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SALFORD NDC LANDS TROUBLE
 

Star date: 14th September 2009

SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF ALBION BATTLE FOR `ENGLAND'S GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND'…

"The NDC don't care what you want…As soon as you're not singing from their hymn sheet they don't want to know…"
Carole Woodward, former community Board member, Charlestown and Lower Kersal New Deal for Communities.

The community around the former Poets Corner streets in Charlestown has spent years creating Albion Green, a small oasis of shrubs, plants and grassy banks by the River Irwell that's really well used by local people. Now, in a plan hatched by the NDC and backed by Salford City Council, the land is being sold to developers ID and Miller Homes for £1 and the Green is going to be trashed…

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Albion Green Protest Salford Albion Green Protest Albion Green Protest Salford
Albion Green Protest Salford Albion Green Protest Salford
click image to enlarge

"I'm not here to furnish the profits of developers, that's not my role" says local Labour councillor, Steve Coen "My role is to represent the community.  The NDC clearly need challenging and monitoring at all times."

The £53million Charlestown and Lower Kersal New Deal for Communities is supposed to be a community led regeneration project. Yet local councillors, the community and even Hazel Blears have united in opposing its latest plans to build houses on a small piece of precious green land at the far end of Gerald Road, opposite the former Poets Streets in Charlestown.

Inspired Developments (ID), in partnership with Miller Homes, is proposing to build 13 houses on the Poets Streets site behind the University's IQ student residence building, and eight houses across the road on Albion Green

The leafy Albion Green stands with one side to the River Irwell, and is overlooked by houses, providing a secure play area for kids and a beautiful breathing space for residents, otherwise faced by the big ugly concrete University block.

Over the years the Green has been created by the community, in partnership with all sorts of environment agencies, and there's been thousands of pounds spent on the area. It's now the focal point of that community, so much so that a few years ago, during a prolonged spell of dry weather, residents joined up their hosepipes to water the parched land and trees.

Albion Green really is the new epitome of `England's green and pleasant land' and is right in line with the Council's top priority of making Salford a `greener, cleaner, safer city'. Or, to quote the City's Community Plan "To capitalise on Salford's natural assets, and to ensure that regeneration and new development activities complement these in a holistic way that takes into account the needs of strong and cohesive communities'…

"When we learned of their decision to kick us in the teeth they tried to dangle carrots in front of us by saying `We'll do this and that' but we want our Green'" says Tony McCormack, Vice Chair of Albion Residents and Tenants Association "And we will go all the way to stop this development."

Brian Enright, NDC's Programme Manager, argues that "without the inclusion of the Green within the Poets development, the whole scheme would not be financially viable". But, while the 13 houses on the Poets site are to be handed to Contour for social housing, the eight built on the Green will be for open sale by ID/Miller Homes…

"This isn't about not wanting houses, there's enough space on the derelict land for that and to keep the Green" explains Carole Woodward, Chair of the Residents Association "It's just that the developers want more money to make profits for themselves. I don't see why you've got to put profits before people.

"I was on the New Deal Board but stepped down because I didn't like the way it was run" she adds "You're supposed to be given your say but it's all mapped out for you. You're there to tick boxes for them, to show that you've actually took part. But they don't care what you want. They're all for this `community empowerment' if you want the same things as them but as soon as you speak up for something different they don't want to know. I told them that I'd fight tooth and nail over this piece of ground but they just blanked me. I think they're working for the developers, obviously. I've not met anyone who actually wants these buildings."

Both the residents and the councillors are questioning the community consultation that the NDC apparently carried out prior to publishing the plans.

"I don't think there was a consultation" says Betty Hayward, Treasurer of the Residents Association "The first time we met the NDC was at their office but we were told that we weren't there to discuss any developments, just the improvements by the river. The second time they knocked on a few doors, including mine, and went through the same thing.  When I asked about the development they just said `We're not sure yet'.  The third consultation was over at the St Boniface club – and we got a leaflet about it with no time or date on it! 

"We found out and made them print another leaflet" Betty adds "but again at that meeting they wouldn't talk about it – there was just a map of the river with a grey area saying `proposed development site'. I lost my temper that night – I said `You've got it down as a grey development area?  It's not, this is what it is' and showed them all the photos of what a lovely place it is…The Green is looked after, there's very little litter, children play on it, we have our events there…it would be a crying shame to rip it up. It just seems as if they don't care."

The NDC's Brian Enright argues that there's a `pocket park' nearby on the junction of Seaford Road and Gerald Road… "an attractive, informal recreation area within easy walking distance" and that "the area is served by other greens along the river".

But Betty just laughs…"They said they'd take out all the shrubs we've planted and re-plant them along the river where the children can play. Anyone who has seen that river at full flood just knows it's not the place for children. I thought the days of children drowning in the Irwell were long gone but it seems as if they're going to bring them back again…"

Betty is just one of many residents who have spent years making Albion Green the focal point of the community. The residents association has handed in petitions and letters, and are now taking to the streets.

"I think questions need to be asked how the consultation was done with these residents…I think questions need to be asked how satisfied residents are with those plans, and then the Council needs to take directions from those residents" argues Councillor Matt Mold "I will back the residents 100% of the way, whether that be a formal planning objection or whether we all turn up on the Town Hall steps with placards and megaphones. We feel very strongly about what's going on here."

It's an act of "environmental vandalism", says Bernard Hayward, who has lived in his house next to Albion Green since it was built in 1979.

"The prospect of the Green being covered over in concrete is too horrible to mention" he says "If it is built on it will change the very nature of this estate, it will change the dynamic which encourages people to come out and get involved in community events. 

