THE FIGHT FOR SALFORD’S FUTURE…
BBC…BBC ? Don’t mention the BBC in Seedley or Langworthy. Half an hour after the decision was announced to possibly locate the Beeb’s new site on Salford Quays we were in the area. And people fighting the demolition of their houses were almost in tears. “That’s it” they said “They’re going to take our homes.”
Then we got a call from North West Tonight asking editors of the Salford Star to go on the programme talking about how great this would all be for everyone. We politely declined.
No matter what anyone says, the regeneration of Salford is now being perceived by its people as
a battle for the future heart and soul of the city. And its front line flashpoint is Langworthy and Seedley.
Are the Urban Splash upside down houses being built for the current community? Or are they future commuter homes for young professionals working on the Quays ?
£88 million pounds of public and private money is going into Seedley and Langworthy. People’s homes all over the area are being sacrificed. For whose benefit ? Big business or a small community? We check the developments…
Over £15 million is being poured into the Urban Splash Chimney Pot Park Development in Seedley and Langworthy. Here the Salford Star lifts the roof off the `reinvention of terraced housing’ and asks what Salford is getting for its money…
ast April the Urban Splash `funky’, `upside down’ houses near Chimney Pot Park first came on the market in a blitz of publicity and partying. Ask anyone in Seedley and Langworthy why they didn’t buy one of the `funky’ houses and they’ll tell you – they couldn’t afford one. Simple as that.
Yet when the `reinvention of terraced housing’ scheme was first announced, the impression given was that these houses would be within everyone’s financial reach. Salford MP and government Cabinet Minister, Hazel Blears – who first introduced Urban Splash to the area - said it very loudly three years ago, as she posed for the cameras in Chimney Pot Park alongside Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Urban Splash chief, Tom Bloxham…“These plans” she announced “will create exciting, affordable homes and help boost the regeneration of Seedley and Langworthy.”
Tom Bloxham himself said it, quoting a sales figure of around £50,000 per house…”Urban Splash believes Langworthy can provide affordable well designed contemporary accommodation for local residents.”
In answers to the concerns of residents at the Ordsall and Langworthy Community Committee on 7th December 2004, Ilona Snow Miller of the Regeneration Team reported that “the Urban Splash development…would include affordable properties for local people.”
And, of course, Salford City Council is still trumpeting the project as a key element of the area’s masterplan. Only last month a council press release stated that Urban Splash has begun work to “transform 385 Victorian terraced houses into 349, affordable, contemporary homes in the centre of Langworthy”.
…In yer wildest dreams. When the homes came onto the market in the first phase, the average price was £120,000 plus another £5000 or £10,000 if you had a car to park. This is way above Salford City Council’s own financial definition of an `affordable house’ which is £57,600 – or 3 x £19,200 (the `lower quartile household income’ for the city).
What’s more, according to the new Affordable Housing IN Salford document, the `lower quartile’ income of Weaste and Seedley, the area around the Urban Splash development, is £13,933 – which would make an affordable house for this community in the £42,000 realm. The average price of the Urban Splash houses was almost three times this figure.
Just after the first houses went onto the market, a story broke about Urban Splash keeping houses back for sale to its own staff and existing customers. This was a bit of a red herring. The truth is that very few people in Langworthy and Seedley could afford one, or wanted one. 18 houses were kept back for local people (with a further 12 in reserve). Despite all the hype, only a dozen were bought by local people. The rest were bought by `outsiders’.
Even if local residents could manage to stretch themselves financially, only seven, out of the 108 houses that went on sale, were priced at £99,950. The rest cost up to £146,000. Despite the gleeful announcements of politicians, spin doctors, developers and community workers, houses for sale in the first phase of the Urban Splash scheme could not be described as `affordable homes’ for people living in Seedley and Langworthy. Yet the amount of public money being poured into the scheme is absolutely staggering…
English Partnerships, the government’s regeneration agency, has put in £3.5 million; a further £8.5 million has come from the government’s Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder funds, and the council has chipped in a few million from various pots of money, although no-one seems to know an exact figure. A conservative estimate for the total amount of public money invested in the Urban Splash development would be around £15 million. And it will probably be well over this figure by the end of the project. For what amounts, so far, to twelve houses for local people bought for three times the price that local people can afford.
Also, despite the huge amounts of public money granted, there was nothing in the agreement between the company and its public sector partners to set aside properties for local people.
