The High Street estate at the back of Salford Precinct has been tinned up for years, with around a dozen houses still being inhabited. And nothing seems to be happening.
This week, however, the horribly named Joint Lead Member Briefing Planning and Sustainable Development and Housing and Neighbourhoods was presented with a High Street Demolition Survey report which would have answered a lot of the questions being asked about Salford's most visually obvious, almost post-apocalyptic, ghost estate. But no-one, apart from select councillors and officers, was allowed to see it.
The report was stamped with 'Part 2', ie secret. No details were revealed, either before the meeting or after it. All that is published is a 'Public Interest Test Questionnaire' justifying 'confidentiality', by asking things like 'Will disclosure damage the Council's interests, without giving the public any useful information?' 'Yes'...
...And then a bit further down there's a very strange answer to the question 'Is there a clear and coherent reason why the community in general would benefit more from information being withheld?'. The answer is 'No' ? but 'the community' still can't see it because 'The report relates to the business affairs of the Council and its contracts with partners containing financial information that would be required to be kept confidential'.
These Part 2 Public Interest Test Questionnaires are used almost every week to keep information about the spending of public money away from the, er, public. Even when the Council's own 'scrutiny' committees are discussing such matters the public is usually kicked out to keep it all secret.
Salford Council does have to publish a 'Forward Plan of Key Decisions' which involve expenditure or cuts of over ?350,000 or "be significant in terms of effects on communities living or working in an area comprising two or more wards in the city".
There's loads of these 'key decisions' published in advance on the Council's website ? stuff that is coming up for decisions over the next four months ? but anything of any significant interest is already scheduled to be stamped with Part 2.
Within the Part 2 portfolio is a Property Update, and under the Regeneration Schemes heading is a list of schemes to be happening around Swinton Civic Centre Campus, including Civic Centre Development Opportunities, Lancastrian Hall, Acquisition and relocation of Ambulance Station, and sales of sites at Stanwell Road, Deans School and Ambrose Barlow.
What will be in the public domain sometime before Christmas is the Swinton Transformation/Masterplan - but the report states that the 'Principal groups/organisations to be consulted before the decision is made' is the 'Mayoral approval process' and the 'Means by which any such consultation is proposed to be undertaken' is by 'letters and correspondence'.
This particular Swinton project is also part of GM Mayor, Andy Burnham's Town Centre Challenge, announced last February but with all details still under wraps. Like the Crescent masterplan, it will probably be presented to developers before the community.
Also coming up are key decisions about Ordsall Development Agreement with Legendary Properties (Part 2), Charlestown Options (Part 2), Pendleton Phase 2 (Part 2), Chimney Pot Park Scheme (Part 2), Pendleton PFI Contract Matters (undecided whether Part 1 or 2), Future proposals for Cambridge Industrial Area in Lower Broughton, including 'acquisitions of interests in advance of development', and 'Disposal of Land by the Council for Residential Development' (Part 2) and Acquisitions of 'Interests in Eccles shopping precinct' (Part 2)?
Also in there are more loans for the AJ Bell Stadium, or 'Approval of capped council drawdown funding for City of Salford Community Stadium Ltd' (Part 2), and loads more. All secret. All going on behind closed doors. And all being kept from the public...
Is that huge 'Transparency' banner still outside the Civic Centre?
See also previous related Salford Star articles...
Salford Council Declares Transparency ? Despite Everything Being Secret ? click here
It's Not What the Council Tells You, It's What the Council Doesn't Tell You ? click here
Transparency International Report States Conditions Ripe for Corruption in UK Local Councils ? click here
Parliament Investigates 'Ineffectual Local Government Scrutiny' ? click here and click here