History of Granby Four Streets
The early days
The Granby Triangle was originally an area with wide streets of Victorian terraces, with houses of varying sizes – from two-up-two down properties with doors straight onto the pavement, through to the grand five or six bedroom homes at the tip of the triangle near Princes Park. The Granby Four Streets area is made up of the four streets at the park end of the triangle – Beaconsfield St, Cairns St, Jermyn St and Ducie St.
Granby is the most racially and ethnically diverse area of Liverpool, has the oldest black community in Britain and has been one of the most deprived communities in the country for decades. However, prior to the dereliction that the area became known for and which was the reality for people living in the area over the last two or three decades, Granby St was a busy street with many thriving businesses. These included grocery shops, butchers, chandlers and even a cinema, and they attracted shoppers from a wide area.
A period of post-war demolitions at the North end of the Granby triangle included many houses, but also some of the shop fronts on Granby St itself - modern homes were built to replace the Victorian terraces. By the mid 70s the area had started to decline as unemployment increased.
The 1980 - 2010
Unemployment continued to rise and, following the riots of 1981 in Liverpool 8, life in the Granby area became increasingly bleak. More and more shops went out of business, and empty houses began to appear as people’s perceptions of the area became more negative and as at least one of the main housing associations ‘withdrew’ from the Triangle. This became a vicious circle – more empties, meaning fewer people wanting to move in and more shops closing, leading to more empties.
The increase in dereliction led to the establishment of the Granby Residents Association in 1993. The main aim of the GRA was to stop the demolition of the remaining streets of Victorian houses in the Granby Triangle. Another major part of their campaign was to recommend other ways to tackle the empties and involve the community. However, four more streets of houses were cleared in the late 90s, leaving large patches of land with no buildings at all and only a handful of shops still open. There were some successes – most notably when GRA lobbied the council and saved the neighbourhood which has now become the Four Streets. Despite this, housing associations were not willing to renovate the remaining houses, and the area stagnated, with the GRA still battling to make something happen.
2002 saw the introduction of the Housing Market Renewal (HMR) Pathfinder Programme - a scheme of demolition, refurbishment and new-building in areas of the country with “failing housing markets”. While this was an opportunity for local authorities to renovate Victorian housing, it was more often than not used as a licence to demolish. Granby seemed to be destined for the same fate and the GRA continued to fight any proposals for further clearances.
2010 - 2011
After more than a decade and a half of campaigning, the GRA disbanded in 2010 – and it seemed that the rest of the area would be cleared under the HMR initiative. Around this time, a group of residents started planting up the streets – particularly Cairns St - with flowers in huge tubs and ivy climbing up the empty buildings. We also started a monthly community market during the spring and summer and painted the tinned up windows of the empties with curtains and vases of flowers. We wanted to make it a better place to live, but also to remind people that we were still there.
Between 2011 and 2012, several things came together at the same time which created an opportunity for something positive to happen: The incoming government brought the HMR programme to an end under their cost cutting measures – this meant withdrawing funding which had been allocated to many northern cities, but, in Liverpool’s case, this at least meant that the demolition would stop. The residents formed a new campaign group, with the aim of finding a way to renovate the houses and improve the area, and the council put the Four Streets out to tender, hoping that one developer would take on the work. In addition, the planting, painting and market activities had started to get the neighbourhood noticed.
2012 - 2015
The new campaign group formally constituted themselves in November 2011 and the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust was born. We approached all of the developers whose submissions on the Four Streets had been short-listed during the tender process by the council. We wanted to make sure that our wishes were included within their proposals, and that the community would be involved.
The contract for the renovation of the properties was won in March 2012 by a private company, who had promised to deliver an exciting programme of renovation with involvement of the community. However, after another six months of little or no progress in agreeing terms with them, the council withdrew their offer.
It was at this stage, that the CLT was able to have an impact – there were no easy answers, none of the housing associations wanted to take the risk for all four streets and the council had no more ideas. We wrote to them in November 2012, asking them to look at it differently, and to consider working with several developers to make it work and to, hopefully, attract more funding. This had the desired effect, and a series of meetings followed where we discussed the possibilities of the CLT owning and renovating some properties. The housing associations Plus Dane and Liverpool Mutual Homes became involved as it began to look as though it would be possible to refurbish the houses if the there were three or more interested parties who could share the financial risk of expensive renovations.
Following two years of hard work since we wrote to the chief executives of the Council and the housing associations, work started on the CLT’s 10 properties in December 2014. During these two years, we have achieved a great deal – we have:
- gained the support of the Council,
- set up a Board of Trustees, with representatives from the residents, community groups and other stakeholders with backgrounds in regeneration and housing,
- been the catalyst for the housing associations to get back on board,
- introduced another developer – “Steinbeck Studios”, a social investor - into the equation. They are working on plans to renovate the houses on Ducie Street, which were in such a bad state that we had all resigned ourselves to losing them,
- raised £1m in grant and loan finance to carry out the work on the 10 houses,
- employed an architect who has developed exciting plans for the houses within our budget,
- developed a partnership with COSPA and Ambition – two organisations which will allow us to use the renovations as an opportunity for local young people to gain experience and training,
- obtained a commitment from the local authority to donate the four empty corner shops on the junction of Granby St and Cairns St to the CLT,
- have started the process of applying for a Heritage Lottery grant to renovate the four shops,
It has been an exciting couple of years, but also very hard work, as all of us are volunteers. We will try to make sure we communicate with local people regularly, so that they know what is going on. We will also be embarking on a community engagement process to look at ideas for the development of the “four corners”.