It was Monday 5th September 2005 when Guy Griffiths and his brother Jimmy were forcibly evicted by Salford City Council from their home in Hampshire Street, Higher Broughton...
"The circus finally rolled into town" recalled Jimmy in the Salford Star (issue 4) "Three removal vans, an ambulance, half a dozen police officers, the radio, the tv, the sheriff and enough deputies to make Wyatt Earp jealous..."
"Urban vandalism"... "Social cleansing"... "The final solution" are just some of the phrases used by the brothers to describe the actions of Salford Council. But almost from the start, when the Council said it was going to `regenerate' the so-called `Bottom Streets' of Higher Broughton, residents suspected what was afoot...
Back in June 2001, the community met as part of an ongoing consultation concerning the regeneration of their area. The official minutes of that meeting, recorded by Portico Housing Association, state...
"There is a supposition on the part of the residents that any cleared land will be sold for development, providing modern more expensive homes. If this happens, residents see very clearly that they will lose their homes and their status as owner-occupiers to permit other, more affluent people to move in..."
The Griffiths brothers took a last stand against the policy, were evicted and Guy moved to what he called his `lifeboat' house in the `Top Streets', on Leicester Road – which was subsequently also compulsorily purchased, and, in 2012, he left with threats of the sheriff coming back to forcibly evict him.
Now, 14 years on from the community's first `very clear' suspicions, and ten years to the day that the Griffiths brothers were evicted, not only have the Bottom Streets of Higher Broughton been bulldozed but so have the Top Streets. Where there were once over 400 houses, there are now just six original houses left and 19 new ones built for the former community on Vincent Street. Where there were once almost a thousand original residents, there are now maybe thirty left. And in their place have come, as predicted by the residents themselves, `more affluent people' and `more expensive homes'.
Between 2005 and 2007, house owners were paid between £19,250 and £56,000 for their houses by Salford Council. Prices for new houses in the area, built on the site of the demolished streets, ranged from £110,000 for one of the 19 `affordable' Vincent Street houses built in 2006, to a high of £239,950 for a house in Countryside Properties' new Kings Square estate.
"This is a top deal for Salford, for local people..." said Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart, as he opened the Kings Square show home in 2013 "...we are delivering what local people want."
The Higher Broughton experience was nothing less than the assassination of a community. It's an experience shared by communities in all areas of Salford within a few miles of Manchester City Centre or MediaCityUK; from Langworthy and Seedley, to Pendleton, Ordsall and Lower Broughton. And what's more, it's been a deliberate policy of Salford Council, backed by massive amounts of public money.
To rub salt in the housing wounds, those who owned their homes and were forced out by regeneration in Higher Broughton were paid less than the market value of their houses by Salford Council...between £25,000 and £40,000, according to Salford Star figures based on subsequent Land Tribunal rulings (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
While Jimmy Griffiths is still in Salford, Guy now lives in Wales (despite the Council's refusal to give him a relocation grant) and enjoys practicing tai chi in his garden.
Still a regular reader of the Salford Star, Guy recently wrote to local Broughton councillor and former Salford Council Leader, John Merry, asking how many people within the Top Streets area received less compensation per square metre than the established price at the Land Tribunal, and what he intended to do to ensure that those people get the `market value' for those properties. Guy added:"I was thinking that maybe people could request the shortfall, similar to PPI claims, or some law firm could instigate such an action"... John Merry didn't respond.
Meanwhile, Jimmy told the Salford Star in issue 4... "If I put in all the compensation I received, I could be a stakeholder in one of the Council's 19 social housing replacement properties [on Vincent Street] built not thirty yards from where my home was. I can own a third of a terraced house on the site where I was, whereas before I owned all of a terraced house..."
What's it all about? The demolitions, the new unaffordable housing and the current squeeze on social rent is an attack on low cost housing in Central Salford, as land prices rise and Manchester City Centre expands into Salford. There's huge profits to be made and it's nothing new.
As well as being the tenth anniversary of the country's only forced Pathfinder eviction, this summer also marked 120 years since Salford-based world famous revolutionary Friedrich Engels died.
In 1872, Engels, wrote about what was going on then in the city, although it could have been written today...
"The growth of the big modern cities gives the land in certain areas, particularly in those which are centrally situated, an artificial and colossally increasing value" he explained "the buildings erected on these areas depress this value instead of increasing it, because they no longer correspond to the changed circumstances. They are pulled down and replaced by others. This takes place above all with the workers' houses which are situated centrally and whose rents...can never increase above a certain maximum
"The result is that workers are forced out of the centre of towns towards the outskirts; that workers' dwellings...become rare and expensive and often altogether unobtainable" he added "For under these circumstances the building industry, which is offered a much better field for speculation by more expensive houses, builds workers' dwelling only by way of exception...They will provide new dwellings for hardly more than a quarter of the workers actually evicted by the building operations..."
Sigma, the company that facilitated the `regeneration' of Higher Broughton, is being paid £700,000 in fees for its social cleansing work. As the Griffiths bothers come to terms with the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the death of their community, on the tenth anniversary of the purchase of the new Kings Square houses, Sigma will pick up its final instalment of £350,000...
* The treatment of the Griffiths brothers and the residents of Higher Broughton, together with those living in the New Deal for Communities areas of Charlestown and Lower Kersal, directly led to the founding of the Salford Star, with the first public meeting held in The Racecourse pub on Littleton Road in October 2005.
See also previous Salford Star articles...
Salford Council Assassinates Higher Broughton Community – click here
Insane Salford Council demolition Disgrace - click here
* Parts of this article have been taken from the latest Salford Star printed issue. To read the full Social Cleansing in Salford article - click here