While it was billed as a meeting of Spruce Court residents, tenants from Thorn Court and housing rights campaigners from Greater Manchester Housing Action and Acorn also joined in to start an action group to take on Pendleton Together, which manages nine blocks in the area on behalf of Salford City Council.
Thorn Court and Spruce Court are the tallest towerblocks in Pendleton, and, bar the three bottom floors, are still swathed in dangerous cladding similar to Grenfell Tower.
As residents told of two inch gaps under fire doors ("Keepmoat told us it was for the air to circulate"), power surges which blow light bulbs and cookers, and fire alarms that cannot be heard, it was generally agreed that Pendleton Together was failing in its duty of care.*
There were some horrendous stories of recent issues when fire alarms have gone off in the blocks (set off by Pendleton Together's own workers)...vehicle gates for fire crews being stuck for up to an hour, exit doors not working when the electrics went off and people with children and in wheelchairs struggling to evacuate.
Tenants expressed horror that so many families with children, and people with physical and mental health disabilities were being housed on the top floors. One woman, who lives on the 22nd floor, said she felt "fearful" and "disenfranchised", a sentiment echoed by other residents...
"They try to ignore what we are saying" said one tenant "They are complacent; it's like going back to the 1960s when they treated us as the lowest of the low...We're sick to death of being treated like dirt."
Indeed Pendleton Together tried to stop the tenants meeting in their own community room at Spruce Court, apparently arguing, ironically, that a 'fire risk assessment' was needed. In the event, however, tenants did get into the room which was packed out with standing room only.
At successive meetings of Salford Council, local councillors have praised the Pendleton residents for their 'patience' and 'understanding' but at this meeting there was a different story... "We've talked with councillors and they've just ignored us" said one tenant. Others thought they were being 'manoeuvred' into a position where they would eventually be cleared out in a gentrification process.
While it was argued that residents themselves need to organise a 'social fire drill' in case the worst happens, in the meantime housing experts are looking into potential legal action...and demanding answers to the two main questions...
Why has the cladding not been removed yet?
Why are young families and people with disabilities being housed on the top floors?
* For full details see previous Salford Star article – A Year After Salford Cladding Scandal Independent Tenants Meeting To Be Held – click here