"We have no objection to 13 of the houses being built" he adds "We recognise the rightful aspirations of our fellow citizens to live in decent homes. The NDC is saying that they are building all these houses to cater for people from the demolition area near Whit Lane but this a nonsense – only eight of the proposed 21 dwellings would be offered to people from the clearance area. But even if they were offered to those people and they did get built there would be no green for them, no benefits. They will be living in filing cabinets, like they were many years ago when planners blight overtook this city in the 60s.  It led to all sorts of environmental and social problems which would just reoccur in this area.  It's only a tiny space but it's most important to our community.  And, I would suggest, to our city."

It's so important to the city that Labour councillors and local MP, Hazel Blears, are breaking ranks with the ruling Labour Party on the council

"You've got a green there that's had thousands of hours of residents' time invested in it and thousands of pounds of council money invested in it, I think it's shocking that it can all be ripped out" says Steven Ord, Chair of the Irwell Riverside Labour Party "What's even more shocking is that the land's being given away for free. I don't believe for one minute that you couldn't sell the land opposite the Green. To me it's ridiculous."

The NDC and Salford Council are not only giving away the land on both sites for free (£1) but are also handing the developers £53,000 in `gap funding'. In addition, the NDC is paying two thirds of the costs to upgrade the road leading to the site (£90,000), with the developers contributing the other third. More public money is being used to subsidise the 13 houses being managed by Contour, with a proposed bid to the Homes and Communities Agency.  According to the formal Development Agreement, Salford Council will retain 85.65% of any profits above the rate agreed with ID/Miller Homes.

"The issue that I found objectionable was that the NDC said it wouldn't be commercially viable to develop just behind the IQ building, and that they would have to have the Green as well to make it commercially viable" says Steve Coen, local Labour councillor "But I'm not interested in developers, they've made a mess of this country already, we don't need to think about what they are going to make out of our city.

"We can have the social housing which is great and the people will be welcomed into the community but I'm not interested in them making extra profits by building more houses on the Green" he adds "This is the community working together with their local councillors to fight an inappropriate development."

Ironically, on the Cromwell roundabout near Gerard Road, there's some signs trumpeting `Welcome to Charlestown & Lower Kersal, supporters of Britain In Bloom'. The signs are sponsored by the NDC, Contour and Miller Homes.

 

 

Eddie Smith wrote
at 08:03:28 on 16 September 2009
When i was a kid that green was part of a croft that surrounded the dog track, then when the dog track was demolished and the Albion estate was built, the green area was a play ground with rocks and wooden structures like a wagon & horses, a slide, swings and a five a side football pitch, but within a few years it became so vandalized it was leveled. Then it was used by builders for their containers when they did work to the Poets streets. Then after that the local residents put in hard work to create the green that is there today, they turned a blot into a success. If that green is built on then its an absolute disgrace. I have lived here since 1969 and grew up here, and I have never seen that green looking as beautiful as it is today. Shame on NDC if they even dare destroy it.
 
K. Waring wrote
at 22:09:35 on 15 September 2009
I used to live in the area and it was a favourite place of mine to take my nephew out to play. There is very little that is attractive and nice in Charlesdown these days and to take away this little peace of heaven is tantamount to robbery. There are plenty of apartments and houses for sale in the area, there are building sites all over the place with new development and there is plenty of land that has been left to waste that can be used. Why take a small nature reserve and wreck it, just to make a fast buck on "riverside apartments", and deprive the local children of a safe and local place to play. I'm sure if the council got it's own way they'd build underground playareas for the kids, because they sure as hell don't want them to play on nice green's in the open air, if there is a chance they can sell it to developers.
 
T Hayward wrote
at 22:08:37 on 15 September 2009
It appears there are no depths to which these self obsessed developers will sink too. "Financially viable" - that's some phrase! How about a change to "viable for the community". That piece of land is a symbol of pride, beauty and most importantly, safety. Safety for the local children and all the other residents. Not only is it used daily by the children but all sorts of events have been held there that are an enormous success each time they occur. These events are this successful due to the community spirit of the area, something that is severely lacking in Labour's Britain. Without this piece of land these events would not be able to continue. That in itself would be criminal never mind filling that land with properties intended to fill the pockets of the developers.
 
wrote
at 18:50:06 on 15 September 2009
Im so angry what is with these people they have to upset anything thats good . ive rented my property for 30 years i have earned the right to have a say and i say leave well alone there r plenty of other areas where they can make there profits go away and leave our green alone . from a long term resident mrs janet gargan .
 
john wrote
at 17:23:57 on 15 September 2009
new deal for communities my ar-e this council will trample all over you to please the developers they are selling off every scrap of greenery in salford to build shoe boxes nobody wants to buy take langworthy for an example there was a very strong community there it had its problems nobody is denying that now look at it 13 years on from the first compulsory purchase and there still as i write pulling homes down this council have lost the plot they dont work for the residents they only have the interests of developers at heart and until we have some new blood sat in swinton civic centre nothing but nothing will change believe me this lot are brainwashed the residents ie council tax payers dont stand a chance they will blow smoke up your ar-e and tell you what they think you want to hear its all lies if it does not tow the developers line believe me you aint getting it
 
wrote
at 16:07:22 on 15 September 2009
I will not cease from talking shite Nor refrain from behaviour underhand Till I have built some ugly homes On England's green and pleasant land! William Blake, your country needs you now!
 
c woodward wrote
at 16:07:10 on 15 September 2009
The photo's show good community spirit, lets not lose this to concert blocks!
 
wrote
at 14:13:16 on 15 September 2009
i support the campaign but im not at all happy with regards to in bloom ,they were our sponsers but we are a group on our own with no support or backing from anyone we have 5 local residents who work so hard to find money so in all im not happy
 
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