Friday, 26 July 2013

Britain's Heritage fights to save Chapel

SAVE Britain’s Heritage is challenging a High Court ruling that condemns a 111-year-old Edwardian chapel in the Klondyke area of Bootle; the fate of almost 500 empty terraced houses may hinge on the decision. 

Sefton Borough Council plans to grass the site over as part of their controversial demolition and redevelopment of the Klondyke area of terraced houses, built by Welsh businessman Klondyke Jones, a former Mayor of Bootle in the late 19thand early 20th centuries.

SAVE is supporting local groups who are contesting ‘Pathfinder’ neighbourhood demolition, and who are seeking who new uses for the chapel, a local landmark, constructed in 1902, known as the Welsh Presbyterian Chapel on Springwell Road in Bootle.

The imposing red brick Chapel was in full use for worship until March 2008, when its congregation was dispersed in a bitterly contested housing clearance programme. The chapel closed. John Prescott’s Pathfinder targeted 1,000 homes in the Klondyke for clearance, and a further 17,000 on Merseyside. Nationally Pathfinder demolished 30,000 homes using £2.2bn of public money before being formally scrapped by Coalition housing minister Grant Shapps. SAVE is concerned that large scale demolitions are continuing in places like Bootle, Gateshead and Liverpool’s Welsh Streets, and have vigorously contested them through planning and legal challenges. 

Sefton Council had promised the community the Chapel would be retained as part of the area’s redevelopment, but shortly after coming into their ownership there was a fire, following which demolition began. Local residents accused the council of failing to secure the building adequately. 

SAVE placed an immediate court injunction on the demolition in January 2012, but not before Sefton Council had removed parts of the roof and structural archway key-stones. 

SAVE believes that the loss of the local population through Pathfinder clearance has killed off local amenities like the chapel. When seeking Judicial Review, SAVE argued that the entire demolition programme should have been subjected to an EIA, and that separately ‘salami slicing’ small blocks of demolition like the Chapel was a way of avoiding the duty to assess environmental impacts. 

SAVE argued that the Secretary of State wrongly failed to take into account that the proposed demolition was part of a wider three-phase redevelopment of the Klondyke area. SAVE said the government had failed to consider the cumulative environmental effects of the whole project before deciding that no EIA was required.

Sefton has already demolished some 450 Klondyke homes for redevelopment to a lower density by Bellway Homes. Another 483 homes stand empty, stripped of their fixtures, in part pending the decision on and Environmental Impact Assessment. Just a few vulnerable households remain, stranded by Sefton’s inability to rehouse them.

Seven months since the case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, Mr Justice Stadlen handed down a judgement running to some 100 pages, rejecting SAVE’s challenge to a government decision that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was needed prior to demolition.

SAVE’s Barrister Richard Harwood QC has submitted papers seeking leave to appeal.

Solicitors from Richard Buxton Environmental Law are writing to Sefton Council asking them to desist from demolition while the case remains under review.

Richard Harwood said:
'SAVE has been concerned at the heritage cost of demolishing thousands of Victorian and Edwardian terraced properties and the human cost of dispersing communities, particularly as the properties can be retained, refurbished and extended. The present government scrapped the Pathfinder programme, yet Sefton Council have been determined to continue with demolition in the Klondyke and elsewhere.'

SAVE Director Clem Cecil says 'SAVE does not accept the argument that the chapel was unsound and therefore had to be demolished. It is simply a way of incrementally running the area down. It is a classic case of salami slicing in order to avoid the rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment.' 
Sefton campaigner Juliet Edgar said 'We are grateful to SAVE for all their support. While the Chapel and surrounding houses still stand there remains some hope – with the bedroom tax these homes are needed more than ever, and it is shocking to see solid Victorian buildings like the Chapel left to rot.'

For further information contact the SAVE Office on 0207 253 3500/

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