Way back in December 2007 residents from the Top Streets of Higher Broughton (the Solutions Group) met representatives from Salford Council to discuss the refurbishment of 15 houses on King Street and eight houses on Devonshire Street. These were to be the only houses in the area saved from demolition, and Andrew Roberts, the director of Church Lukas Architects produced detailed plans for the refurbishments of two, three and four bedroom properties.
This meeting happened after Councillor Peter Connor, Salford Council's Lead Member for Housing Services had signed a formal decision notice in September 2006 declaring that "the retention of 15 remodelled and refurbished houses on King Street be confirmed as the intended development proposal."
The plans for the refurbishment of the larger Devonshire Street houses were added at a later stage following further consultation. Even though residents wanted a larger number of houses to be saved, this seemed like a good compromise, offering anyone from the Top Streets who wanted to stay in the area - and anyone who wanted to move into an affordable home - a decent place to live.
In April 2009 a letter arrived from Paul Walker, Salford Council's ironically named Strategic Director for Sustainable Regeneration, informing the residents that "Regrettably…the option to retain and refurbish properties within the area to provide re-housing is no longer viable".
The reasons given were that there was "no guaranteed open market demand for the properties", that the old terraces would be "markedly out of keeping with new build stock that will surround them"…and, most controversially, that refurbishment costs would be "up to £130,000 per property" and that "these costs are now likely to have increased".
Salford Council Leader, John Merry, told us that even though the Council had "made a commitment, in good faith at the time" to retain and refurbish properties,"the level of investment needed in the houses would mean that the price at which they would have to be sold for the council to re-coup costs would be out of kilter with similar and even new properties in the area."
THE HIGH COURT CASE…HERE COME THE JUDGE…
Horrified residents slapped an injunction of the Council, to stop it demolishing the houses and were set to challenge Salford Council's assumptions in the High Court today. The full details of the residents' case is obviously confidential but we believe that the Council would have lost on the following grounds…
1) The £130,000+ cost of refurbishing the properties was not "economically viable"…
In a previous Salford Star feature on Higher Broughton we got an independent builder to do a rough costing of refurbishing the houses and he came up with a figure of between £50,000 and £70,000 even for a three bedroom property. This figure has been confirmed by Salford Council's own partnership company, Urban Vision, in an estimate for a similar house just across the road from the condemned terraces.
On 20th October 2009 Peter Connor, Salford Council's Lead Member for Housing, in an official council decision, authorised the attempted acquisition of number 28 Gainsborough Street as it had been left unoccupied by its owner. The terrace house, the Decision Notice states, is in a "severe state of disrepair" and "the cost of renovating the property will be substantial".
The price? £55,310 plus a fee to Urban Vision (of course) for £9,003, making a total of £64,313, less than half the price quoted to restore Top Streets properties literally across the road. Explain that to the judge!
2) There's "no demand" for the properties
Apart from the residents still left living in the Top Streets who do want the houses, there are also people who have left the area, helped by Salford Council, as there was nowhere to re-house them once their properties were bulldozed. In the last Salford Star feature on Higher Broughton we highlighted the case of a lady whose "preferred option through the clearance process has been to move into a refurbished property within the new development". These are Salford Council's written words, not ours, from a Report into her plight.
The Report continued…"The Council have made a decision that refurbishment is no longer viable in the area and the option is, therefore, no longer available"…and adds "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…"
In other words, this lady whose house is being demolished demanded to move into the refurbished properties but she can't because we're not refurbishing them because there's no demand. Eh? Explain that bonkers logic to the judge!
And there's more…
The Gainsborough Street area, literally across the road from the Top Streets, was originally down for demolition too. But here, 337 pavement terraced properties are being refurbished to the tune of £3.784million.
A Salford Council Report on 15th September stated, "In the early part of the Housing Market Renewal Programme house prices and vacancy rates in the area reflected those in the adjacent Top Streets clearance area…As time progressed, however, it became apparent that market conditions were changing and that radical action may no longer be appropriate".
The Report even states that house prices have risen 577% to an average £130,979 in 2008 and that vacancy rates were "decreasing". In other words, that there's a demand for houses only 50 yards away from ones where there's no demand? Tell that to the judge!
3) That the Top Streets terraces would have been "markedly out of keeping with new build stock that will surround them"…
Aesthetics? Style over Salford content? Is this a reason to demolish people's homes? There's no way that would stand up in a court of law.
We have seen the contents of a letter where it's written that the reason the Top Streets houses are not going to be refurbished is that the developers of the area are not interested in saving them, nor would they pay for the refurbishments.
This, we believe, is why people's homes in the Top Streets of Higher Broughton are being demolished. We further do not believe that any of the Council's case would have stood up in a court of law.
WHERE WE'RE AT NOW…
Salford Council has chickened out of the High Court case and proposed a six week consultation/negotiation period. If the residents are not happy with its outcome the case will definitely go to High Court…
Watch this space.
* In a final act of ironic cruelty, G&J Seddon, the contractor which is doing the refurbishments of the Gainsborough Streets, has put its compound on the site of where Top Streets houses used to be before they were bulldozed.
See Higher Broughton Special Part 1
See Higher Broughton Special Part 2
See District Valuer and Higher Broughton