Yet More Demolition
It is with great sadness that we hear of yet more of the infrastructure that could regenerate disappearing under the bulldozers again. With the demolition of the Plough (Widows) Pub (pictured above) and possible threat to the Newsham (Holy House) Pub
We are once again faced with the idiocy of seeing regeneration money going to finishing the complete devastation of the whole Scotland Rd area. The durability of plans drawn up in the early 60's is remarkable. For this is what we are continually witnessing taking place in Scotland Rd. There may be new plans every year or two but the basic forces that determine the use of the street as traffic clearway or commercial centre was taken all those years ago, and it was the former that influences all new approaches to the street.
It must be firmly stated what the planning authorities have in mind for the road, as then thinking will be brought into the open and its future can democratically debated by all stakeholders.
Attitudes towards planning and the way we organise our cities have undergone a fundamental change in the last 5 years. With the publication of the Urban Task Force report and legislation through the governments Urban White paper we are seeing this paradigm shift becoming mainstream. High streets are now seen for the value they always did provide, but not, it seems, Scotland Rd.
The reluctance to return Scotland Road to its natural role as the place where all the areas residents get their daily needs is sometimes breathtaking. But while it is insisted upon that this road is for the primary use of commuters from Southport and the Wirral most other regeneration initiatives are also doomed to the failure of the previous twenty years efforts.
It is essential that the future of the road is that of the service area for the surrounding districts. It is on roads like Scotland Road that the diversity and amenity so intimately associated with the qualities of 'city living' are generated and maintained. The desire to repopulate this area of the north end will not succeed whilst all that would be on offer are houses. People need communities, or more correctly urban neighbourhoods and these are only generated around high streets and urban blocks. Even here though, there are good precedents. The conversion of the Jamaica pub into a florists reveals the fact that when viewed as commercial premises instead of derelict pubs a whole panoply of solutions begin too emerge. The most urgent concern must be to get people back into the area, and enough of them, the suburban type of housing that has been developed in the last 20 years is almost as damaging as the wholesale depopulations and demolitions of the 50's and 70's. But as stated it is essential that there is a proper urban infrastructure for them to move back to.
Sad as it is to see old buildings that are the last vestiges of the vibrant heritage of the area go, their demolition is not the main concern. If these buildings are replaced by new, quality structures, with a good mix of office, retail and residential fronting onto the street, then we could, perhaps, not be so precious about their fate.
If we can have it agreed that Scotland Rd will have a built future and not an urban clearway then we can look at ownership of the commerce that would grow on the road. All sorts of possibilities for fundamentally changing the outlook for the area and its residents can be imagined. If there are enough people moving back to the area then youth provision, health clinics, community facilities can be taken to another dimension of provision, as ventures would then be sustainable.
We only have to look back to see how the economy of the area worked when intact.
It may have been slummy and desperately poor but it served a useful function for the people of the district. With an improvement in standards provided by the welfare state, these services would have improved to reflect the aspirations and incomes of the population. Most importantly of all the massive blows caused by the disinvestments of so many companies in the late 70's and early 80's would have been somewhat softened. If you count up the number of jobs that the district use to generate you can see the mainstream economic advantages of this type of urban development. The proportion of small and medium enterprises increases the more dynamic a city's economy and these types of areas maximise the opportunities for SME's.
To rebuild Scotland Rd as the lifeline of the wider district would be a long-term solution, but then there are no short term ones anyway. This is probably the biggest mistake of the regeneration initiatives, after the depopulations and demolitions. You can almost see the desperation to provide a 'quick fix' to the chronic problems of the area, but every initiative without fail has made the long-term prognosis worse.
There is a future for Scotland Rd, a vital one, if the regeneration touted for the area is to actually work.
Scotland Rd has always been more than just a commercial centre, it was always the spiritual heart of the great metropolis, and as such MUST once again become the heart of a re-galvanised north end, a rich stretch of creativity and opportunity providing wealth, health, work, amenity and leisure for the whole city. Scotland Rd has a future, it is vital that we are aware that we are getting the future we want for it.
'YET MORE DEMOLITION'
The ongoing demolition of yet more of the former spiritual heart of a great city continues apace with the demolition of the 'Holy House' pub. This demolition is almost symbolic in that it clears the way for the church of St Anthony's to be left in splendid isolation, a monument to the former parish and district that used to stretch along the road. The church will now appear like a sculpture on the wayside, like you see on so many gateway roads to anonymous towns somewhere in the south east desperately trying to let you know it is steeped in history and 'used to be someplace'.
The saddest point about the latest round demolition to Scotland Road is that the regeneration of the road could have been relatively easy. People say that the area was destroyed by flawed planning ideologies of the 1950's and 1960's, but they would be wrong. These policies are still at work! And are still be used by regeneration agencies! Sadly these agencies and associated bodies are never held fully accountable for their failures and complicity in the destruction of so many generations aspirations.
There is a fundamental issue that needs to be raised and addressed. This issue is 'what is the future for the road'? The local community should be given a chance to hear a clear answer to this question and can then agree with what is proposed or they can turn it over and come up with plans that will be of real benefit to the area.
'YET MORE DEMOLITION'
Past and present of the Scotland Road community will be saddened by the photographs showing the demolition of yet another famous landmark in the area. One of the most popular public-houses on this world famous thoroughfare, the once vibrant 'Newsham House', known locally as the "Holy House", dates back to the 1880's, and over the years has served generations of families from the densely populated side-streets. The pub, like many others in the area had its own colourful characters and loyal customers, whose exploits created the pub's own distinctive history. There was profound friendship and loyalty among the customers and over the years, the tiny parlour was the scene of many family celebrations, such as christenings, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. The two world wars saw many brave young men and women from the neighbourhood enlisting for military service, and it was in pubs' like the "Holy House" they had their farewell drink with family and friends before going off to war. The seafarers also had their last drink in this famous little family pub before shipping out on voyages which would take them all over the world.
There were several prominent managers of the pub, but the quietly spoken Bill Gallaghan must have been the most notable. He was a man of deep religious conviction who would never permit the use of bad language in his pub. Over the years he was responsible for 'baring out' many 'hard cases' who ignored his warnings.
In the 1940's and 1950's, some churches in the area were full almost to capacity on Sunday mornings. Every Sunday after eleven 'o' clock Mass in St Anthony's, a steady flow of men would be seen making their way from the church to the "Holy House" for a pint with their mates. It was like a weekly pilgrimage and continued for years, being disrupted only in the early 1960's when the vast demolition programmes were implemented in the area. But having been re-housed on new housing estates, many of the customers returned on Saturday and Sunday evenings to drink with lifelong friends in the pub.
In later years the pub was the meeting place for ex-seafarers and retired dockers, who maintained their friendships and regularly met to have a pint and relive the magic of times past.
Within a short time of closing its doors for the last time, this famous old pub with such an historical past, which played such a prominent part in the lives of local residents, was reduced to a pile of rubble and then removed from the face of the local landscape. The pub was part of the heritage of the locality and many local people hoped that the building could have been preserved and renovated for use by the past, present and future community of Scotland Road. Suggestions had been made to retain the building as part of projects to secure a sustainable future for an area, which is still talked about with affection all over the world. It seems however that politicians and local authorities seem determined to gradually eliminate 'Scottie Road' until it is simply a motorway in and out of the city centre and to a from the two Mersey Tunnels. Would it be asking too much that these politicians and local authorities should respond to the aspirations of the community to ensure that the regeneration initiatives proposed for Scotland Road have a genuine revival of public activity on this world famous Liverpool road at their core?