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Friday, July 17, 1998 Published at 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK


Penny Lane forever

Liverpool's Penny Lane, made famous by the Beatles in the 1960s, has been saved from the developers.

Residents have won a four-year battle to stop the bulldozers changing the character of the area forever.

The barber's shop and the bank are still there, but under threat were the playing fields where soccer stars like Liverpool's Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman learned to kick a ball.

In a city where narrow streets and alleyways are often the only play areas, residents of Penny Lane fought a determined campaign to hold onto Grove Mount Fields.

The fields, which run along a large part of Penny Lane, had changed in character over the past 100 years, but throughout that time local children were free to run and play on almost 10 acres of open land.

In the 60s, as Sir Paul McCartney was writing the lyrics to Penny Lane, the fields were taken over by the Liverpool School's Football Association.

Field of dreams

For the next 34 years, soccer stars of the future and hopefuls who ended up chanting their names from the terraces, lived out their dreams on the fields.

Then four years ago Liverpool City Council decided the site was not good enough for schools football.

They ruled that the facilities were poor and it was time for a change. Councillors voted through plans to move to a new site - to pay for the move they wanted to sell off some of the land to developers.

Hero Harold

But they underestimated the determination of local residents like 79-year-old Harold Hikins, who teamed up with his neighbours to oppose the Labour-run authority every step of the way with petitions, street protests and marches.

Now those residents have won the day. In May the Liberal Democrats took control of Liverpool City Council and they have now voted that Penny Lane's Grove Mount Fields be put in a trust for the community to use for all time.

According to Harold Hikins, it is a significant victory. "We have lived all our lives in houses that are only seven paces wide and which open out into narrow tight streets," he said.

"We have no gardens, just small back yards linked by alleyways. The fields were our only fresh air, our only space and now they are ours forever. It is wonderful."

And the residents do not want to stop there. They have applied for funds to turn the Grove Mount Fields into a Millennium Green in an effort to preserve the history of the area for future generations.

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