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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, January 04, 2009
    (?R)evolution in Breckfield

    Interesting to read English Heritage's take on the regeneration game - quite an enlightened one at first glance, in a book which couldn't fail to capture my attention given that it's set in the district at the end of our road and carries the title Ordinary Landscapes, Special Places: Anfield/Breckfield and the growth of Liverpool's suburbs.
    In order to demonstrate the potential which may be locked up in ordinary-looking towns and suburbs English Heritage carried out its own survey of Anfield and Breckfield. Looking at every street in the area, and collating documentary evidence of various kinds, we assembled an overview of historical evolution, identifying the main trends and highlighting the most important developments and individual buildings.
    Their Anfield/Breckfield project produced the book and a policy guidance note 'Low Demand Housing and the Historic Environment' from which this cutting is taken [document available on pdf here]. Adam Menuge's text is disappointingly uncritical of certain particularly un-heritage plans - his virtual silence on the history of Stanley Park and the heritage impact of LFC's proposed takeover of that land is understandable given that that bloated US franchise is a sponsor of the book - but it's an interesting approach, expressing keenness to challenge some prevailing assumptions about such places.
    [Suburbs] change over time, but they also differ from place to place, conferring a badge of individuality or local character on an area. In fact careful scrutiny of any particular suburb will reveal that an environment which we have long felt to be familiar still has the capacity to surprise us and challenge our preconceptions.
    The book would have been strengthened if it had included some voices of people who live there now, and other occupants over the years, giving their expert grassroots opinions on the place. In common with virtually all regeneration literature its voice is too removed from the streets it references. But given these reservations it's nicely done, full of rich detail, and once again it's pleasing to see innovation (with a hint of social / environmental justice about it) being birthed in Liverpool.