• Homeowner says club has deliberately run area down
• Legal claim could hamper club's ground redevelopment
The owner of two houses wanted for demolition by Liverpool to expand their Anfield stadium has said he will not sell without significant compensation for years of blight in the area.
Graham Jones, who together with a business partner owns No63 and 65 Rockfield Road, behind the main stand, accuses the club of deliberately running the area down from the mid-1990s by buying up houses in the neighbouring streets and leaving them empty. At least one house the club owned in the row of terraces on Lothair Road was entered by vandals and set on fire.
Liverpool city council is buying the houses Liverpool want knocked down, threatening legal compulsory purchase orders for any owners who refuse to sell.
Of the 72 houses on both sides of Lothair Road, one side of Alroy Road, the corner of Rockfield Road and on Anfield Road, the council has revealed that eight remain a significant distance from having deals agreed. Fifty-one are already owned by the housing association Your Housing, the council or the club, which bought 10 between 1996 and 2000. The council says it has agreements in principle to buy 10 more and is in advanced negotiations on a further three.
The remaining eight are owned by four private landlords, including Jones, from whom the council is seeking to buy for a price reflecting the area's shattered state. One landlord, Paul Mahoney, whose company, MGS Estates, owns 5 Lothair Road, accused the council of "acting as a puppet of the club" in forcing people to sell so the club can expand Anfield and make more money. But he said he is likely to agree a deal.
Jones, however, told the Guardian he and his partner believe they have lost £500,000 in rent since the area declined and they have struggled to find tenants for the houses, which they have now allowed to fall derelict.
"Anfield was your average working-class area until Liverpool began buying houses and leaving them empty because they wanted the streets knocked down," Jones said. "It was dereliction by design, and the council allowed it. We've said we're not interested in their offer and we want our day in court."
The council leader, Joe Anderson, acknowledged that "the people of Anfield have undoubtedly been let down in the past and more should have been done to protect residents and owners from blight over the last decade and more".
Unveiling new plans for improvements to the area, which has suffered from years of delay and U-turns by the club on its stadium proposals, Anderson emphasised the importance of making practical progress now and said: "It is worth noting that the only owners with whom we have not reached agreement on acquisition are private landlords who do not live in the area and whose interests are purely financial. We will not allow a handful of private landlords to stand in the way of plans which will benefit everyone."
Mark Kitts, the assistant director of regeneration, described compulsory purchase orders as "the approach of last resort" but said the council is prepared to use them if necessary to force Jones and the other landlords to sell.
"We are confident a CPO will be successful, on the basis that we have a good plan, with wider economic benefits, which people holding out would be frustrating," Kitts said.