A couple of weeks after his re-election as councillor for Langworthy, John Warmisham stands in Chimney Pot Park looking down on the nationally acclaimed `upside down' terraced houses that were supposed to regenerate the area, financed with around £20million of public money.
From the Park you can see behind the permanent graffiti covered hoardings and barbed wire that have fronted the scheme for years, hiding the mess of unfinished houses and building rubble.
"As a ward councillor it's one of my biggest frustrations" he says "If you look across the road at the people who live there, they've had to put up with hoardings for years, it's disgraceful. And every time I've attacked Urban Splash there's always been some sort of excuse
"I just find it abysmal that someone who tweets all the time about the awards they are winning, and they're doing this and that, have left this in Salford unfinished, and the people who live across the road from it with an eyesore for fifteen years" the former Salford Council Lead Member for Housing adds "It's disgraceful…."
It was in 2006 that the `upside down' terraced houses came on the market in a blaze of publicity and controversy. The Urban Splash scheme was hyped to the heavens and people from all over the country queued overnight to advance purchase one of the `reinvented' houses.
Meanwhile, local people who had been promised affordable housing found that the houses cost three times above what was considered affordable at the time, with an average price of £120,000. The second printed edition of the Salford Star produced a fifteen page special on the history of the scheme, the secrecy of the public money involved and the angry community reaction.
Local MP Hazel Blears, then a Government Minister who had introduced fellow Government Minister John Prescott and Urban Splash svengali Tom Bloxham to Salford, had announced that the Chimney Pot Park houses would "create exciting, affordable homes and help boost the regeneration of Seedley and Langworthy".
That now sounds like a hollow joke – testified by the not-so-much upside down but tangled mess of terraced houses left by Urban Splash, and the empty grass crofts across Langthworthy Road where family houses were demolished to make way for the `exciting' regeneration.
"It's been horrendous" John Warmisham says "My message to residents of Langworthy and Seedley is that Urban Splash has let them down."
The hype surrounding the Chimney Pot Park houses, which won 16 awards, is still being sustained. This month the Irish Independent, under the headline `The Man Who Saved Coronation Street', was still lauding the development and its creator, Tom Bloxham, who told the newspaper "The secret to providing homes that people want is to keep the quality high – across the board."
But Warmisham reveals that the quality of the houses themselves leaves a lot to be desired…
"A few people have had problems, and the management company, Plumlife, has done a bit of work with the residents but as ward councillors we've had to get involved and really push because some people have been really let down I feel."
He lists the building problems… "water ingress, some of the interior stuff is not up to the standard it should be, there's parking issues, car crime because of the way the car parking has been done…"
Meanwhile, along the back of the development, Great Places housing group took on some of the derelict streets left by Urban Splash a few years ago and built similar looking affordable houses; but at the front, facing Langworthy Road, the failure is there for all to see. Now Salford City Council is trying to pick up the pieces, get the land back off Urban Splash and find a new developer.
"The last meeting we had of the Regeneration Board stated that they are very close in negotiations in returning it to the Council, then we can really look at motoring and get something built on there" says Warmisham "As far as I know there are no fees in place. The legalities are down to Urban Vision and the Council and then we'll know what monies are involved."
Urban Splash paid the Council nothing for the land, got millions of pounds of public money to develop it and, Warmisham says, didn't pay a penny back off the profits it made selling the upside down houses it did build, despite complicated and secret `overage' payments agreed with the Council.
"They've not got the money to redevelop it and I think that if we get it back we can get into negotiations with other developers, or with a social landlord who can get money through the Housing Corporation, and look at top end market rent" he explains "There won't be affordable housing in this bit.
"You need that frontage, and that's what I've always fought for since I became the ward councillor, to try and get it finished off" he adds "That's one of my frustrations as a councillor – that we as a Council sometimes start these regeneration schemes, the money runs out and you can't finish it off…"
It's the story of Salford going back generations. There's a whole history of failed regenerations, from Hanky Park to Lower Kersal…
"As a proud Salfordian" he replies "I can't put my finger on it…"
Is it because regeneration only works in favour of the developers and consultants?
"As an ordinary ward councillor that is the frustration at times, that money has been there but it has been frittered away using the wrong consultants doing the wrong plans…"
The Urban Splash upside down houses at Chimney Pot Park had £20million public money thrown at it under a veil of secrecy and deals. It was a hype and a gimmick that has gone horribly wrong because, it seems, that as soon as the public money ran out so did the developer…
"Of course it was a gimmick" Councillor Warmisham agrees "And if you look at New Islington in Manchester it's the same story…but at the time it was the only game in town"
Pointing to the old houses on Langworthy Road, he adds "but for me, I care about those people, it's unacceptable."
And turning to face the rubble behind the graffiti covered hoardings and barbed wire he decides "I'm not a negative person…I'll keep fighting until we can get the monies for it…."
* The Salford Star asked Urban Splash to respond to Councillor Warmisham's comments. The company didn't reply.
** The full article, including some of the more positive aspects of the regeneration of Langworthy and Seedley will appear in the new printed issue of Salford Star in September.
• See also previous Salford Star `The Bubble's Burst Award' click here
Main photo shows Councillor John Warmisham
Photos by Steven Speed