Since June 2009, when Salford Council took possession of houses in the Top Streets of Higher Broughton via a Compulsory Purchase Order, Guy Grifiths has had the status of a "tolerated trespasser" in his own home.
As one of the last residents living in the boarded up, deserted streets, he's had to put up with anti-social behaviour, isolation and even the horror of a burglar smashing through the attics of five empty properties and appearing through his landing ceiling (see here)...
Salford Council itself inadvertently described what the Top Streets was like for people who were still living there in October 2009, in a decision notice to financially assist a resident to leave Salford with a £25,000 `discretionary' grant...
"As the only remaining resident in the block, she is living in very poor and isolated conditions and has already been the victim of anti-social behaviour on a number of occasions" it states "…recent events have taken their toll on her well-being leading to her being treated by her GP for anxiety…"
It continues: "Enabling this resident to move out of her property within a relatively short timescale will minimise the risk of further injury to her physical and mental well-being." (see here for full story)
That was two and a half years ago. While she has now left for a better place, Guy Griffiths has stuck it out when, like he says, "even the mice have gone".
Guy has the same symptoms as the previous lady, with a doctor's letter to prove it. Yet Salford Council refuses to allow him the £25,000 `discretionary' grant to leave Salford.
So what better way to treat someone with stress and anxiety than threatening them with the Sheriff if they don't get of out their home within seven days? Would Salford Council treat anyone else like this – or is it victimisation because Guy Griffiths has stood up for his rights and refused to roll over?
Guy and his brother Jimmy were forcibly evicted from their previous homes in the Bottom Streets of Higher Broughton in 2005, and subsequently proved at an official Land Tribunal hearing that Salford Council had undervalued the houses by 242% - which, in turn, meant almost everybody else's house in the Bottom Streets were undervalued too, to the tune of around £20-30,000 (see here).
In the Top Streets most houses were undervalued by between £20-25,000, which, given that there were 220 houses, would mean those residents have lost out to the tune of £4.5million. When the 10% home loss figure is taken into account this comes to nearly £5million. The figure would be nearer £7million if the Bottom Streets were factored in. Which has all been a massive embarrassment to Salford Council.
Through it all, Guy has been in the media telling his version of the Higher Broughton regeneration. In short, he's been a public thorn in Salford Council's side.
Meanwhile, the Salford Star has seen a whole series of e-mails between Guy and officers and councillors insisting on various home loss payments and reassurances to which he is entitled. After previous dealings with Salford Council there's little trust around. Most of his questions went unanswered for months - until recently, and then last week, when the eviction letter arrived with just seven days notice to vacate. Was this victimisation? Not according to the Council…
"The Council wrote to Mr Griffiths on the 28 November last year advising him that it intended to seek possession by mid February 2012, so he has had a considerable amount of notice" says Councillor Peter Connor, Salford Council's Lead Member for Housing "The High Court enforcement officer is not obliged to give any notice once possession of the property which has been vested in the council and a sealed warrant has been issued.
"A General Vesting Declaration was served on the property back in June 2009 which means ownership of the property has passed to the Council" he adds "Since that time Mr Griffiths has occupied Leicester Road with the legal status of a 'tolerated trespasser'."
Others disagreed that Guy had a `considerable amount of notice'. Norman Owen, Lib Dem Leader at Salford Council, personally intervened to get Guy an extra two weeks to pack his bags. Conservative Leader Karen Garrido was also involved, as was Broughton MP Graham Stringer. A day and a half before Guy was due to be evicted, a letter was sent out by Salford Council informing him of the extra two weeks.
Meanwhile, another resident - who is also a `tolerated trespasser' - and lives around the corner from Guy, hasn't had an eviction notice served…
"The Council has not had to contemplate such action with regard to other residents in the area" says Councillor Connor "as we have been able to agree re-housing solutions in those cases."
So if you agree to re-housing deals with Salford Council you can stay in your house, and if you don't, you get turfed out? Either there is an urgent need to demolish the houses or there isn't. From an outside view this just looks like spite. Especially when Salix Homes was sending letters out in April 2011 which stated that people's houses won't be demolished until they had sorted out their re-housing options.
"Our officers have made extensive and repeated efforts to engage constructively with Mr Griffiths over several years, but regrettably, all such attempts have proved unsuccessful" Councillor Connor continues "As such we have been left with no alternative but to instruct the bailiffs to remove him from the property…We have offered Mr Griffiths a generous relocation package, over and above that which is required by legislation, as well as temporary alternative accommodation and housing advice and support..."
The "generous relocation package" did not include Salford Council's £25,000 grant which it insists it can only pay to people who get re-homed in Central Salford. Unless, of course, you're `living in very poor and isolated conditions…been the victim of anti-social behaviour…and been treated by a GP for anxiety…' In which case you can get the payment to go and live outside Salford. But not if your name is Guy Griffiths.
After over ten years of dealing with Salford Council and its Higher Broughton regeneration, Guy just wants to get out of Salford for his own mental well-being. And he wants the same `generous relocation package' deal as his former neighbour. But Salford Council has consistently refused.
Now the Sheriff might have been delayed for a couple of weeks. But he'll be riding in with his deputies shortly to run regeneration dissident Guy Griffiths out of his home…
See previous Salford Star stories ...
Sheriff Eviction article - click here
Insane Salford Council Demolition Disgrace - click here