LIFE IN DEMOLITION HELL
"I am a prisoner here until the properties are secured. I will remind you once again of the council's duty of care and I think this is a clear example of its failure in that duty" Guy Griffiths
There was banging and crashing in the roof…and then the panel on the landing ceiling began to move and a hand appeared…
It's like something from a creepy Fright Night horror film. But this was the scene yesterday morning at a house in the Top Streets of Higher Broughton. And for the few people still living in homes that Salford Council is determined to tear down, these kind of experiences are hardly rare.
Residents have seen lead stripped off their roof while they're downstairs watching telly. There's been four arson attacks in less than three years on houses in the area, one of which drove a person out of Wiltshire Street. And amongst it all, there's been anti-social behaviour as a constant backdrop to living in these houses.
Salford Council itself, in a report about a Top Streets resident in August 2009, admitted that she was "living in very poor and isolated conditions and has already been the victim of anti-social behaviour on a number of occasions… Although the council have taken steps to increase the security at her property, recent events have taken their toll on her well-being leading to her being treated by her GP for anxiety." (see here for more)
Guy Griffiths, who experienced the hand from the attic yesterday, has been warning Salford Council for years of the problems of living in the midst of poorly managed empty council owned properties.
It's been over five years since he and his brother Jimmy were forcibly evicted by Salford Council from their former home, and three years since Jimmy wrote in Salford Star about his experiences… "There's nothing worse than trying to sleep while listening for that smooth scraping sound, which denotes a roof being stripped of its slates." (see here for more)
It was in 2007 that Guy wrote to Council Leader and Broughton Councillor, John Merry, asking that empty properties in the area be bricked up rather than tinned up, to which the councillor replied… "It is the view of council officers that the type of metal sheeting used is effective…it provides a cost effective and robust method of securing empty properties awaiting demolition."
Obviously not. Yesterday, it appears, thieves got in through such `metal sheeting' and hammered their way through brick walls in around six attics to reach Guy Griffiths' house. Fortunately, at the time, Guy was in the property, saw the hand come out of the attic and banged the hatch with a brush which scared off the thief. Had Guy been out at the time…had it been a little old lady living in the property… who knows what might have happened because obviously the thief was armed with a hammer.
On the 18th of August this year, Guy wrote to John Merry…
Dear Councillor Merry
As you are aware, over the last 10 years, there have been problems with the management of councill owned properties in the "top streets" and "bottom streets" areas of Higher Broughton. Despite myself and others notifying you many times of the problems, the councils way of dealing with the problems seems to be a standard letter along the lines of "this type of boarding is used all over Salford. Officers attend on a regular basis" and "we do not foresee a problem".
As history has proved continuing problems, then you should foresee further
problems. I would therefore like to remind you that the council has a duty of
care to residents remaining in the area. I trust steps will be taken to ensure
this duty of care.
On the 27th August 2010, John Wooderson, head of Urban Renewal who has been involved in the regeneration of Higher Broughton since 1995, wrote back to Guy… "The Council is acutely aware of its duty of care to you as the occupier of a property owned by the Council…"
Two adjoining houses were subsequently bricked up.
On 1st September Guy wrote to Councillor Connor…
Dear Councillor Connor
Despite measures already taken and council officers "visiting the area on a
regular basis", I would reiterate that the council has a duty of care. This
includes council properties not causing a nuisance or impacting upon the health of remaining residents. I trust you will take all available steps to make sure that this does not happen. I suggest further bricking up and monitoring of council owned properties.
Then yesterday the hand from the attic appeared. And Guy again wrote to Councillor Connor…
Dear Councillor Connor
I have had problems this morning due to someone breaking into my loft via the adjacent council owned property. Despite my emails to you and councillor Merry of 18/8/2010 and 1/9/2010, reminding you of the history of problems in the area, and that further problems were foreseeable, you took no further action.
I am sat here in the knowledge that my property is not secure and that someone is in one of the adjoining houses on King Street as the police did not enter any property or arrest anybody. I am waiting to see if council contractors will attend. I ask that you put security in the adjoining houses until they are all bricked up like I previously asked.
I am a prisoner here until the properties are secured. I will remind you once again of the council's duty of care and I think this is a clear example of its failure in that duty. I trust you will take measures immediately. This is not doing my health any good at all.
The hole in Guy's attic that the thieves smashed has now been bricked up but the fact remains that the houses secured with `metal sheeting' remain vulnerable.
"I'm still dealing with the Council on various issues which they seem intent on delaying that's why I'm still living in this house" says Guy "I don't see why I should be intimidated and forced out by a set of circumstances the Council has created."
Meanwhile the horror story goes on… not just for Guy but for other people who are stuck in the demolition hell of Salford's regeneration.
The Salford Star e-mailed Councillors Connor and Merry yesterday and asked "Why you have left a Salford resident to live in such conditions and what you intend to do about it? Also, would you leave an old lady to live in such danger or is Guy a special case?"
We're still waiting for a reply…
Our photo shows the hole made in Guy's attic from the house next door...
STOP PRESS: 4pm 21st September 2010
Salford Council has just sent over the following reply...
Councillor Peter Connor, lead member for housing at Salford City Council said: "The council is very concerned about the criminal activity that has been visited upon Mr Griffith's current home, and it is hoped that the police will soon be able to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
"All of the vacant properties in the block in which Mr Griffiths lives were secured as they became vacant, and additional measures were also recently taken to adjacent properties including the bricking up of doors, ground and first-floor windows. In response to this incident further security measures have been taken."
We related Councillor Connor's remarks to Guy Griffiths who told us "All they've done is bricked up the holes in the lofts and everything else is only secured in the same way it was ie still vulnerable. No additional security measures have been put in place. Once again, I remind the Council of their duty of care."
UPDATE: 28th September 2010
Today it was discovered that there's been another break-in to a house in Kings Street in the Top Street, as the tin sheeting - the type that, according to Salford Council leader, John Merry is "effective" and "robust" - was removed by thieves.