Patrick Keller’s 1999 film ‘The Dilapidated Dwelling’ argues that Britain has the oldest and most dilapidated housing stock in Europe, and it is enormously expensive to retrofit - why not just knock it down and build something better?
The concept of destroying and replacing housing gained a currency under New Labour’s Pathfinder scheme in 2002 – albeit on a vast scale:
“Designed to ‘revitalise’ the economies of a selection of post-industries areas…it entailed the compulsory purchase and demolition of housing not so much to replace it with something better, but for the purposes of, in Pathfinder’s subtitle, ‘Housing Market Renewal’ in northern towns previously untouched by the south-eastern property boom” (Owen Hatherley, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, 2010.)
Under Pathfinder, vast amounts of hosing were demolished in Stoke-on-Trent – often entire urban blocks. Communities were forced to leave their homes, forced out by Compulsory Purchase Orders. The scheme was aborted mid-way in 2011, resulting in cleared sites lying dormant, awaiting ‘renewal’.
At the time of writing, only a few of these areas are undergoing the reconstruction promised under Pathfinder. In Hanley, where terraces of Victorian houses once stood, a similar density of terraces and semi-detached homes are now being erected.