Athole Street lies just off Liverpool Street on the edge of the Langworthy Prairies – a massive area of grassed up, knee railed land where housing used to be, including Blodwell Street, Christopher Eccleston's former family home. It's been left derelict for years with a zillion different Salford Council schemes that have come and gone.
At various times over the last five years the Prairies were going to be a housing development, a sports centre, a road, a school and another housing development, and another housing development. But so far, nothing.
Now, before a final developer for the massive `Creating A New Pendleton' PFI scheme has even been announced - and before the ConDem Government has even finally approved the scheme - demolition notices are to be served on Athole Street, which the Council has stated to be "a priority for early demolition".
Demolition notices have already been served on residents in the High Street area plus the high rise Apple Tree Court and Peach Tree Court flats. Now 76 houses around Athole Street, including Barnfield Close, Primrose Close and Ladyshore Close are being served with the notices. The Council report states "Obtaining vacant possession will be the council's responsibility and risk under the terms of the PFI Project Agreement."
As usual in Salford, people are being cleared from an area and in all probability won't be able to return to the new houses when – or if – they are ever built. Back in 2006, in relation to the Higher Broughton regeneration, the Audit Commission slated Salford Council for not providing homes for those who had been chucked out of their houses… "It would seem very obvious that the first phase should provide homes for people being relocated….", its report stated.
The same happened in Chimney Pot Park with the Urban Splash upside down houses, when the area was cleared without original residents being able to move back into the new houses, which averaged £120,000 each. And in the first phase of the Lower Broughton clearance when people lost their homes and were not offered new ones in the redevelopment sites.
Meanwhile, the usual council tricks of putting `problem families' in empty properties on the streets it wants to demolish are also coming into play. 78 year old Marjorie Rushton lived in her house in Athole Street for decades without any problem, until it was re-classified as within Salford Council's demolition zone…
"In the forty years I've lived here people have been lovely but now the place next door to me is an `in between' house" she explains "The people in there now are really nice but the last ones were the neighbours from hell. You never know who's going to come. I've never had this before."
Despite what many might see as blatant intimidation, Marjorie intends to fight Salford Council for her housing rights. She and her neighbours have been living under the threat of demolition for five years. And are still none the wiser about what is happening, despite the demolition notices getting Council approval.
"We don't know anything now, everything's just gone quiet" says Marjorie "They're supposed to have got money now for the PFI but nothing's been looked at."
All that Salford Council seems interested in doing is clearing the area of its residents. Its reps have asked to interview Marjorie about future housing needs but, so far, she has not taken up the offer…
"I didn't do it because I didn't want it" she says "I'm 78 now – where am I going to go? I'm not going in a flat. That's me done – and I'll stay here until the bulldozers come to the door and drop the bomb on it. I've said it to them before – `Don't come to number 3 because there'll be a little old lady sat behind the door'..."
So far, Marjorie has been offered a mere £60,000 for her three bedroom house, while those with two bedrooms, we understand, have been offered £58,000. A three bedroom house on nearby Liverpool Street is currently up for sale to "offers over £100,000".
With the various schemes that have come and gone, the neighbours from hell moving in and out, the ridiculous prices being offered by Salford Council for those who own their houses, and a complete lack of information on what is happening, as usual, people's lives are being messed about…
"Of course I've been messed about" agrees Marjorie "But they can mess me about as much as they want as long as they don't move me into anything I don't want."
Altogether, 891 properties are to be demolished as part of the overall Pendleton PFI scheme at a cost of £12million, which will result in well over 1000 people losing their homes.
The initial demolition notices for Athole Street will be in force for seven years, which could leave residents in limbo for a long time yet. Salford Council justifies serving the notices explaining in its report that it "will reduce the likelihood of the need to resort to Compulsory Purchase Order powers being required as well as managing the potential adverse impact upon the Council's resources and giving clarity to residents living in this part of the regeneration area".
The only clarity to these residents is that their homes are to be demolished. Apart from that, nothing. And, meanwhile, the Council is leaving the estate to decay with fences hanging off and litter everywhere…
Marjorie looks across at the huge knee-railed area that's been left empty for years at the front of her home …
"They do cut the grass and that's about it…"
See also: Picking Pendleton's Pockets - from Salford Star issue 4 - click here
Photos by Verena Kennedy