LOWER BROUGHTON DEMOLITION HELL
A walk down Cumberland Street in Lower Broughton reveals rows and rows of tinned up houses awaiting demolition. There was nothing wrong with these houses in the first place, but gradually over the last five years the community has been moved out to make way for `New Broughton' and the huge Countryside Properties led £100million (and counting) `regeneration'.
As the Salford Star has documented over this period*, the new houses have been too flimsy and small, the new River View school is not big enough and Countryside's dream of an area infested with new yuppies hasn't materialised. Nevertheless, the community has slowly been shunted into the little white houses and flats, moved into the `old' council houses on Riverside or fled the area completely.
Pat Costello has refused to move into one of Countryside's new houses, and now her, and her nine year old daughter, are paying the price. They are the last people inhabiting a house on Cumberland Street. And it's living hell.
She's had people banging on her door late at night, bikes revving around the empty streets, strange people hanging around, thefts, fires and then, a few weeks ago, a dead body almost on her doorstep…
"The Council said they were frightened for my safety but they're not that frightened – a dead body was found next door…the police came running to the house asking if I'd heard anything, and I said `What does a murder sound like? I don't know'…" Pat laughs, with almost gallows humour "I had to bring my daughter home from school as she got tormented; people saying `Your mum's killed someone'…you can imagine.
"I've had people banging on the door late at night, lunatics running around, guys coming by, you just learn to deal with it" she adds "So I'm still here and still got no house."
Anyone living in demolition hell as the last residents gets grief – for instance, Guy Griffiths had the infamous `hand from the attic' attack in Higher Broughton (see here). What makes this case incredibly disturbing is that there is a nine year old girl involved. And Salford Council has a duty of care to its residents, and particularly Salford's children.
When the Salford Star visited Pat yesterday the phones were off and you couldn't get a mobile phone signal in case of emergency. There's no security at night, no alarms in the empty buildings and no-one around but the demolition crews across the road during day time.
"I'm just left here" says Pat "supposedly high priority, living in a vulnerable situation – but they've put me in the vulnerable situation, they've told me. You really don't know who's walking up and down the street. I'm like the security for the council, there's no other security. There's no one looking after us at all. I've got an alarm but who's going to hear it around here?
"I've got the social on my back saying `Go and get a job'…How can I get a job, I can't move from my house, who's going to mind it?" she asks "My daughter is nine and there's nowhere for her to go. She can't go out with all debris flying around, it's absolutely terrible."
Pat's friend says that a lesser woman that pat would have cracked up by now. But Pat is determined that, if Salford Council is going to take her social house off her they should provide her with a suitable replacement.
"I've lived here for 14 years" she says "They decided five years ago that they were going to knock us down but we never heard anything And then two years ago they came and started. I told them straight away, from the very off, that I wanted to go to Cleveleys, near Blackpool but they haven't helped me at all. This is why I'm still stuck here. These houses were supposed to come down in January and they can't pull it down while I'm still here. They keep offering me properties locally but I don't want to go there."
"I've tried to get on housing list in Cleveleys but there's no properties at all" she adds "Salford signed me up to all these lists but when it came to move they said they can't help me because they don't have any push over other councils" Pat adds "The houses offered are in the roughest areas…A couple of weeks ago they decided to find me somewhere in Eccles, I viewed the property from the outside and said `I'm not going in there, don't even bother getting out of the car'. I've heard nothing since. They rang me last week to say `We haven't forgotten about you'."
Salford Council has even tried what sounds like intimidation in its efforts to de-house Pat and her daughter from Cumberland Street…
"Late last year they said if I haven't moved or sorted myself out they would have to put me in a hostel" she recalls "They would come to the door with a set of keys and say `There's your property, if you don't accept it you'll have to go into a hostel'. I said `Fair enough, I'll go into the hostel – but make sure it's in Cleveleys, otherwise I'm not going'."
So why didn't Pat want to stay in the brilliant `New Broughton'?
"I didn't want a new house" she explains "They've only given them a ten year life span so what is the point of me going there? They'll probably fall into the river."
Pat is less than impressed with the regeneration so far. With hundreds of houses tinned up, a new park has now opened…
"Who's that for?" Pat laughs "There's only my little girl who goes on it and it's like a swamp. I don't know what they're thinking of, they're crazy people, absolutely crazy…"
What Pat thinks of Salford Council is unprintable. Does he feel that she has been victimised for not playing the game?
"Yes, probably" she concludes "They told me I had to be out for January 6th and I've still not heard nothing from them, except the call last week to say they hadn't forgotten about me. I've no inkling when I'm moving, I don't know where I'll end up but I'm planning to stay until I get where I want. So God knows how long I'll be here…"
Meanwhile, as Salford Council trumpets its New Broughton regeneration, a mum and her nine year old daughter are left in demolition hell. Vulnerable? Duty of care? When it suits, Salford Council seems to be turning a blind eye.
The Salford Star contacted Salford Council for a comment but it has not responded. We also forwarded our concerns to local councillors, and Councillor Charlie McIntyre responded to say that he and Councillor Jim King are "both lobbying Cllr Merry to get things in place to protect her and her family".
Update: Councillor John Merry, Leader of Salford Council, responded after this article was published…
"I have spoken to the housing team about this resident on Cumberland Street and they have confirmed that they have been dealing with her developing situation for some time" he said "There have been a few changes to the residents' preferences, ranging from her asking to move out of the city, to moving to another area of Salford, to then deciding she would like to stay in Lower Broughton.
"Each time the housing team has found her a suitable home, but her change in preference has meant they have then had to seek alternatives. We have now reached a situation where the resident has decided she would like to stay in Lower Broughton, so we are working to find her a suitable property in this area of the city. We hope to have this resolved soon."
This version is disputed by a friend of Pat who asks why no Broughton councillors have ever been to see Pat and see her situation first hand.
See also: Mocha Parade and the further destruction of a community… click here
* See previous Salford Star stories on Lower Broughton…
Salford Star calls for Lower Broughton Public Inquiry – click here and click here
`No Thanks' to New Broughton – click here
In Supurbia – click here