A walk around what's left of the Top Streets of Higher Broughton is a miserable experience, especially in the rain. A row of big beautiful four bedroom houses on Devonshire Street stands weed ridden, tinned up and deserted, apart from a couple of houses where occupants are determined to slug it out with Salford Council to save their homes.
The guttering on one of the tinned up houses has collapsed and a constant stream of water is cascading down the wall of the house next door – in which somebody is still living. It's almost a battle of attrition between the Council and those residents it would rather be rid of.
These houses, and terraces on King Street, were supposed to be saved from the bulldozers and refurbished, until the Council did a u-turn, decided it would cost £130,000+ per house to do them up and announced its intention to demolish the lot. Three residents have now taken out an injunction against the Council and the case comes up in court during the first week in November.
Of the original 243 properties in the Top Streets, only eleven still have occupants, while many have gone reluctantly, forced out by the physical and mental conditions of living life in the shadow of the bulldozers. Now, for the first time, Salford Council has spelled out in black and white what it's like to live in streets left to crumble as part of the Pathfinder led regeneration.
The description comes in a Record of Decision, allowing a resident from the Top Streets to have access to a £25,000 relocation allowance and up to £31,800 for an equity loan. Even though these grants are discretionary, normally no-one who gets them is allowed to leave Central Salford (a cause of contention in itself), and two residents from the same Top Streets have recently been refused this grant. However, for this lady the Council made a special case, and in so doing admitted the horrors that people in these streets have had to live with for years.
"As the only remaining resident in the block, she is living in very poor and isolated conditions and has already been the victim of anti-social behaviour on a number of occasions" it states "…recent events have taken their toll on her well-being leading to her being treated by her GP for anxiety…"
It continues: "Enabling this resident to move out of her property within a relatively short time timescale will minimise the risk of further injury to her physical and mental well-being."
The sad thing is that the resident in question didn't want to move out of the area. Her "preferred option throughout the clearance process", the Report states, "has been to move into a refurbished property within the new development". However "...the Council have made a decision that refurbishment is no longer viable in the area and the option is, therefore, no longer available."
If the resident couldn't have a refurbished house, she would have liked to move into a small house near her friend in the neighbourhood. But that too, is no longer an option as the Council has bulldozed all the two bedroom terraces in the area…or, as the Council states, "Given the reduction in supply of two bedroom pavement terraces in the area, as a direct result of the clearance process, this would limit her choice…"
The Council made the grant exception for the lady to move outside of Salford, to live near relatives, because after July, when it took ownership of her house through what's called a `General Vesting Declaration' or GVD, it would have been responsible for her well being. And the Council didn't want a potentially tragic case on its hands…
The report states that after the GVD had been served, "the Council will then owe this resident a duty of care should she suffer injury as a result of vandalism/arson etc…Enabling her to move to a safer and more secure environment relatively quickly will reduce this risk."
Getting her out would also "allow the Council to acquire another block and progress the demolition programme within the area."
One resident who has already moved from the tinned up Top Streets told us… "This was a nice community, I knew all my neighbours and it was a good area until they chose for it to be demolished. I loved my old house but I went through over ten years of the area being run down. One by one my neighbours went and you just don't see them any more.
"I definitely blame Salford Council" he added "Look at the state of the area. They're still forcing people out of their homes even though they've got no reason to do it because they've got nothing planned for the area. A whole community has gone. It's like a ghost town."
As he lived in the increasingly run down Top Streets, this resident says people were breaking into his house while he was actually in it. Other residents had lead stripped from their roof while they were sleeping or watching telly.
The residents who are still living in demolition trauma sum up their feelings in a few words…
"I've lived in my house for 35 years and for 14 years Salford Council has been talking about this regeneration" says Antonio Venosa, one of the residents who expected his house to be refurbished in the `regeneration', and now finds it's down for demolition.
"I enjoy my house, I've got a garden, I've got a garage, I've got a big back yard…Where am I going to find a house like that?" he reflects "Salford Council? I don't think much of them."
And Goody Singh, another resident who expected to stay in the area after refurbishment underlines the point… "All the residents have been treated like dirt, basically."
Guy Griffiths, who has gone through the clearance project twice, once in the Bottom Streets and now in the Top Streets of Higher Broughton, highlighted some of the problems faced by residents in a letter as long ago as 2004 to Council Leader, John Merry … `fly tipping, dumping, arson, vandalism, trespass and joy riding'.
Now, Guy explains, there are so few people left even the mice have gone.
"When people move out of houses the mice move in but then you get to the stage when there's not even enough people to sustain the mice population" he says "They've gone. There's not even a mouse around the place."
See Higher Broughton Special Part 1 here.
See also how Salford Council's independent District Valuer undervalued Higher Broughton property by 40%