Despite Salford Council and its Mayor Ian Stewart spending, and continuing to spend, millions of pounds on a new fountain, water taxis and bridges, one of the major landmarks in the city – the iconic blue cargo cranes at Salford Quays – are to be demolished next week, despite frantic efforts by the community to save them.
The cranes, which date back to the Sixties and are one of the most visual reminders that the posh Quays used to be a working docks, are due to be removed and dismantled between Friday 25th and Monday 28th October, and notices have now gone up, ironically, asking for people's `patience' and `co-operation' during the trashing.
As the news spread last night, Salford's community expressed its feeling on Facebook groups… "idiots"… "shame on them"… "they will be gone forever replaced by a phone app costing £150,000…scandalous tribute to those that gave all their working lives to make the docks successful only for Peel to snap them up"… "We need a protest"…
Salford Council originally had £626,000 ring fenced to refurbish the cranes, and had a lowest quote of £648,500 to `disassemble, refurbish and re-erect' the structures, leaving a shortfall of just £25,000 plus maintenance costs of £8000 a year.
In January, Salford Mayor Ian Stewart put out a statement saying "It would be wrong to spend £1million on preserving two rusting and dangerous cranes, when the people of Salford are struggling to make ends meet…". He failed to mention that the ring fenced funding was for capital projects and couldn't be spent on `people'.
Instead, the money set aside for the cranes was spent, the Salford Star believes, on the £300,000 Biospheric Project `pea farm' (see here) and the cost of demolition, while the remainder is to be blown on a heritage mobile phone app costing £150,000, as exclusively revealed by the Salford Star recently (see here). The app, to which the Council is contributing between £50,000 and £100,000, "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 your phone at the empty spot and it will show you a picture of the disappeared cranes. "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 the Salford Quays Heritage and Nature Group.
Indeed, the Salford Quays Heritage and Nature Group, Save Salford and various other Salford facebook groups and organisations have tried frantically to save the cranes – trying to get them listed as `Assets of Community Value', and listed via English Heritage – but all in vain, as they issued a statement labelling the political process `a sham'.
Over the last few years Salford Council has tried everything to get rid of one of Salford's last landmarks, using truly bizarre logic, the last of which was that the cranes couldn't be `assets of community value' because they will be `dismantled and removed from the site'… or `The cranes can't be assets of community value because we're going to bulldoze them'.
Despite describing the cranes as an "important local landmark" that "represent an important link with the heritage and history of Salford Quays" Council reports stated that they "Will detract from the Quays vista", or spoil the yuppies' view', and that "In their current condition the cargo cranes are not an asset to Salford Quays" – despite the Council in earlier reports admitting that its neglect had caused the cranes' current condition!
The whole episode has shone a light on where Salford Council's attitude is coming from – and that of Salford Mayor Ian Stewart, who sees determined to spend £millions on new bridges and `iconic' structures, while neglecting the city's past heritage.
The trashing of the blue Salford Quays cargo cranes will forever be Ian Stewart's legacy to Salford.
See previous Salford Star articles for full background...
* Mayor to Sign Demolition order for Cranes - click here
* Cranes Hopes Dashed by Bizarre Council Logic - click here (follow links at the end of the article)
Last night James Walsh, a Labour Party member and member of the Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group, posted an open letter to Ian Stewart on facebook...
OPEN LETTER TO THE MAYOR OF SALFORD
17th October 2013
Dear Mr Stewart
I thank you for your recent letter but feel that many questions have not been answered and that the report that we issued you with has not been addressed by either yourself or council officers. There is still a case to answer.
I am aware that there are many other very important heritage sites within the borough of Salford, but there are NONE with the exceptional, stunning visual presence of the cranes, that is why they are so LOVED within the Salford community. The location and the superb vista they provide, make them UNIQUE, ICONIC and IRREPLACEABLE.
I would compare them on somewhat of a par to the Statue of Liberty in New York in this respect ie: that New York has many other fine examples of heritage but you would not use this as an excuse to knock down the Statue of Liberty!
It is a real insult to the people of Salford, past and present, for Peel Ports to suggest that they can't afford to pay for the cranes conservation. The amount of profit that Peel have made out of the blood, sweat, tears and sometimes even lives of Salfordians over the years is completely dis-proportionate to the amount the cranes would cost to restore and refurbish. Mr Whittaker would not be sat in his Isle of Man tax free exile mansion were it not for many years of hard graft from our dockers and sailors and associated workers. It would be my educated guess that Mr Whittaker could pay for the cranes several times over with the amount of tax that he avoids living in the Isle of Man!
Many Salfordians who have some clue as to the amount of money that Peel makes meet the concept that Peel can't afford to find a few hundred thousand pounds for this project with amusement.
The exceptional short-sightedness of this situation baffles many Salfordians. With my businessman hat on, I can see the value of the cranes, they can be a profitable asset to the city of Salford, including Peel, for many years to come. Just imagine in 100 years or 200 years how valuable an asset they could be for the city of Salford.
