A briefer version of this blog has been published on the liverpool confidential website.
Should you check that out too…don’t forget to give it a ‘like’….although only if you do..obviously….
What’s left of Central Buildings….with fencing better suited to windy conditions.
I often find the throwaway things that people write more interesting than, the writers hope, the devastatingly interesting points they’re on the way to making. Such was the case with Simon Jenkins piece on how the whole future of the north of England hangs on the fate of Manchester (Guardian 13.3.2014 ‘To plug the north south gap the only way is Manchester’). Along the way he casually drops that Hebden Bridge, a northern success story, did not ‘smash itself to pieces as much of Liverpool did’. Now don’t worry because I do understand that pretty much nothing is as eyerollingly tedious and patronising as the non debate as to whether Liverpool or Manchester is the ‘better’ city, when they’re both great cities with a shared history and I suspect a common future if they are to have much of one at all; although neither may indeed be a patch on Hebden Bridge. But I wanted to start with this comment because, well, the part of Merseyside, Crosby, I still think of as home looks exactly like it’s been ‘smashed to pieces’. So how I wonder, to take Simon Jenkins seriously, have we done this to ourselves?
First of all you can rule out riots. Crosby isn’t Toxteth or Moss Side for that matter. And far from following the diktats of the Militant Tendency I don’t think it had a Labour councillor through the years I grew up there in the 60s and 70s. When Shirley Williams took the seat for the newly formed Social Democratic Party in 1981, she oveturned a rock solid 19,000 Tory majority. It went back to the Tories in the following general election. And it was in many ways living the Tory grassroots dream. On our pleasant mainly residential street, St Lukes road, near to the centre of ‘the village’ there was a removals firm, a tyre specialist firm which then became a double glazing company, a sweet shop, and, in an old stables just off the road, a small firm producing lenses for glasses and other specialist purposes. The last of these companies, the double glazing firm, has its forlorn for sale sign up now and is about to close. In Crosby town centre, ‘the village’, there used to be the usual array of greengrocers, fishmongers, watch repairers, a Tescos before they got turbo charged (….where I worked one summer, mostly trying to avoid working on the pet food section. Crosby people couldn’t half get through pet food…) and a number of outlets for the local bakery, Satterthwaites. And I’d like to say I expect never to taste anything in life as delicious as a ‘Satties’ blackcurrant cream. They’re all gone, although Satterthwaites, the bakery, is still trying to survive. Maybe I didn’t eat enough cakes but, in their defence, Simon, I can only say that in voting for the, both then and now, so oft self declared party for small businesses Crosby people thought they were doing the right thing.
Moor Lane….where Satties once was only the legend remains….
Crosby village is where Simon is, however, bang on the money. The village looks like a bomb’s hit it.. Where in my youth Central Buildings once stood there’s a piece of wasteland and then a large number of the shops in the pedestrianised area have been closed. The ubiquitous Charity shops are hanging on and a few others including Pritchards, an independent bookshop backed by its longstanding customers (including me) are defiant but the only really thriving business here is the large Sainsbury’s supermarket that marks the end of the Liverpool road pedestrianised section.
What was once Central buildings were purchased a decade ago by a company called Maghull Development Holdings and the buildings were knocked down eight years ago the company having received planning permision for a new mixed purpose building in February 2006. Digital images of what the building was to look like when finished are still to be found here on the company website.
Nothing’s happened since. Except in the last set of wintry gales one of the fences fell down and that fencing has now been replaced, with fencing more suited to wintry conditions.
Having professed our mea culpa, however, are there any other reasons why it might not have happened? Many local people believe the banking crisis of 2008 played a part (but then they would, wouldn’t they?….the victim syndrome is deeply rooted here…..) and the abandonment of a big redevelopment of the nearby Sainsbury’s store may have played a part. But before getting into that second abuse of democratic control by locals that is Sainsbury’s in Crosby it might be worth taking a step back. Between 1998 and 2012 fifty per cent of the businesses in the village have changed not just ownership but also the nature of their business, suggesting the difficulty of turning a profit here. Perhaps, with this ever falling ‘footfall’ the pedestrianisation of the village, that took place in 1995, should be reconsidered. However this is being suggested by local people such as those at campaigning group, ‘A Better Crosby’, so probably better to leave it in the hands of the comparatively much less destructive town planners. In any case the opening up of new shops has now stalled. And at this point one has to start talking about Sainsbury’s and the most egregious example of the destructiveness of Liverpool and Crosby people in particular.
The superstore in the Village is succesful and in November 2009 Sainsbury’s published a plan to build a bigger superstore.
Three times the size of the current superstore and with proposals for both a two storey and an additional four storey car park the village would have effectively become one massive Sainsbury’s supermarket. It was rejected by the majority of the community and after the public consultation the plans ground to a halt. A perverse decision only when one does not take into account the self-destructive nature of these people. Having already purchased the shops on the bottom half of Moor Lane and further properties beyond, Sainsbury’s no longer had an apparent use for them. With this uncertainty hanging over them and with relatively high rents many shops have over time closed leading to the sad state of the street as it is today.
As of the beginning of this year however, the local press, (and in a thoroughly shamefaced way I hope), ‘A Better Crosby’, are reporting hopeful signs. Nationally Sainsbury’s policy seems now to be to extend a network of smaller in-town supermarkets rather than hyperstores. It seems hard to believe that other towns could be so self destructive as we have been, but maybe…. This may explain why some of the residential properties in Crosby apparently purchased for demolition to make way for the hyperstore are now up for sale. It may also be why the rents on the shops on Moor Lane have been sharply reduced.
However in a way that we’ve become wearily familiar with local people have recently wanted to have the last aggressive, violent say. Local knitting artist, Naomi Lawrence, has coordinated a ‘yarn bombing’ of Moor Lane, that is local people knitting or crocheting coats for the trees,as again can be seen in the picture. We will ever learn?