"I'd rather live in a cardboard box than live here…and I'm being serious" says Christine Gilbrook, who is `celebrating' one year of moving to Supurbia.
"It's the sorriest mistake of my life" says Karen Kilkenny, who has a letter from Paul Mullane, Regeneration Manager for Contour, expressing how he was "concerned to read your comments that you feel this situation has affected your health, in that you are feeling depressed, suicidal and trapped."
The early evening sun is shining and the kids are having fun on the slide and bouncy castle, and splashing about in the paddling pool that Christine has put out for them in the communal gardens. A week ago this sort of activity was banned from the `New Broughton' estate, despite utterances from the Council about retaining the area's `strong sense of community'. Then the residents took matters into their own hands.
"I went to the office kicking off and told them straight that I was making a fun day for the kids" Christine recalls "They said the kids aren't allowed to play out. And I said `The kids are playing out'. They backed down."
The very fact that these Salford people have had to fight to let their kids out to play speaks volumes for the atmosphere in New Broughton. They never asked to be here in the first place. Their homes in Earl Street, Lord Street and Ascension Road in Lower Broughton were demolished to make way for Countryside Properties' £500million 15 year scheme to build 3500 homes.
It was supposed to be a flagship `community led' regeneration project. But this community feel that they are the ones that have been led into some sort of hell, with stringent new tenancy agreements (which don't apply to the private tenants and buyers across the boulevard) and housing that is way inferior to the homes they had to leave.
Standing in Christine's cramped kitchen in her three bedroom house on the `Phoenix', people have come from all over the estate to tell of their experiences since moving here. Kirsty Kilkenny tells us that her mum's house shakes and has so many cracks "it looks like it's about to fall down". She takes us over there and we get a guided tour of the huge cracks, crumbling plaster, shaking walls and holes in the roof.
"The house rattles and moves, the walls are wafer thin and if the neighbours shut their door hard the clock falls off my wall" says Karen "And I won't go upstairs when the weather's bad because it's too frightening…all you hear is this `clang, clang, clang'. Many a time I've had to come downstairs and sleep on the couch…and in the morning I've run round to the office in tears but they all just look at me as if I'm imagining it."
She shows us a letter from an independent chartered surveyor which gives a long list of the house's defects…"movement evident at wall board joints…flashing defective…daylight showing in at least three points (in the roof)…infill strips over first floor windows have fallen off…wall bowing over French doors…plaster cracking…Some of the items noted are clearly in excess of that expected for normal shrinkage"…The letter ends with a suggestion that an opinion is sought from a structural engineer.
"I've had three people round to see the holes in the roof" says Karen "The first said it was `ventilation', the second one agreed that it needed re-lining and re-slating, and the third said it was because it's a two bedroom house and all the two bedroom houses have holes in the roof – he couldn't get out quick enough. The houses are terrible, cardboard boxes, and I don't feel secure at all."
It's a very different experience from when she lived in her now demolished home on Ascension Road "where the drive was bigger than this entire house" and there was a proper community…
"There is no community here" Karen argues "Over there we knew everyone, and used to keep an eye on the kids but now there are strangers here. One was even caught taking photos of the children. There's a lot of students who don't want to know and private buyers who don't speak to us…you just get looked at like you're rubbish. There is no community at all."
We head back to Christine's where she's doing her best to re-kindle some sort of spirit with the fun day.
"This house will never make up for what I've left…never, ever, ever" she says, to the agreement of everyone standing around "We got £4000 compensation, free removal, a free shed and washing line – and all that is supposed to make up for all our memories and all the atmosphere we've left to move to this estate, which isn't an estate it's a shambles.
"The houses are falling down, you can't get repairs done, it's pathetic" she adds "Since I've moved in here I've had my roof falling down, my garden's not been sorted, I fixed the gate myself I was so sick of complaining, the window at the front of the house has still got cardboard hanging above it and my upstairs doors don't shut, even though they did when I first moved in, which suggests to me that the house is lob sided. It's not even a house, it's cardboard.
"It's never going to be the same as where we have come from" she asserts "not for me and not for anybody around here…they have downgraded us and treated us like lab rats…we're being picked on, bullied, threatened and we're not having it…I'm speaking on behalf of all residents on the New Broughton estate. They can't throw me out for being honest."
Everyone stood around in Christine's kitchen almost bursts into applause.
"I told them from day one that if they didn't want us here they shouldn't have taken our homes" she says "We were happy where we were".
We asked someone from Countryside Properties to respond but the company declined.
Words: Stephen Kingston
Photo: Jemma Cooper