Back in November 2012, when Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart signed the death warrant for the blue Salford Quays cargo cranes, his report stated that they would be replaced with "new heritage interpretation features".
Now, it looks like the "new heritage interpretation feature" is to be part of a Salford Quays mobile phone app costing £150,000.
A Salford Council heritage report states that "in the report to the City Mayor concerning the removal of the cargo cranes, officers recommended that any future heritage interpretation in the area be considered through the council's emerging Heritage Vision. However, an opportunity to work with Quays Culture to develop a project in advance of the production of the Heritage Vision has arisen…"
The `opportunity' is a project being developed by an organisation called Quays Culture (public funding via AGMA, the Arts Council and National Lottery) which aims to produce a `downloadable visitor guide to The Quays Quays', or app, "which will use text and visual images to show the past/present/potential future of the area, providing prompts to highlight landmarks, key buildings etc".
In other words, you point the thing at the empty site and it will show the cranes that used to be there.
And yet another "event will take place to capture people's memories of the area, perceptions of present and potential future development". There's already been loads of similar `heritage' events, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, like The Lowry's Unlocking Salford Quays.
The Heritage report adds: "Given that Members are keen to see a heritage interpretation project at the Quays following the removal of the cargo cranes, officers consider that a collaborative project with Quays Culture can provide an opportunity in this respect, in terms of its scope, profile and impact."
To rub salt in the cranes' mortal wounds, the money to pay for the Quays Culture app is coming out of what's left of the funding set aside to restore them.
"The council has a £50,000 to £100,000 'below the line' allocation within the Capital budget for a heritage project at the Quays (from cargo cranes allocation)" the report notes, adding that "initial discussions' with Quays Culture identified a budget of £150,000 as reasonable for such a project".
The report reckons that £100,000 could come from the National Lottery, with Salford City Council adding a £50,000 `contribution', although it adds that `no fixed costs have been identified'.
There has been an ongoing campaign by organisations like Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group and the Manchester Ship Canal Conservation Network to Save The Cranes, with a petition gathering over 1,000 signatures against the demolition. But Salford Council reports argued that the cranes "now detract from the Quays vista" and their refurbishment didn't represent "good value for money".
Figures produced by Salford Council itself, however, showed there was just a £25,000 shortfall plus £8,000 a year maintenance in the capital budget for the work (£648,500 to `disassemble, refurbish and re-erect' the structures, with £626,000 ring fenced…see Salford Star article – click here).
Today, campaigners trying to Save The Cranes were staggered when the Salford Star informed them of the Council's intentions…
"It's absolutely ridiculous, if there's money available for a mobile phone app then there's money available to restore the cranes" said James Walsh of Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group
"Once again they are showing no respect for the people of Salford" he added "The cranes stands as a memorial to the dockers who gave their service to the city of Salford. No-one in their right mind would destroy a war memorial so why should the cranes be any different? The cranes have become an unofficial memorial for the dockers."
• See also previous Salford Star articles and links on the Salford Quays cranes for a full background – click here and click here and click here and click here
• Sign the Change.org petition to Save The Cranes – click here
• See also Save Our Cranes facebook group
UPDATE 9th October 2013
Last night, the groups Save Salford, the Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group and the Manchester Ship Canal Conservation Network issued a joint statement about the "surreal decision that the cranes should be replaced with a mobile phone app"…
"We shall continue to pursue whatever avenues we can to keep the cranes as a tribute to the dockers who built the city of Salford. We continue to hold the belief that the cranes are not only of national importance, but are internationally important. Salford docks used to be linked to the whole world through ships and trade, and the cranes can be a global link for the city through tourism now and in the future
"The more and more research we do, the more we are finding docks cities all over the world that are conserving and restoring their cranes as tributes to their workers and as economically profitable tourism attractions, why can't Salford do the same?"
POLITICAL PROCESS A SHAM !
"The political process regarding the cranes has been very shabby, from English Heritages' decision last year that the cranes were only of local importance, to Salford City Council ignoring the advice of English Heritage that they should be listed locally, to the farcical Community Preservation Order process, to the surreal decision that the cranes should be replaced with a mobile phone app! This decision has been met with incredulity within the Salford community"
"The Salford community has been busy with the fight to save the cranes A Save Our Cranes petition has collected over 1,000 signatures
Local folk have even made their own Save Our Cranes video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsqFH_keqjA
"Our community consultation of large numbers of Salfordians suggests that the cranes have universal support within the community. Why are Salford City Council so intent on removing them when they are so popular with Salfordians ? You wouldn't see Agra Council knocking down the Taj Mahal or the Mayor of New York City knocking down the Statue of Liberty ! The cranes now stand as a tribute to all those who gave their lives in one way or another to the docks, no council in their right mind would get rid of a war memorial so why should the cranes be any different?
"The cranes have become an unofficial memorial to the dockers, it is time they became an OFFICIAL MEMORIAL AND TRIBUTE TO THE DOCKERS"