Pathfinder Schemes Report by Anna Fielding

HMRI (Housing Market Renewal Initiative) Pathfinder Schemes:

The government’s plan to demolish terraced housing in the North and Midlands in order to make way for extensive redevelopment of deprived areas is a scheme which has met with widespread criticism. Although a combination of demolition, new build and renovations there is criticism that not enough renovation is included and that people have not learned the lessons of the past i.e. with the slum clearances of the 60s and 70s. The ‘sustainability’ often mentioned in connection with Pathfinder schemes refers to sustaining an active economy and housing market in these areas and making changes in the housing stock but does not take the saving of resources and environmentally friendly methods of repair, renovation and modernisation into account.

The following areas and Pathfinders are involved:
•New Heartlands Partnership – Merseyside (including Dingle, Arundel, Picton, Smithdown, Kensington, Tuebrook, Everton, Breckfield, Anfield, Vauxhall, Melrose and County);
•Manchester and Salford Housing Market Renewal;
•Transform South Yorkshire;
•Gateway - Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire;
•RENEW North Staffordshire
Together with the involvement of English Partnerships and Local Councils.

Surely, with sustainable development gaining importance in architecture and in other aspects of people’s everyday lives it is a wasted opportunity to not embrace sustainable, green, development in the Pathfinder schemes. The figures quoted give an idea of the extent of demolition involved in the projects, although the figures are sketchy. For New Heartlands in Merseyside there is to be the demolition of 19,758 housing units with the construction of 18,161 in their place. One reason stated for the decision to demolish rather than innovatively conserve and reuse is that low levels of owner occupied housing in these areas and lots of private landlords contributes to the decline of the housing market in these areas. But does the demolition of houses make a difference to this? Through compulsory purchase orders and renovation of the existing terraces the demographic of the area can change through private ownership and housing association involvement without the need for actual demolition.

The problem with this approach is that it does not conserve materials and resources and actually costs more than renovation of the current housing stock. Many are suspicious of the motives behind the demolition and redevelopment of these areas in that they may be a way of developers ‘cashing in’.

The government argue that the residents in these areas are behind the plans and say of the housing affected that:

‘…they are now unfit as homes for families who deserve better. The campaigner, conservationists and critics don’t have to deal with 125 year only properties that are damp, decaying and expensive to heat – let alone with collapsed Victorian sewerage systems, now overridden with rats.’
(Hansard Online 2007)

This may be the case for some but research shows that not everyone is behind the schemes. The following links are useful when looking into this issue and should help to form an opinion for those of you who wish. The issue is certainly not clear cut but, in my view, it is one which has not been given enough consideration at a time when it should be a priority to do so.

Some of the issues are also addressed in the following interview response from SAVE Britain’s Heritage. Other Patherfinder bodies, English Partnerships and the Sustainable Development Commission were also approached as part of this research but have so far declined to comment.

Their websites and others are interesting to look at and give an idea of the arguments and alternatives involved. Of particular note are the schemes where sustainable development has been included such as the prominent Park Hill flats in Sheffield which are to be reconceived by Urban Splash and the potential of other housing stock such as Urban Splash’s 3 Towers Project.

A balanced argument: Scroll down blog page to article.

The Merseyside Pathfinder:

Save Britain’s Heritage:

Goole Action Group (a campaign group trying to save terraced housing in their local area in a situation akin to that people in Pathfinder areas are confronted with):

Urban Splash:
Their involvement with Park Hill, Sheffield:

The Sustainable Development Commission: are some of the projects which claim to be environmentally sustainable really so? The Government’s independent watchdog on sustainable development:

English Partnerships and details on the individual Pathfinder bodies:

Details of the government debate on the issue can be found at or

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