As Salford City Council planning panel was about to rubber stamp approval of Peel Holdings' huge £1billion expansion scheme for MediaCityUK yesterday, one councillor looked bemused that there was no social housing amongst almost 1,400 flats proposed...
"Our hands are tied" explained planning chair, Councillor Ray Mashiter "it's all outside our determination..."*
Indeed, in 2006, Salford Council waived all planning contributions and obligations for affordable housing at Media City – and there's no comeback on it. The city has lost millions of pounds because of this, well documented in the Salford Star over the years.
Meanwhile, Peel's latest residential development on the Quays, LightBox, has the cheapest tiny studio flats on sale for £138,000, with a three bed apartment costing a hefty £385,500. The company is absolutely coining it in – not a bad deal considering MediaCityUK was virtually paid for with public money (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
So what did Salford get in return? An image makeover? Definitely, except that Peel has re-branded the place as MediaCity UK, Manchester. Jobs? Even Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, pointed out in his election leaflet this year, re the BBC, that "In the first round of new jobs, only 26 Salfordians were employed there".
Poverty alleviation? The areas surrounding Salford Quays and Media City are still almost top of Salford's poverty league. According to the latest Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for 2015, great swathes of Langworthy figure in the 1% most deprived areas in England. Although the Ordsall ward, which includes the Quays and tons of new expensive housing, has the biggest improvement in deprivation rankings, around half the area – ie the working class area - is still classed within the 3-7% most deprived areas in the country.
With the Council approving the second phase of MediaCityUK yesterday, the media again focussed on its benefits. Salford and Eccles MP, Rebecca Long Bailey, told BBC Radio Manchester** that there was still "a tale of two cities" within Salford...
"I have always argued about the fact that the majority of jobs at Media City do not go to people from, or who live in Salford" she explained "From the outset this was because many of the media jobs were filled by those relocating from London. However, now, many of the jobs are still being filled by people across the UK rather than homegrown talent.
"Locally I know that the Council has worked hard to ensure that there has been a push for media related courses at schools and colleges, and they have also invested in buildings at Media City that act as hubs for new businesses and start ups" she added "This investment, however, is not enough on its own and we still have a tale of two cities: we need much more funding from central government to deal with the skills gap in Salford and the wider North West. Currently the education sector is facing immense pressures and spending cuts."
The Salford and Eccles MP called for companies locating to Media City to "actively engage in outreach and mentoring programmes with local schools" and for "real investment in quality apprenticeships for local people, and, ideally, I would like to see companies in Media City agreeing to aim for a minimum percentage of apprentices who live locally."
Worsley and Eccles South MP, Barbara Keeley, also interviewed on the BBC Radio Manchester programme, spluttered when faced with Salford Star lack of engagement sentiments, but conceded "The early organisations that moved in – ITV, Salford University and the BBC – probably moved jobs they already had, I think that is true...the way Media City was established probably didn't generate enough opportunities for local people to get jobs and that's something that needs to happen."
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But as things stand Salford is becoming more and more `a tale of two cities'...
* See Salford Star article - at the end of the Boothstown planning piece - click here
** Listen to the MediaCityUK BBC Radio Manchester programme on iPlayer - click here (from 7:15am)
See also the original Salford Star articles from 2008 print issue 8 - 15,000 jobs figures `an article of faith' - click here and Beyond The Media City Jobs Hype - click here