THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD – PART TWO
See Part One – click here
Welcome to the Top Streets of Higher Broughton. Here, there are just four families left, scattered on three deserted streets and surrounded by derelict terraces, blitz-style rubble and acres of grass crofts where houses used to be.
Over in the near distance, standing out like a bad joke at a funeral, is the new gaudy £7million `community hub'…
"Seeing the hub up and running is a dream come true for me as it brings some much needed and top quality community facilities to Broughton" said John Merry, Salford Council Leader, at its opening last year.
Trouble is, there's no original community left to use the thing. Over four hundred houses, or getting on for one thousand people, will have been cleared from the area by the time the bulldozers have gone.
In the Bottom Streets of Higher Broughton, 160 houses were demolished in haste in 2005, in order to build a sports pitch that, up until this year, still hadn't had a ball kicked on it. And in the Top Streets, 243 houses are in the process of being bulldozed. Already destroyed have been a stunning hundred year old dairy (see here), huge four bedroom houses and rows and rows of unique terrace houses, that even when empty have been used for tv and film sets (see here and see here).
Salford Council, which is determined to `transform' the area, has admitted that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the houses at all. They are not being bulldozed because they are slums or in disrepair. They are being knocked down only because there is "low demand for housing of this type".
This is the rhetoric used by the previous Labour Government and its now discredited Pathfinder project which was responsible for destroying tens of thousands of traditional houses all over the country.
Near the start of the regeneration of Higher Broughton, Salford Council commissioned the Dap Consultancy to do a report on the area. When it came to the community's views on consultation the report states that, while consultation mechanisms were in place, "they were not working… `No-one listens' was a common quotation by stakeholders. There is a perception that the Council are paying lip service to local stakeholders and residents and that it has yet to get a grip with the real issues facing the area."
Like everything else in Salford, the Council's answer was to bulldoze the problem, hoping the `real issues' would go away.
The Council set up the Higher Broughton Partnership, a public-private venture company, with the Royal Bank of Scotland, Inpartnership and City Spirit to carry out the `transformation'.
A Salford Council survey at the very start of the Pathfinder process showed that over 60% of the Top Streets community wanted vacant houses in the area either `renovated and brought into use' or a `mix of demolition and renovation'. And only 23% of people surveyed wanted `substantial demolition' of the whole area of 243 houses.
In the event, when Salford Council went to get a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), it agreed to save and renovate only eight large houses in Devonshire Street.
After objections by the community, Salford Council agreed to renovate a further fifteen terraces on King Street, making a total of 23 houses, and Dylan Vince, Salford City Council's Programme Manager, included the details in his `Proof of Evidence' to the CPO inquiry in September 2006.
"…between 8 and 12 residents expressed an interest in re-housing into refurbished and remodelled properties" he wrote, adding "In addition to the eight houses on Devonshire Street…It is anticipated that the remodelling and refurbishment of 15 existing houses will both provide sufficient stock to re-house those residents seeking this option and provide some additional stock to sell on the open market."
The Council's Major Project Co-ordinator, Barry Whitmarsh, formally included the proposals and more details in his `Proof of Evidence' to obtain the CPO in 2006…
"…The modified scheme retains fifteen existing properties on King Street" he wrote, adding that "these houses will be extended to create private rear garden space…secure car parking and service access will be provided to the rear of the houses."
Councillor Peter Connor, Salford Council's Lead Member for Housing Services signed a formal decision notice in September 2006 "that the modified layout entailing the retention of 15 remodelled and refurbished houses on King Street be confirmed as the intended."
Plans had been drawn up by architects Church Lukas for the King Street renovations and agreed by what was now a dwindling community, as the community lost faith in the great `regeneration' plans which had been ongoing for over twenty years, since the 1980s (Housing Action Area) and through the 1990s (Broughton SRB)…
Council figures show that in the three years leading up to the CPO, people in King Street accepted offers as low as £5000 for their houses, with an average of around £15,000. Subsequent Land Tribunals showed that people were underpaid by up to 42% for similar houses in the condemned area (see here).
But 23 houses were to be saved for people who wanted to live in one of the original terraces – 15 saved on King Street and eight on Devonshire Street.
By the time the bulldozers have finished trashing everything in site over the next month, there will be only six houses left in Devonshire Street. Not 23 houses saved at all. Just six. So what happened?
