The Fight For Bixteth Street Gardens in Liverpool

By Olivia Wagg

Located in the heart of Liverpool, Bixteth Street Gardens is at the centre of office buildings, apartments and trees. A place once home to wildlife, can now be found fenced off and bombarded by posters urging to save the gardens.

The green space lies in the business district between Pall Mall and Bixteth Street. The garden is a popular hot spot for local dog walkers and children.

However, Liverpool City Council had other plans for one of two of the city’s only green spaces in the commercial area.

On January 29, campaigners were left feeling deflated after Liverpool City Council’s planning committee voted to demolish the beloved community space.

A strong delegation attended the meeting at Liverpool Town Hall to oppose the council’s plans, which will see a 32% reduction in green space and the destruction of 54 mature trees.

Despite powerful opposition, planning permission was granted for the development led by property company Keir Construction and CTP Limited. 

A member of the campaign group and local resident, Victoria Hyam-Beavan, said: “The decision was heart-breaking. I feel completely let down by the system and the people that are supposed to represent us.”

The garden’s demolition is only a small part of Liverpool City Councils £2m Pall Mall redevelopment for the city.

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Part of the Pall Mall redevelopment scheme

The contractors’ £4.2m plan is to build 400,000 sq-ft Grade-A office space, a hotel and redevelop the current space.

The council claims it could generate £200m and create more than 1,000 jobs.

Mayor Joe Anderson was keen to approve the Pall Mall development as part of the council’s plans to redevelop the business district – and there is a perception that despite there already being many offices in Liverpool, the city lacks high quality office space.

It is estimated that the phased development will create more than 1,800 jobs.

The replacement of Bixteth Gardens attracted criticism from local groups as well as eight councillors – Cllrs Nick Small, Sharon Sullivan, Christine Banks, Steve Munby, Thomas Crone, Sarah Jennings, Anna Key, and Lawrence Brown.

An ongoing petition has also been launched on Change.org to save the space, it has been signed by more than 1,800 people, and to date 64 letters of objection have been lodged with the City Planner, Peter Jones.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 15.16.00
Bixteth Gardens last summer vs now

Those in favour of the redevelopment point out that the plan contains a blueprint for a new, green public space – more than is currently on offer.

Tom Gilman, managing director for the North at Kier Property, says the scheme will deliver both office space and “high-quality piece of public realm and a green space amenity which can be used by the whole community”.

Campaigners have been working on saving the gardens since summer last year. Solidarity picnics, leaflet campaigns and fundraising events have all been a part of the movement.

Liverpool artist Danny Crone (Cyrano Denn) has donated 10 pieces of unique artwork to the campaign.

Each piece of art will go to the highest bidder – the money raised will go directly to help fund legal action against the demolition.

Supporters hope the money raised will help fund their campaign.

However, despite their efforts, work has already started on the gardens.

Construction was due to begin on March 20 due to a Judicial Review which can be filed at court until March 19.

But reports have shown that contractors have already begun adding hoardings and fencing. JCB diggers can also be seen driving around the gardens.

The council has suggested the project will create a new public area that is more animated, usable and an attractive green space which can be fully utilised at all times.

However, the new area will mean residents will only be able to enjoy half  the space than what they previously had.

Campaigners have raised more than £1,000 towards their campaign and are still trying to fight the battle.

Councillor Nick Small is one of the Central ward representatives who objected to the land remediation application.

He said: “If we want to make this a real district for new people and a place where they want to come to work and new businesses want to be based, then I think we need to have more open spaces.” 

“We need to enhance what we have at the moment, we should keep this as a public space and do more with it.”

He added: “That’s what I am going to be calling for, look at what we have got, let’s improve the area but let’s not not lose any green space within the city centre.”

Another part of Liverpool that has faced criticism for its demolition is the construction between Hope Street and Hardman street.

Campaigner of the Bixteth Street Gardens development, Mandy Williams said: “Everyone who is appalled at the horror on the corner of Hope Street and Hardman Street jutting out onto the street with plastic bricks falling off it.

“Just look what is planned for Bixteth, exactly the same thing will happen.”

One of the major issues for the demolition of the gardens is the destruction of wildlife and nature.

Bixteth Gardens is home to urban rabbits, squirrels and bats.

Bixteth_Street_Gardens_in_Autumn_(1)
Bixteth Street Gardens

The story of Bixteth Gardens is being repeated elsewhere in Liverpool. Calderstones Park faces possible demolition to make way for 51 new luxury homes.

The controversial plans would allow developer Redrow to build the homes on Allerton’s Harthill estate.

Mayor Joe Anderson faced a long-running battle against campaigners on whether the land resided in the boundaries of Calderstones Park.

On a larger scale than Bixteth, almost 50,000 signed a petition opposing the plans.

Prominent Labour councillors and former cabinet members Ann O’Byrne and Nick Small both came out against Redrow’s plans in October.

Numerous court battles and protests ensued.

Liverpool City Council’s controversial plans were scrapped following a high court ruling. The judge agreed the council had failed to recognise the important heritage of the Harthill Estate.

The Calderstones story is only one example of a Liverpool green space dispute between residents and the council.

Campaigners believe a grant remediation work provided by the Local Growth Fund – government-backed scheme to help councils realise new projects with the private sector – was time-limited.

This had the effect of forcing developers to start remediation without a planning application.

However campaigners know the council is unlikely to stop the development on the basis of their protests.

Lessons have been learned from other campaign groups such as Save Oglet Shore.

Back at Bixteth

As for now, legal action has commenced, but without the funding, the campaign won’t be able to carry on.

Campaigners for the Save Bixteth Street Gardens community are still fighting for the rights to keep their public space. Time is limited but it is hoped that their voices will be heard and their efforts will be seen.

(3rd image creative commons licence, courtesy of Rept0n1x)

 

 

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