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pounds 8mwiped pounds 8mwiped fromvalue of from value of Welsh Streets.

Byline: Marc Waddington

MORE than pounds 8m of taxpayers' cash used to buy derelict homes in Liverpool's Welsh Streets has been wiped off their value since they were left to rot.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the value of the 335 houses in the Welsh Streets was pounds 17,645,000 when they were acquired by the council.

Now they were worth only pounds 9,485,419 - meaning pounds 8,159,580 has been wiped from their value.

But, going by the prices the council has charged developers for land in other housing market renewal areas of the city, the land could be sold for as little as pounds 300,000.

In the Kirkdale area of the city, land to build around 50 homes was sold for pounds 52,000 - as little as pounds 1,000 a plot for houses that could be sold for upwards of pounds 70,000 to either private owners or housing associations.

A spokesman for Welsh Streets developer Gleeson refused to disclose how much it was paying for the land.

He added: "It's extremely confidential information that we would never dream of giving."

Leading anti-demolition campaigners said the figures showed the long, drawn-out process of knocking houses down rather than refurbishing them was flawed and of little value for money for the taxpayer.

But the council argued improving the existing houses, rather than knocking them down, was unappealing to developers when there was "a significant chance they will not get a return on their investment."

David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, said the Welsh Streets money could have been better spent on refurbishment.

Mr Ireland added: "What strikes me is if they had used that same amount of money to renovate the properties, rather than buying them up and leaving them empty, not only would you have been able to give grants to everyone in those streets to bring their properties up to standard, but there would also have been money left over for environmental improvements.

"The way it has been done is a very inefficient way of improving housing. "All that happened is a lot of money was spent displacing people and the housing stock is worse. You would have got far better value for money from renovation projects.

"Supposedly half way through the process, everything is now worse than it was before. Granted there are things that have happened in other parts of the city which have resulted in improvements, but as far as the Welsh Streets is concer ned it's just been wasted money." In Madryn Street alone, the value of the 55 houses on acquisition was pounds 2,801,500.

By the end of the last financial year, the value had decreased by pounds 1,162,975.

Ringo Starr's former home at number nine is still owned by Merseytravel, but the two neighbouring properties were acquired in 2007 for pounds 42,000 and pounds 40,00 respectively.

By March, 2010, their value had slumped to pounds 29,925 apiece.

A council spokesman said: "The total value now reflects not only current market conditions but also the condition of the properties, many of which have been stripped out in preparation for demolition and in some cases are no more than a shell.

"Demolition is being proposed for the Welsh Streets not just because of the poor condition of the properties, but because there is an oversupply of terraced houses in the area which has led to housing market failure.

"Local people have repeatedly told us they want a greater choice of types of properties to live in.

"Merely improving the existing houses would be costly and would not solve this problem.

"It is also unlikely any developer would be willing to spend many millions of pounds refurbishing them to a standard which makes them fit for the next 30 years when there is a significant chance they will not get a return on their investment."

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Madryn Street is the former home of Ringo Starr The empty houses of Wynnstay Street, Toxteth Picture: COLIN LANE
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 18, 2011
Words:681
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