Families have been ‘expelled’ from the area where they have lived for generations

It’s 6pm on a Wednesday evening and the Holt Road Residents Association are meeting in their local pub in Kensington.

Among them are people who have lived in the area all their lives, but it makes a world of difference if they remember it during their childhood. The terraced houses that were once full of families have in many cases been bought up by landlords and converted into multi-occupancy homes (HMOs) for as many students and tenants as possible.

Residents feel this has created a transient community that has no vested interest in the area and does not care for it. In June 2021, Liverpool City Council introduced a change, the so-called Article 4 direction, which makes such conversions more difficult.

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The Article 4 directive means that in certain parts of the city – including this one – planning permission must now be obtained to convert a property into a care home for three or more people. Another change to the council’s local plan means that planning permission can now be refused if there is a concentration of more than 10% of healthcare organizations in a particular area.

These measures have been welcomed in areas such as Kensington, but when it comes to the number of HMOs, many believe the damage has already been done. Residents are also concerned that landlords are finding new ways to circumvent regulations and convert properties without obtaining planning permission.

The ECHO spoke this week to the Holt Road Resident Association, which was formed in 2018 with the aim of trying Kensington a better place for everyone to live and work.

“If I was younger, I would sell my house and go. I’m 80 now, where do I go?”

Growing up in Kensington in 1947, Agnes Dickinson said: “It was a prosperous area here, it was a community. You knew all your neighbours.”

But today Agnes, 77, said: “There are 36 houses on our street and you have five family homes,” while the rest have been converted into care farms. Like Agnes, Anne Hammel has always called the region her home.

Agnes pictured on the far left with Anne (centre) and other members of the Holt Road Residents Association

Agnes pictured far left with Anne (centre) and other members of the Holt Road Residents Association -Credit: Liverpool Echo

Anne recalls: ‘Everyone wanted to live near here for the simple reason that we had lots of factories on Edge Lane. People bought the houses or rented the houses so they could work in the factories.

“Gradually the factories started to close and people moved away. Housing associations moved in and started buying houses.

“You then have the landlords who wanted to turn them into HMOs. We have a lot of absentee landlords. For some houses they can’t trace the landlords and they’re just empty.

“If I was younger, I’d sell my house and leave. I’m 80 now. Where do I go? How do I get a mortgage?”

‘We don’t have to live like this’

The ECHO has regularly reported on the problems care organizations have created in areas such as Kensington, including litter, fly-tipping, parking problems and anti-social behaviour. Dave Rimmer, 63, told the ECHO: “We started this [residents association] in 2018 we said: ‘we don’t have to live like this.’

“We had a meeting with the council and what they promised was great. They redesigned the alleys, they took out the rubbish, they re-marked everything. The alleys are beautiful.

“Then they said they would give us these euro bins temporarily and then we would get underground bins. The euro bins will be regularly cleaned, disinfected, the streets cleaned and rat-free.

“It was rat-free for a few months – there were no rats around. Everyone was happy, they were cleaning the streets. The street sweepers were there all the time. In the last two or three years it has decreased again.”

A burnt out communal waste bin in KensingtonA burnt out communal waste bin in Kensington

A burnt-out communal waste bin in Kensington -Credit: UGC

Community waste bins, also known as Euro bins, were introduced in areas such as Kensington in 2020, as part of the council’s £6 million alleyway refurbishment programme. This saw waste containers removed from a number of terraced streets in the city and replaced with large container bins to regenerate dirty and pest-infested alleys and increase recycling.

When the Euro bins were first introduced, Dave said: “People were using the bins correctly, but now they are leaving bags of food near the bin instead of putting it in.” Although the bins are emptied regularly, Dave says they are not cleaned inside and out, which attracts pests.

Photos taken in Kensington in recent weeks show litter-strewn streets and nearby burns, with objects with a flying point next to them. Anne-Marie Savage, 54, said: “We’re getting people driving into the area, tipping into the area and driving away – that’s how bad it’s gotten.”

The rubbish is strewn across the streets of Kensington, where residents have had enoughThe rubbish is strewn across the streets of Kensington, where residents have had enough

The rubbish is strewn across the streets of Kensington, where residents have had enough. Credit: UGC

The Holt Road Residents Association believes the level of street cleaning is also not sufficient to tackle the amount of waste dumped in the area. Liverpool City Council leader Liam Robinson told the ECHO: “I can completely understand the frustration of residents, they really are a great, close-knit community.

“Since becoming leader I have been very clear to the council’s planning department that enforcement against healthcare organizations is now the priority when planning enforcement.”

Cllr Robinson spoke of ‘the greed of some landlords’ who ‘don’t care about the quality of the property, they don’t care how they look after the tenants or the residents, all they worry about is making huge amounts of money out of what were traditionally three or four bedroom terraced houses.”

He added: “We need to fight back, but we also need to look at the extra powers we want to ask for. [from the government] to keep fighting back.”

Underground super bins and what the future holds

Cllr Robinson said the quality of street sweeping is something he wants to “improve across the city”. This also includes the cleaning of the euro bins, which is expected to take place in the coming months, with money from this year’s council budget.

Cllr Robinson said: “I think it’s fair to say that when the euro bins first came in they were a big improvement on what I used to call the rat banquet of rat collections that lined the alleys. The alleys are certainly much clearer than they were. That used to be the case and we have noticed that reports of pests have decreased compared to a few years ago. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still a rat problem in the area.

“We are just as concerned as the residents about the need to have the right focus on the euro bins.”

Tips and waste in KensingtonTips and waste in Kensington

Pens and waste in Kensington -Credit:UGC

The council is also considering installing more CCTV cameras at the worst nuisance hotspots in the area. In 2022, the council’s first underground super bins were installed at 12 locations across the city, including two streets in Kensington.

The £1.5 million scheme aimed to clean up communities and tackle dumping and pest problems on hundreds of inner city streets where there is not the space to use a bin. However, the Holt Road Residents Association says many streets in Kensington that were promised underground bins as part of the rollout have yet to receive them.

When asked for an update on the rollout this week, Cllr Robinson said a review will be carried out in the coming months into how euro and underground bins have worked in the city and what the future holds.

He added that while underground bins have been largely successful, they still pose some logistical challenges when it comes to where they can be installed, due to things like sewers and gas lines being below street level.

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