Picnic by the Irwell Riverside anyone? This time last year, Salford Council promised that the former demolition site between Levens Street and the River would be enhanced by a big clean up and the "sowing of wild flowers" as "part of the Council's commitment to redevelop the Charlestown Riverside area."
This week there was no evidence of any wild flowers on the site, just massively overgrown weeds, cans, bottles and a couple of wild poppies desperately trying to bloom through the broken bricks.
Meanwhile, Miller Homes and ID4Living, first chosen back in 2005 to develop, what the Star called `yuppie riverside apartments', have officially been given the boot by Salford Council – with a pay-off "in excess of £100,000".
Residents the Salford Star spoke to weren't impressed…
"There's no wild flowers on there, only cans, bottles, rubbish, rocks and prickles, it's a mess" said one lady "It's all overgrown and we'd just like it cut, never mind wild flowers."
Another told us… "We can't keep our doors open because there's loads of foxes on there and we're worried about them getting into our houses."
Miller Homes and ID4Living appeared on the regeneration scene in 2005, at the height of the horrendously failed £53million Charlestown and Lower Kersal NDC (New Deal For Communities/Now Demolishing A City/Now Definitely Clueless) project.
184 affordable terraced houses in Thursfield Street, Reading Street, Chinley Street, Wainman Street, Suffolk Street, Levens Street and part of Littleton Road were chosen for demolition, as the developers eyed potential profits of riverside apartments.
Indeed, the Salford Star always maintained that there was nothing wrong with the houses – that the only reason why they were bulldozed and the community displaced was due to "their sexy setting for developers...given that identical houses further up Littleton Road but set back from the River (and not sexy for developers) were done up rather than demolished" (click here for `Sold Down The River' article and also click here for `Why Are These Houses Being Demolished?')).
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money was spent clearing out the community and £350,000 was spent on the eventual demolition, with a Salford Council report in 2009 stating that the clearance of the area will "help maintain community confidence in the redevelopment process, as it is likely to serve as a powerful signal that the development process is entering a significant phase"…
Nothing happened. In 2010, Miller Homes received planning permission for `three storey waterside flats'. John Merry, the then Leader of Salford City Council and Deputy Chair of the NDC, announced that "This represents a real opportunity to open up this spectacular riverside site and to transform this part of Central Salford", while Miller Homes stated that it was "excited about, and remain fully committed to, developing out the Charlestown Riverside site in Salford..." which would commence during 2011. Nothing happened.
And then just over a year ago Salford Council put out a press release, quoting Councillor Gena Merrett, Assistant Mayor for Housing and Environment, saying that "The big cleanup of Charlestown Riverside is the first step towards total redevelopment of this area - something the local community is keen to see…We are looking forward to the future of this site and the opportunities it will bring." (see previous Salford Star `Demolition Diary' article – click here)
Twelve months later, and Salford Council has now issued a `Termination of Framework Agreement' notice, giving the developers the boot, while agreeing to "approve the payment to Miller Homes Limited and ID4Living Limited". This, the Council notes in a separate report, will be "in excess of £100,000".
Miller Homes told the Salford Star that it was "simply being reimbursed for part of the cost of the consultant's technical reports in accordance with the terms of the agreement with Salford City Council. The benefit of these reports are being transferred to Salford City Council for future development."
The company added that "The scheme is not viable without substantial public funds, which have not been available. Miller Homes was prepared to wait for the market to improve, however Salford City Council's preference was to terminate the agreement in order to explore other avenues in order to progress with development as soon as possible."
Countryside Properties was the last developer to show an interest in the area, even running an informal `visioning' exercise with the community last year – which showed no affordable housing anywhere near the river (see The Forgotten Estate article – click here).
As the eight year mess at the centre of the doomed £53million regeneration project drags on, residents who are left on Levens Street face another period looking over their shoulders for foxes, and overlooking weeds, bottles, cans and broken bricks – even the promised wild flowers didn't appear.