How can Salford Council get away with treating its own community like this? Last year, the Salford Star called for a Public Inquiry into the disgrace that is the Higher Broughton regeneration (see here and see here) and again we call for a Public Inquiry. Not that anyone's listening – are they, Mr Ian Stewart Mayor?
Yesterday, in secret, Councillor Gena Merrett, Assistant Mayor for Housing and Environment, sanctioned a contract "to a value not to exceeding £350,000" for refurbishing six houses in Devonshire Street, in the Top Streets of Higher Broughton. This works out at an average £58,333 per house.
But in April 2009, Salford Council's Strategic Director for Sustainable Regeneration, sent out letters to all the remaining residents in the Top Streets stating that "cost estimates received from the partnership in September 2008 indicate refurbishment costs of up to £130,000 per property. These costs are now likely to have increased due to further deterioration in the properties where refurbishment had been contemplated…"
Thus the original plan to refurbish 23 properties – eight in Devonshire Street and 15 in King Street – was not `economically viable' and the houses would be demolished instead. This figure of £130,000 left both the community and local builders staggered (Salford Council won the Salford Star Mary Burns Award for this see here)
Only a year before, the Government itself had quoted a figure just short of £70,000 per property for the Top Streets. And the Salford Star took a local builder (see here) to look at the houses… "I'd say it would cost between £50,000 and £70,000 maximum to completely refurbish even a three bed terrace in Higher Broughton" he said "But £130,000 – where did they get that from? If there's a contract going I'd take it – I'll be able to retire a bit earlier!"
Urban Vision proved the point further in 2009 (see here) when it refurbished a similar style house to those on the Top Streets by charging £55,000 for one virtually across the road from the condemned houses. And in Irlam, City West Housing managed the feat for just over £37,000.
Meanwhile, the Salford Star saw a letter from July 2008, seven months before the community received the £130,000 refurbishment bombshell, sent from Richard Wynne, Director of Property for Urban Vision acting on behalf of Salford Council, to Graeme Hogg of the Council's regeneration partner, Inpartnership, which revealed that "The Partnership has, to my mind, always been rather reluctant to consider refurbishment and would prefer to concentrate on new build."
The Salford Council figure of £130,000 per property was meant to end any hope of any of the community getting even one of the proposed 23 refurbished houses. But three disgusted residents took the Council to the High Court, insisting they get what was promised (see here).
Unfortunately the terms of the High Court case didn't challenge the original Compulsory Purchase Order slapped on the whole area, it was about them personally getting a refurbished house. When the case finished late last year the Council agreed to save only six houses on Devonshire Street.
And yesterday the cost of refurbishing these houses was revealed at an average of £58,333 – not £130,000 – which probably would have made the refurbishment `economically viable'.
Meanwhile, Salford Council spent £228,000 on demolishing 108 out of 138 houses in the Top Streets (see here), plus thousands of pounds of public money defending the residents' High Court actions.
Now with the whole demolition of the area, bar six houses, due to be completed this summer, questions remain as to why Salford Council was so keen to bulldoze every residents' home - to the point where it sent out what we believe to be misleading refurbishment figures, and privately stating that the partners didn't want to refurbish anyway …
…And why, in March, Salford Council tore up its own policy on the need for affordable housing for a proposed future development of the area by Countryside Properties (see here). Other questions that need to be answered include whether there was a plan to build houses purely for the expanding orthodox Jewish community in the area at the expense of the existing community…
The Jewish Chronicle reported in February this year… "Succah roofs, kosher kitchens and Israeli-style hand washing basins are features of an 80-unit housing development, for which a planning application is under consideration by Salford City Council. The application by Countryside Properties has found favour with Salford's strictly Orthodox population.
"Suggestions by community members for dining and living spaces suitable for large family gatherings have also been incorporated into the design after Countryside's consultations with local residents" the report added "The three, four and six bedroom properties would replace dilapidated terraced housing and help to relieve a housing crisis among the area's large Jewish community.."
In past interviews with the Salford Star, local councillor and (now former) Leader of Salford Council, John Merry, denied many times that a ghetto was being built. Asked whether the new housing proposals were purely for the orthodox Jewish community he responded during our last interview… "I can assure you that Countryside are not just intending to sell them to orthodox Jews."
There are just so many questions that need to be answered surrounding this one small area of Higher Broughton – did Salford Council mislead the original CPO inquiry into the bulldozing of the Top Streets? Why was there so much secrecy surrounding the finances of the programme, despite millions upon millions of pounds of public money being pumped into the area? We still don't know how much the exact figure is and where it's all gone.
But the main accusation against Salford City Council here is why, despite every shred of evidence to the contrary, it told the community that it couldn't refurbish their houses, as promised, because it would cost £130,000 or more per property?
Only a Public Inquiry would be able to sort this. And the new Mayor of Salford, Ian Stewart, has the power to call this. We won't hold our breath…
See Part 2 - click here
See previous Salford Star articles on the Top Streets...
INSANE SALFORD COUNCIL DEMOLITION DISGRACE - click here
THE ASSASSINATION OF A COMMUNITY - click here
For more Higher Broughton features put the phrase `Top Streets' into the Google search bar on the top of the page
Main graphic image by Jamie Reid