residents!, Indymedia UK, 5 February 2005

Tenants Action Group, Fight for Your Homes: New Thinking, New Kensington?, 2005 {52-minute video documentary on DVD}

Matt Weaver, Landlords 'deliberately running down estates', The Guardian, 10 February 2005

Keith Parkins