Granby took back control of its housing and land - and now is a viable Alternative


Great to see the Guardian's new series from their lead economics columnist Aditya Chakrabortty, titled - yes! - The Alternatives.

Here's his plan

Every other Wednesday, I’ll investigate real-world examples of people doing things differently. We’ll meet councillors who are extending local government far beyond collecting the bins; housing activists turning themselves into property developers; and energy bosses who actually ask customers how their companies should be run. Much of the reporting will be from Britain, but we’ll also look at other parts of Europe (including Germany) and further afield.

Stack them all together and the grand lie of Thatcherism is exposed. There are alternatives. We can do things differently.

None of the ideas in this series were dreamed up by some prodigy floating on a lotus leaf down from ivory towers. None are wrinkle-free. Their authors are real people, working within real constraints, who often struggle with a dysfunctional banking system or unhelpful national policies. As well as exploring the possibilities, we’ll be honest about their limitations.

But now is the time for experiments and arguments. To reacquaint our economy with the concept of democracy.

This Wednesday's column tells the story of Granby - a dumped-on area of Liverpool that "took back control" of its streets in the most literal way, and is now a roaring development success. Read this beautiful intro:

The revolt began suddenly one weekend, with a loud banging at some godawful early hour. From their bedroom windows, neighbours could see Eleanor Lee – wilful, hippyish Eleanor – hacking up concrete in the garden next door so that she could plant ivy.

It was the mid-2000s, and it had been a long time since green shoots had sprung up on Cairns Street. Over the past couple of decades, it and the neighbouring three streets on Granby, in Liverpool’s L8 postcode, had been emptied of nearly all life. Families had been moved out by housing associations, their homes tinned up and the bricks painted black. Lee came home one day to find both sets of neighbours had gone. At rock bottom, her street of 68 small Victorian terraced homes had only eight households.

What replaced the humans was junk. Year on year of junk. Granby 4 Streets became the fly-tipping centre of Liverpool. Used mattresses lined the pavements. Street lighting was patchy. Local children would walk to school past all this filth, knowing the world saw them as little better.

“What it said was that the people who live here are utterly dispensable,” says Lee. “That we don’t give a shit.”

She had had enough. The rage that had been building inside her for years drove her outside that morning, with no other objective than to put down a line of plants connecting her door with those others left on the street.

The neighbours watched. Then, one by one, they started to muck in. And so began one of the most remarkable stories in British urban history.

More here.