DORIS LYONS' STORY
On Thursday 15th September 2011, I attended a planning committee meeting which, unsurprisingly, gave the go-ahead for the demolition of Moorside High School and its rebuilding on the Moorside playing field across the East Lancashire Road.
As a resident of Leinster Road the school building will be situated thirty meters from my home overlooking my garden, kitchen, living room and bedroom. It would be fair to say that I am not happy with the build and have written and attended consultation meetings - which were a joke as we have been told different stories by different people and they were never interested in what we had to say. Still, even after these plans were passed my questions remain unanswered.
As one of the residents who had complained I received a letter with details of the planning meeting. I had to arrive at by 11am to register, with the meeting beginning at 11:30am. At 1pm we still had not entered the meeting, so much so that a number of residents had to leave to go to work and our own councillor, Howard Balkin, who was himself losing time off work, was spitting feathers. Councilllor Hinds who meant to speak in the following meeting had to leave as well.
It was a complete farce and does not fill people with confidence in the planning committee, when they do not have the foresight to think when scheduling meetings that some may run longer than others.
At 1 pm we were finally invited into the Salford Suite and I was in for a shock. The room is set up with a projector screen and TVs but did not have sufficient blinds for people to see the big screen, resulting in them having to turn their heads away from proceedings to watch TVs situated on side walls. Councillor Garrido at one point had to leave her seat and stand in front of a TV screen to see what someone was talking about.
Even the wall speakers were faulty, so that every time a Council official spoke she was asked by residents to speak up, because she could not be heard. In fact, the only thing I heard her say all afternoon was that the Council had received complaints and they had been dealt with. How? Thrown in the bin? Because I still don't have the answers to the questions I asked.
There were a number of slides put onto the screen but these were next to useless as they were not labelled. To me it showed a total lack of respect and that we were there just so a box could be ticked.
I was only one of two residents allowed to speak and I felt as if I was supposed to feel grateful for the opportunity. One councillor was so interested in what I had to say that he kept yawning. He yawned so much that I asked him if I was keeping him awake?
How much attention to our concerns was he giving? I got the impression very little. As soon as the speakers stopped speaking he couldn't wait to insist upon moving to vote on the motion. I didn't realise the Council lunches were that good! I think some of those councillors in the planning committee should realise that we vote them in.
During the brief debate when members of the planning committee discussed this proposal, I was shocked to hear one councillor propose that motorists should ignore a no U-turn sign on the East Lancashire Road at Moorside Road in order to access the school's entrance. He was not censored by the Chairman for his irresponsible and reckless attitude, and I wonder if his remarks made the minutes of the meeting.
If one councillor couldn't keep awake and another suggests people break the law by ignoring road signs - and these are representatives - is it any wonder Salford and its Council is in the state it is? Only two councillors - Councillor Garrido and Councillor Heywood - showed any concept of the difficulties which will arise once this school is built. But, as always with this council, they do what they want and the dissenters were overridden.
Even Councillor Balkin, who spoke up for us, felt we were whistling in the wind. He tried his best in the five minutes allotted to him but his plea for a proper site visit to view the residents' concerns about the traffic fell on deaf ears. It even seemed sinister that before he was allowed to speak some of his colleagues on the planning committee questioned his right to represent his constituents, suggesting the school was not in his ward.
I'm sure that you understand from my `selfish' viewpoint that I don't want this school built as it will affect my family's quality of life. We do need new schools and the best education available, but I felt that there were better ways than this proposal. But no one was even interested. I spoke up at the meeting for what I believe, although I didn't have time to make all my points.
1. The plans are for a three-storey high school, we will have no privacy. It is further galling reading last week that this huge size is in part due to, as Mr Merry puts it, "economic migrants", a further strain on this councils' budget and the pocket of the tax payers.
2. There is going to be noise pollution, with bells ringing throughout the day and over 1000 pupils out and about at break times. Yet they intend to build the school thirty meters from our homes and not, for example, in the centre of the field as far away from habitation as possible. When it was suggested the school be built near to the East Lancashire Road we were told the student's had a right to be away from the traffic noise. We don't have a right to be away from the school noise?
3. The planners have put the car parks directly outside the homes on Leinster Road, so we will have traffic to contend with at the back of our homes as well as at the front, with parents dropping off and collecting pupils. I still can't understand how the car park is for 130 cars when the council's traffic survey says there will be 200+ staff cars needing parking facilities.
4. We, as residents, are worried about litter blowing in from the school itself and what is dropped in the streets. Our streets will become litter bins.
5. Traffic congestion will be an even bigger problem with the East Lancashire Road, Worsley Road, Moorside Road and Partington Lane all heavily congested morning and evening. Local drivers have trouble accessing them now, how much more when parents use them to bring pupils to school and also to collect? The Council's traffic survey estimates in the region of 560 cars dropping pupils off in the morning alone. The residential streets in these areas are unfit for traffic now; it will be chaos once the school is built.
6. Where will local children play? On the streets which are unsafe or, as the planners say, on Beech Farm which is 200 meters away as the `crow flies' from the existing field. Most children don't have wings and it is in fact nearly three quarters of a mile to get there, including the negotiation of busy roads. Yet no one seems bothered. Maybe if one of the planning committee's relatives gets knocked down they may take an interest in providing local provision for children to play.
7. I have asked on numerous occasions for someone to explain to me what the school will look like, having only seen artist impressions of two sides of the school, and an ink sketch of the other sides - which to me looks like a concrete industrial unit with windows. We have no idea of colour or texture to this build. We envisage a monstrosity or maybe another Carbuncle Award for Salford. The councillors disagreed, saying these new schools are nice to look at. How many of them live close to these schools or have moved close to these schools and the architecture they love?
I think it is a fair question to ask, a three-storey school is going to be built overlooking my home and all I have seen in relation to what will directly overlook my home is a black-and-white sketch. Why has this simple question been ignored?
But. as I have previously written, we vote these councillors in, and once in, the majority of them view their constituents with complete indifference. I suppose residents of Swinton North, whose councillor got the plans changed and the school moved to overlook our houses on the grounds of privacy for his constituents, would disagree with me. What about the privacy of the residents of Leinster Road?
When I read in the papers proposals to build more student accommodation at Salford University, in park land, so that students have a safe and pleasing aspect to live, with trees and gardens etc, why do we not have the same treatment, as residents of Salford?
Let's not forget, we have the same rights to peace, quiet and pleasant surroundings…Oh no, I forget we have no rights, with job losses, homes for the sick and elderly closing down etc. Our role is to pay for Salford City Council's white elephants.
Have this council not heard? You cut your coat according to your cloth! Magenta is this council's colour…red would be much better as it represents their attitude to debts. What's another million here or there, when they leave the residents with the debt?
Finally, Salford Council had an event advertised at the start of this month in Monton called Escape From The City. I wish I could! But you made it so my house is now unsellable. I wonder if the members of Salford planning committee will be willing to make me an offer, seeing as you like the design of this school so much. You can live here looking at it towering over your home.