In this situation, the Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group has the backing of the PEOPLE of Salford, as far as I am aware it is only our organisation who has actually done public opinion surveys/consultation to find out actually what the people want. Let it not be forgotten that you, and other council officials involved, were elected to represent the people and we have, in our report, given you a very fair view of what the people want.
We have been exceptionally disappointed with the political process! We are astonished to once again have to find out what is supposed to be happening with the cranes through local media rather than council officers! That Quays Culture have been consulted AHEAD of our group who have submitted a Community Preservation Order is somewhat unfathomable.
On a very personal note, I should inform you that I recently calculated that my family have given around 100 years service to the city of Salford since their arrival from Ireland in 1876 – my great grandfather, docker, my grandfather, docker & military service, my father, docker, military service and National Dock Labour Board Welfare Officer, my uncle, docker, military service and crane driver, my mother worked with Ordsall Community Arts on the Four Corners project, and we worked together with the Unlocking The Quays project to produce a fine memorial to my father, the Casuals sculpture, that is located adjacent to the Lowry Bridge
And now I, myself, have concentrated my time to the city of Salford over the last few years, continuing my families fine tradition of civic pride, doing huge amounts of volunteering in the community, for organisations such as Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group, Manchester Ship Canal Conservation Network, Ordsall Community Arts, Ordsall Trust, £250,000 Christie Fund, Amber Project, etc, whilst being registered as a student at the University of Salford, as well as volunteering for Salford City Council.
I was brought up as a kid around the dockers, I spent many hours in the old dockers club and accompanying my dad to retired dockers meetings and socials, I am steeped in the unique values, traditions and culture of the docks.
Within the Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group there are many local people with family members who were dockers, and individual areas of community expertise.
Can Quays Culture claim the same credentials to be given such an important and culturally sensitive project? The mobile phone app suggestion has been met with incredulity and derision within the Salford community so I suggest not.
Even if you have to write to, or meet personally with, Mr Whittaker, who is still making vast amounts of money from the city of Salford, I ask you to do what you can, admittedly in very difficult times, to think the unthinkable yourself and help to restore, not only the cranes, but a little bit of Salfordian pride, that has taken many kickings over the years, especially since the docks closed in 1982.
We implore Salford City Council and Peel, once again, to help to conserve the cranes for all Salfordians, past, present and future generations
Labour Party member
Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group
Manchester Ship Canal Conservation Network
UPDATE: 18th October
* Next Saturday, 26th October, as the cranes are being demolished, the ironically named Quays Culture which is creating the £150,000 app to replace the cranes, is having a Quays Culture Open Day.
It's full of events on the Quays - at the MediaCityUK Plaza and in The Lowry - including "the sights and sounds of the striking sound installation Audible Forces" and a "talk from the astonishing intellect of theorist and activist Pat Kane"...perhaps Pat would like to show his `astonishing intellect' by explaining Salford Council's act of heritage vandalism?
UPDATE: 19th October
HERITAGE CONFERENCE HORROR AT SALFORD CRANE VANDALISM AS GLASGOW'S RESTORED CRANE BECOMES INTERNATIONAL ENGINEERING LANDMARK…
Today the Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group issued the following statement surrounding the demolition of the cranes….
"Participants at the Salford Heritage Conference at Ordsall Hall on 18th October 2013, expressed their whole-hearted shock and disappointment about the cranes situation. This conference included not just many members of the Salford Local History Forum, but many people from other areas of the country, including Cheshire, who paid £25 per ticket to learn about our fascinating heritage, including a tour of the docklands.
The highlight for the majority of the participants was the sight of the magnificent docks cranes. On the morning of the conference, preparatory work began to demolish the iconic docks cranes, against the wishes of many Salford residents. The cranes are due to be demolished due to the signature of the Mayor of Salford, Mr Ian Stewart, to a demolition order.
At the same time, in Mr Stewart's homeland of Scotland, The Scotsman newspaper and the international engineering community announced this morning that the restored Glasgow Titan Crane is now designated an International Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark, up with the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Harbour Bridge, illustrating the huge community benefits of restoring industrial heritage.
The Titan Crane at Clydebank is all that remains of the once world famous John Browns shipyard, where famous battleships such as HMS Hood and magnificent passenger liners like the QE2 were constructed.
The Titan was acquired by local urban regeneration company, Clydebank, and re-built from private owners in 2004. Following community consultation, the clear decision was to restore the Titan, make it accessible to the public and for an illumination programme to light up the Crane at night. The design tender to restore the Crane and convert to a visitor attraction was won by Glasgow based architects, Chris Stewart Architects, later known as Collective Architecture.
Clydebank are the `Urban Vision' of Glasgow, a local regeneration company, who have done a very sound job of community consultation, listening to the decision of the people and acting upon the wishes of the community – it would be superb if Salford City Council and Urban Vision could follow suit…"
Update: 24th October
NIgel Pivaro says `Save Salford's Cranes' - click here