Residents of Cairns Street, in Toxteth, yesterday defied private contractors coming to demolish houses as part of a "regeneration" scheme by blockading the street. The demolishers Lovell and the police were both foiled by the peaceful action, which will be continuing every morning from 8am whilst the threat of demolition remains.
The demolition of the houses first came on the cards in June, when Lovell won planning permission to knock down six houses in order to build three. Residents objected from the point of the initial bid, but their protests have been studiously ignored by the Labour council. A site visit won no concessions, and when a planning meeting was split over the issue councillor John Macintosh used his casting vote to take the side of the developers.
As one local resident told Liverpool Confidential;
It’s confusing, it’s not as though the residents here aren’t well-informed about council meetings and planned decisions but this seems to have happened really quickly and it’s taken everyone by surprise.
The council, meanwhile, answered these concerns in a typically disingenuous way. They refer to this as a "vital scheme" to "regenerate" the area. However, it is telling that the criteria for not "bring[ing] homes back into use" is that the "developers do not believe [they] are viable." The profit motive will see half the number of houses built, in order to get more money, regardless of the housing needs of ordinary people.
Across Britain there are currently around 61,000 households homeless to 651,000 empty homes, and this situation is only exacerbated by private developers. This is one of the root injustices of capitalism, on which the Cairns Street battle is only a single front.
Yet it remains important, precisely because it is ordinary working class residents standing up to the council and to private capital. This is no externally-orchestrated campaign, but a clear example of self-organised direct action in practice. Solidarity to all those standing up to defend their street, and long may this kind of resistance continue.