When Is It OK to Knock Down Old Houses?


Photo: dr.boogies, flickr

The largest collection of prefab houses in the UK is about to be demolished. Built by German and Italian prisoners of war in 1945, these small bungalows are a remnant of war-time years when housing was at a premium.

At that time 160,000 prefabs were built in the country, all meant to last for only a decade. Instead this group of 187 houses, called Excalibur, has become a community. But not all the residents want the houses to be saved...


Photo: dr.boogies, flickr

The houses are 55 sq. metres, that's 592 sq.ft. and some say they are damp, cold and outdated and impossible to bring up to modern standards. In a vote of the residents, a little over half, 56%, favoured knocking the houses down and building new ones.

However conservationists argue that a piece of twentieth century social history is being destroyed. They also point out that in the '60's Victorian houses were demolished for the same reasons and now everyone thinks differently about them.

There is a real sense of community about the place. As one old-timer said: "The Excalibur Prefab Estate is the largest of its kind now left in Europe. Europe values its war time history, we on the estate think it's time we did too." Another said "It's a wonderful community. People have lived here for donkey's years. It's safe. There's low crime. I know all my neighbours. Why wouldn't you want to stay?"

In response to the campaign to save the estate, the Department of Culture has agreed to protect six of the houses with a designation that prevents them from being demolished. But many feel that keeping just six, surrounded by new housing would be pointless.


Photo: nemesis republic

The fight to save Ringo Starr's child hood home continues.... Last month TreeHugger reported that English Heritage had rejected pleas from die-hard Beatles fans to save the row house which is part of a massive redevelopment scheme in Liverpool.

English Heritage said: "After examining all the papers on this file and other relevant information and having carefully considered the architectural and historic interest of this case, the criteria for listing are not fulfilled."

Now the campaign has got a little help from its friends. The Minister of Housing has stepped in and asked Liverpool council to delay the demolition until alternatives can be considered.

Local councillors insist that local residents support the demolition of the houses in the area, and enough consultation has already taken place. They say that residents want to replace them with new ones.

However, a group called SAVE Britain's Heritage is calling for the "listing of Madryn Street, together with Ringo's subsequent childhood home; the birthplace of George Harrison; where John Lennon lived from 1945 to 1963; childhood home of Paul McCartney, and the ornate iron gates and stone piers of Strawberry Field, all that remains of the house and gardens which inspired one of the Beatles' most famous songs."

More on Preservation of Old Houses
Saving Abbey Road: A Victory for Tourists and Pedestrians
Quote of the Day: Richard Moe on "This Old Wasteful House
The Carbon Footprint of a Renovation vs New Construction

Tags: Buildings | Life Cycle Analysis | Reusability

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