In the car park of Mocha Parade in Lower Broughton, people are gathered around watching Coronation Street being filmed. Steve McDonald's car seems to have blown up and there's steam wafting all over the place.
The Street has come here to film, presumably to get that gritty feel of a proper Salford community space. Unfortunately, that very Salford community is being broken up, and the community spaces and houses flattened to make way for the Brave New Broughton of small white houses and sterilized streets.
If any of the Corrie cast or crew took a look beyond the Mocha Parade car park they would see the flats above the shops tinned up with the Salford Council mantra `All Materials of Value Have Been Removed' stamped on the former windows. At the sides and back of Mocha Parade whole swathes of streets are currently being bulldozed. And both the shop keepers and shoppers at Mocha Parade feel that very soon the whole precinct itself will be rubble.
Not that Salford Council has told anyone what is happening with Mocha. But the tinned up flats and bulldozed streets give one huge clue.
"I think they want to bulldoze it, they are running the place down" says Ashfaq Ahmed of Mocha Newsagents "There's nothing wrong with the flats up there but since people have moved out we've had about five break-ins and the insurance hasn't paid out yet. It's like I read in the paper about Scotland; the Council moved all the residents out, it was like a ghost town and the businesses couldn't survive. That's what's happening here. Exactly the same scenario. We're surviving, just making ends meet.
"I would like someone to come forward from the Council and say `Yes Mr Ahmed, this is what we're going to do'" he adds "It's six years I've been here, I've got a good reputation and served the community well. I'd like to stay here all my life to be honest. I don't want this place demolished. I think they should do it up, I like it. If we know what the future is then we can start preparing for it but at the moment it's a dead end."
Over the last five years there's been all sorts of Council policies and rumours about the future of Mocha Parade. In 2008 Salford Council Leader John Merry confirmed that there were proposals to knock down Broughton Baths and move it to Mocha. It never happened. Council reports since then promise the "comprehensive redevelopment" of the precinct "anchored by a small supermarket"…
That `small supermarket' was presumed to be ASDA but that now appears unlikely to happen with ASDA looking to take over the giant Springfield Lane site as part of the proposed grassed roof Urban Splash scheme close by. All the while traders are treading water, watching Mocha getting run down by the week with no proper leases in place providing any sort of protection.
"When there was the Kwik Save supermarket it was very, very busy but now it's a struggle" says Darren Melville of Melville's Fish Bar, who took over the 35 year old Mocha chippy three years ago "In the last four months trade has gone down and we don't know what to do. They said there was going to be a meeting between the Council, Urban Vision and Countryside Properties within four weeks - that was at the beginning of the year, we're now in May.
"I've phoned the relevant people at the Council and there was no response, they won't say anything" he adds "Local tenants have signed a letter saying we want new shops putting in, but no. The leases ran out in 2010 we're all on rolling leases so we don't know if we're going to get compensation or a new shop. We don't know what's happening, we're just waiting. They might give us new shops and that would be fine but you just don't know…"
It's not just the shops future that is at stake, it's the community's too. Run down though it is, Mocha is one of the few places left in Lower Broughton that has independent shops, employment and any kind of social history. The British Legion across the road was flattened late last year, as the bulldozers have moved from Camp Street further and further towards the river and Manchester.
The fruit and veg shop, W McEvilly and Sons, has been on Mocha since 1977 and a business in the area for five generations. Now its future is in the balance…
"They don't care about us" says one of the shop workers who served Steve McDonald actor, Simon Gregson, with an apple earlier "We've got less customers since they've knocked down all the houses. We all agree that Mocha is a mess and something needs doing but they've yet to offer us another shop or anything. We've been told that there's no need for precincts any more…but we will be very angry if they don't give us a shop. There's a good community spirit here and we would be devastated if they split us all up."
Sarah, who is buying some fruit at McEvilly's, agrees. Her father worked in the shop for the great grandfather of the current owners and she thinks it's the end of an era.
"This is a community and we all get along" she says "These shops should all be together but with all the houses coming down I don't think they will stay here. It's a shame. It's about splitting up the community."
And while the community is being split up - some going to the new Countryside Properties houses in New Broughton, some re-locating to the old surviving houses on Riverside and Spike Island, and others fleeing the area completely – confusion reigns.
"We get asked a lot off the community what's happening to Mocha Parade and all we can say is we don't know" explains Joe Wagner, a counter assistant at K's Chemist "We've been told that they are making plans for a new shop but we've not seen anything, and we heard that through someone else rather than through the Council who haven't kept us informed of anything. Basically, we're being kept in the dark. They're not doing anything and with the houses getting emptied above it's going to make it look even shabbier."
Edna Brookes has been living in one of the flats above the shops for 34 years
and used to work in one of them before retiring. Now, surrounded by boxes, she's preparing to move out to a New Broughton `apartment' as the windows on her Mocha neighbours' flats get tinned up around her.
"I'm happy in a way, because it's got rather run down around here" she says, quickly adding that renovation rather than total demolition of the area would have been a better option.
"I think they should have thought about doing the houses up before knocking them down" she explains "There used to be a community but they've moved away and they don't come back on Mocha as much as they used to do."
All of which is the classic Council way of treating old communities – run an area down, then say it's beyond repair and needs to be flattened. Bring in developers, underscored with public money, and build properties that few of the old community can afford, with some social housing to justify the public money. Lose a good proportion of the old community in the process and hope to replace with `young professionals' who dilute the social problems.
It's happened and happening all over Central Salford, from Ordsall to Broughton, to Charlestown, to Langworthy to the imminent Pendleton PFI project. Mocha Parade is centre stage to all this – almost next to Manchester, the River Irwell and the University of Salford, Manchester.
The Salford Star asked Salford Council whether Mocha faces demolition or refurbishment…
"We are currently in discussion with a developer about the redevelopment of the area south of Green Grosvenor Park, which includes Mocha Parade" said Councillor Gene Merrett, the new Assistant Mayor for Housing and Environment.
"No planning applications have been submitted for this area yet so there are no imminent plans for any work in the area" she added "However, as plans for the area develop, we will be speaking to traders about existing and future business opportunities for Mocha Parade."
This is not encouraging for the precinct. Developers don't tend to refurbish, preferring new `developments' with sky high rents and chain stores. The Coronation Street location team might well be running out of proper Salford community spaces in the future.
Darren at Melville's Fish Bar isn't giving up hope…"If they give us notice they're going to get a fight" he says "A big fight…"
See previous Salford Star articles…
Lower Broughton Regeneration Hell – click here (and more links at the end of the article)
The Assassination of the Higher Broughton Community – click here for Coronation Street chippy location story and click here to see what happened next
Salford Council Gives City To Developers – click here