At the East Salford Community Committee meeting last week, Salford Council finally came up with a sort of answer to a question that was originally asked almost a year ago - `What is happening with Whit Lane?'
It's a question the community has been asking since 2004 when the £53million led Charlestown and Lower Kersal New Deal for Communities (NDC) first made public its ludicrous plans to demolish whole areas, mainly by the river, for `waterside apartments' and even a marina.
After a huge community fightback many houses were saved. But half of the Whit Lane estate, streets off Littleton Road and houses at the back of Lower Kersal estate (all by the river) were to be bulldozed. And huge sums of money (never divulged) were spent buying up houses and clearing people for a regeneration that has never happened.
A few years ago the NDC admitted mistakes and reprieved riverside properties at the back of Lower Kersal estate – after elderly residents spent years worrying about their future. But 184 houses by the river - Thursfield Street, Reading Street, Chinley Street, Wainman Street, Suffolk Street, Levens Street and part of Littleton Road – were bulldozed (see here) to make way for a mud patch which Salford Council is assuring residents will be transformed into a `wild flower garden'.
Meanwhile, those forgotten residents around Whit Lane have been left in limbo for years, not knowing the future of their estate or their lives. The only people who prospered from the mess were those on huge NDC salaries, demolition contractors and consultants brought in to draw up plans that never happened…
One sum in 2009 for drawing up a masterplan totalled £441,000. That masterplan was subsequently ripped up. In 2009, £384,682 was spent on demolition of Thursfield Street et al. And another £300,000 was approved in 2011 for `site preparation'…That's over £1million for no return.
Miller Homes, the original developer for the area, has pulled out of the `regeneration' (after stating its building would begin - see here) and last March a `new approach' leaflet was pushed through people's doors showing houses that were `under review' (ie to be demolished) and those that were to be retained. Alongside, was a public display of a vision for the area by Countryside Properties without any commitment to actually put it into practice. When Salford Star spoke to people in the area at the time they were totally unimpressed (see here).
At the East Salford Community Committee meeting last week - amidst a resident resigning from the NDC `community' succession Development Framework Group for "wasting my time" – the `new approach' was unveiled, kind of…
Without any apology to the people of Charlestown Riverside (as the Council likes to call it), Assistant Mayor for Housing and the Environment, Gina Merrett, blamed the "economic climate" for the (eight year!) mess, while an officer outlined details of the `new approach', which is also contained in a Salford Council report, estimating the costs at over £3million.
Twenty two homes on Delft Walk, Condor Place, Eagle Drive and Parsons Field will be demolished at a cost of £330,000. Salford's legal adviser states "some properties have been identified for demolition, although it is not clear in the Report how the land will then be used / developed by the City Council following that demolition…"
Seven families who were kicked out of their homes when the Council wanted to demolish them, will now be offered the chance to buy back their old houses. The houses – in Haymond Close, Ascot Walk and Parsons Field - have been left tinned up and rotting but the Council has to legally offer them for sale to the original owners "in its current condition and at current market value"*. Does the sale come with a free tin opener?
If the original owners don't want their houses back, the properties will be included, along with ninety-one other Council owned properties formally identified for demolition (Ascot Walk, Concorde Place, Enys Walk, Haymond Close and Parsons Field) and forty houses on Auckland Drive, in proposals to bring them up to the decent homes standard with new roofing, kitchens re-wiring etc.
Environmental improvements, which the Council report states "would seek to deal with the more negative issues associated with the Whit Lane estate", and costing over £800,000, are to be outlined at a later date.
Meanwhile, Mo who runs the only shop in the area at Concorde Place, and has slugged out the `regeneration' for years, is still not being promised a new store. The Council report merely states that "Urban Vision be tasked with developing detailed proposals for these units that reflect the views of residents and other stakeholders as far as possible, within the available resources…"
In the eleven page Council report, only two paragraphs deal with the `Future Development of Charlestown Riverside', stating "it is important that a new developer partner is appointed as soon as possible…As such, it is now proposed to test the market, and seek expressions of interest from developers".
And, yes, yet another Steering Group is being set up to sort it all out.
Meanwhile, the report includes the understatement of the year -
"Progress has been made, albeit slower than hoped for…"
* These `Critchel Downs Obligations', under which the Council has to offer formerly purchased houses back for sale to original owners because they are not being demolished was never applied in Langworthy. There, owners were under the impression that their homes were to be demolished when they sold them to the Council, only to find they were retained and transformed into the Urban Splash `upside down' houses at Chimney Pot Park, or re-sold to other people.
** The Salford Star still hasn't had a reply to the Freedom of Information request re the Development Framework Group – see here
See also previous Salford Star articles on Whit Lane and the NDC
Salford NDC Regeneration Shambles – click here
NDC Made No Difference - click here
The Forgotten Estate - click here
The £53million Down The Drain Award - click here