See PART ONE: LANGWORTH HOTEL DEMOLISHED – click here
PART TWO: SEEDLEY AND LANGWORTHY'S TOP REGENERATION – FOR PIGEONS
Four years ago, for issue 7, Salford Star interviewed Salford Council Leader, John Merry (see here). We took him around Salford, and spent some time in Seedley and Langworthy criticising the state of the place, and particularly the amount of public money that had gone to things like the Urban Splash upside down houses, while knocking people's houses down that were in perfectly good condition. We asked him if Salford Council was ripping the heart out of Salford…
"I think we're renewing the heart of Salford" he said "because a lot of the properties were already abandoned and derelict and we're trying to bring them back to life and bring prosperity to the area."
Later on John Merry added… "I think that in five year's time people will come to see the wisdom of the decisions that we actually made…"
With one year to go, we're still struggling to see that wisdom…
By bringing "abandoned and derelict" properties "back to life" did he mean bulldozing the Langworthy Hotel? Bulldozing it to make a rumoured car park for Hazel Blears and co whose office is across the road?
By "abandoned and derelict" properties, did he mean the Urban Splash scheme at Chimney Pot Park which lies unfinished, despite over £20million of public money being poured into the scheme?
By "abandoned" properties did he mean Salford Council's 18 `homeswap houses', bought and done up for the regeneration, that now have gone out for rent as no-one wanted to `swap' into them, or buy them for that matter?
And by "renewing the heart of Salford" did he mean the grass crofts that have replaced houses bulldozed around Nansen Street? Or the new school that's too small to take all its pupils?
Or did John Merry mean the new `landmark' Emmanuel Church development which has been beset by problems almost since day one? The state of the art £5.5million pigeon loft is the most obvious site on Langworthy Road at the moment.
The development, designed by architects Sarah Hare Macreanor Lavington comprising 22 flats, community facilities and a new church was supposed to be complete by March 2010. But, two years later, only the flats and community spaces are occupied – while the Emmanuel Church remains occupied by penthouse living pigeons that can be seen peeping through the skylights and fluttering through gaping holes in its huge brick walls.
The Emmanuel Church has been a saga starring Tesco, Salford City Council, Chek Whyte, loads of different contractors and a church praying for some salvation…
Cut it back to early 2002 when Salford Council was in negotiations with Tesco which wanted to site its new superstore off Pendleton Way, opposite Salford Precinct. To clear the site, the Council proposed to slap a CPO (compulsory purchase order) on St James RC School but at that stage there was no mention of the Emmanuel Church that also stood on the site.
We understand that the Church was dealing direct with Tesco at this point, and the food giant had offered to build a new church in Langworthy. By 2007, however, Salford Council had compulsorily purchased the land that the Church stood on… "The sale of land and payment of monies to Salford Methodist Church will assist with the funding to construct a new ecumenical centre in Langworthy which is due on site in March 2007" stated the decision notice.
Future reports from Salford Council show that £3.25million was to be paid to the Church for its land and relocation to Langworthy Road. First, original contractors, Gleesons, walked off the new site; then Chek Whyte took the development over and went bust, owing thousands of pounds to local sub-contractors (see here)…then Salford company Wrightchoice Developments took it over but went into liquidation last March owing over £4million to creditors.
Emmanuel Developments, responsible for building the Church, is now struggling to pay for its completion having been beset by these problems along the way. Work at the Church has now stopped. And the pigeons have moved in.
Meanwhile, the community facilities - a separate entity from the Church - have opened as a base for youth clubs, elderly groups, brownies and guides, and the Seedley and Langworthy Tust has relocated from its shop across Langworthy Road. The front gardens of the building, we are told, will be completed over Easter.
The 22 flats built by Great Places with a £1.5million Homes and Communities Agency grant are also now occupied but Great Places is withholding finance that would help complete the Church. The whole project has been an embarrassment and a talking point in the community for the past few years.
"We share the concerns of the local community and far from holding up the scheme we have bent over backwards to help Emmanuel Developments finish the work" says Stephen Porter, chief executive of Great Places Housing Group "Any money withheld has been because contractual obligations have not yet been met. We are working closely with Salford Council to help find a solution to the current issues surrounding the development."
Indeed, Salford Council has been working closely with everyone trying to find solutions to the biggest mess in Salford. At Chimney Pot Park, Great Places itself is currently building and re-modelling thirty houses around Alder Street and Highfield Road, with a £1.15million Government affordable homes grant. This, after Urban Splash `swapped' it back to the Council in the midst of what seemed like a huge row about `overage payments' due from the developer.
In the meantime, Urban Splash appears to have abandoned the site of Field Street, facing Langworthy Road, where tattered and torn flowered wallpaper is covering boarded up windows and doors, while the skeletal backs of the houses are totally exposed. Around the upside down `flagship' terraces For Sale signs can be seen dotted about the privatised streets.
And the main sight out of the windows of those upside down terraced houses nearest Langworthy Road is the derelict Emmanuel Church, with its penthouse pigeons flying overhead, as the term `urban splash' takes on a whole new meaning…
* The Salford Star asked Salford Council, Seedley and Langworthy Trust, Emmanuel Church and its architects for a comment on the church development. None responded.
See PART ONE: Langworthy Hotel Demolished As Pigeons Prey in New £5.5million Church – click here