Firstly, following the granting of the CPO, the remaining residents were just left in limbo for over two years amongst boarded up houses and deserted streets.
A letter sent in July 2008 from Richard Wynne, Director of Property for Urban Vision acting on behalf of Salford Council, to Graeme Hogg of Inpartnership, revealed the situation "with the remaining residents being increasing vulnerable and some serious criminal and anti social behaviour incidents happening in the area."
In the same letter, Wynne admitted that the Council was coming under "increasing pressure to be seen to be doing something positive in the Top Streets area" but added that "The Partnership has, to my mind, always been rather reluctant to consider refurbishment and would prefer to concentrate on new build."
By April 2009 this was confirmed in a letter to residents that stated that it would cost "up to £130,000 per property" to refurbish them. This was almost double the Government estimate of £70,000 per property to do them up less than two years earlier. The cost even staggered local builders who agreed with the 2007 Government figure (see here).
Three residents, disgusted that the promised refurbishment of 23 houses wasn't going to happen, took out a High Court injunction prohibiting demolition of the affected Top Streets until it had been sorted out. But by October 2009 there were only eleven residents sticking it out in `demolition hell'…many forced out by the physical and mental conditions of living life in the shadow of the bulldozers.
A Salford Council report at the time (see here) spelled out life for one resident… "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 stated "…recent events have taken their toll on her well-being leading to her being treated by her GP for anxiety…"
It continued: "Enabling this resident to move out of her property within a relatively short time timescale will minimise the risk of further injury to her physical and mental well-being."
The resident in question didn't want to move out of the area. Her "preferred option throughout the clearance process", the Report stated, "has been to move into a refurbished property within the new development". However "...the Council have made a decision that refurbishment is no longer viable in the area and the option is, therefore, no longer available."
In other words, this resident, along with others, was forced out of the area by the very regeneration that was supposed to benefit her. Others weren't so `lucky'…
A Salford Council report, tracking sixty Top Streets residents who were involved in the consultation Solutions Group, shows that six people died waiting for the regeneration of the area.
Out of the sixty residents who were tracked, 19 moved into Vincent Street, the only new houses built for original house owners in the Top Streets. Two of those people have subsequently died too, and still the regeneration isn't finished. Meanwhile the new houses on Vincent Street appear to be crumbling after only a few years (see here).
Of the original sixty residents, only four were still living in the Top Streets (27 moved to rented houses or out of the area completely), allowing Salford Council to go to the High Court pleading there was no demand for 23 refurbished houses, or even the eight on Devonshire Street. In the end, six houses were saved on Devonshire Street – out of over 400 in the Top and Bottom Streets of Higher Broughton.
A last minute representation from SAVE Britain's Heritage to Communities Minister, Eric Pickles, in October last year (see here), arguing that the terrace houses were "unique surviving examples of a working class Northern neighbourhood" amongst other things, was over-ruled. And the bulldozers have moved in.
Three of those four residents from the soon to be flattened streets will be moving into the refurbished houses on Devonshire Street, while the final resident, Guy Griffiths, is currently packing his bags, on pain of a visit from the Sheriff to physically boot him out (see here and see here).
Last week, Salford Council's Planning Panel approved plans for 80 new houses in the area – a mix of three, four and six bedroom houses – none of which will be affordable to anyone who used to live in the Top or Bottom Streets.
The planning documents for the new houses state that in the Top Streets alone there were 896 bed spaces before the area got flattened. Of those, maybe 24 people will live in the neighbourhood to see the `regeneration' complete. Over £20million of public money will have been spent in Higher Broughton by that time. Who exactly has it benefited?
On 18th June 2001, Moira Blood from Portico Housing Association, who was acting as liaison between the Wiltshire Street Residents Group and Salford Council, prepared a report for an early regeneration consultation. The final paragraph of the report states...
"There is a supposition on the part of the residents that any cleared land will be sold for development, providing modern, more expensive homes. If this happens, residents see very clearly that they will lose their homes and their status as owner/occupiers to permit other, more affluent, people to move in..."
Higher Broughton looks, to all intents and purposes, like the assassination of a community…
* See also Salford Star's history of the Higher Broughton regeneration from the printed Issue 4 - click here and follow the links
** See also how the community lost out financially in Salford Star's call for a Public Inquiry into Pathfinder activity in Higher Broughton from March last year - click here
Update: 22nd March 2012
See the last video shot in the Top Streets by Darktown Jubilee - click here