“We were not obliged to do this” confirms Nathan Cornish, Associate Director Development at Urban Splash “We did this from a genuine desire to offer houses to local people.”
Unlike properties made available to Urban Splash staff, there were no discounts available for local people who bought one of the houses. Urban Splash itself didn’t pay anything for the land it is building on, nor the costs of relocating and compensating the existing residents who lived in the terraced houses on the site; or, apparently, getting that site ready for development. That’s been done through a battery of public funding under titles like `Strategic Site Assembly’, `Strategic Investment’ and `Developer Support’. So what is the company putting into the project ?
“It’s the development expertise” says Bob Osborne, Head of Housing at Salford City Council “They’ve put the scheme together, developed the concept…they’ve got the marketing skills…so there’s a lot of what you would call `intellectual capital’….”
Fifteen million pounds worth ?
“By the end of the contract they will have had £15 million…if you look at that in isolation it looks like a big bit of money but that’s part of a much bigger business plan” he adds “You need to look at the whole business plan for the scheme…”
Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to see the business plan as it’s `commercially sensitive’. Nor are we allowed to see the Development Agreement which sets out the terms under which Urban Splash has to operate because that’s `commercially sensitive’ too. And, as the housing scheme progresses, Urban Splash can draw money from Salford City Council for a percentage of work costs. But we don’t know the percentages, as they too are `commercially sensitive’. Indeed, there’s a lot of `sensitivity’ surrounding the whole project.
We tried to obtain meeting reports and updates on the Urban Splash scheme from Salford City Council website…but found that the reports were either missing from the minutes, `not for publication’ or unavailable as the public was excluded from the session. All we are getting is fragments of a much larger picture – and the more fragments we get, the community get, and some councillors themselves get, the more ugly that picture is looking, despite the fancy Urban Splash graphics and hype.
It took Karen Garrido, a Salford Conservative councillor - yes, there is such a thing - to question what was going on and to expose `Members concerns’ that weren’t included in minutes available to the public. At the Strategy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee in June she asked that the Committee’s action sheet include “concerns conveyed at the last meeting relating to the increased purchase price of the houses being sold by Urban Splash, which Members felt are too costly for some local people”.
But is this development aimed at `local people’ ? Some clues can be found on the Urban Splash www.chimneypotpark.co.uk website …`Chimney Pot Park is next door to Salford Quays and round the corner from Manchester’ it squeals. And on a `wish you here’ pop-up postcard of Manchester adds “All the benefits of the big city with the neighbourhood feel”.
Egged on by the website - `spring is just around the corner for this proud area’…`it has community at its heart and soul’…`you’ll be able to get your paper delivered to your house !’ - the media turned the development into a kind of Coronation Street for the chic and shallow.
The `quaint’ northern street names might have been kept and the façades of the `quaint’ terraced houses but behind all the gloss are the stories of the original inhabitants who were cleared from the area on the understanding that their houses were being demolished.
“I know an elderly gentleman who wanted to stay in his property, he’d been there all his life from being a child” says Susan Copeland “He reluctantly moved and was then told they were staying up – he wasn’t happy at all and he’s still not happy.
“I was ousted out of the Urban Splash houses because I lived on Reservoir Street” she adds “I got a Homeswap and was moved out of mine into another one. I’m not happy when I look what they are selling them for and how much they gave me. I got £9000 for my house, I got a valuation on my new one of £27,000, and I’ve got a balancing charge against the house of £18,000. If I sell my new one I have to pay that back…where’s the swap ? There is no swap.
“I was never given the option to go back to the area” Susan explains “I wouldn’t have gone anyway at those prices. “
It’s a sentiment echoed all around Langworthy Road…
“I used to live in Laburnum Street where the Urban Splash site is, and I had to get out” says Jacqueline Booth “Had they said `We’re going to do them up, would you like to move back in ?’ I would have said `Yes’. But they didn’t, they got other people in. Affordable housing ? I think it’s a load of codswallop.”
Meanwhile, as the first phase houses were being marketed, posh people’s property pages were urging their readers to get in on the scheme… “Some homes are going for as little as £100,000, whilst the premium plots are a mere £146,000, which is low for a two bedroom property in the Manchester area” slavered whathappenedlastnight.net.
So, is it a question of the public purse subsidising houses for yuppies ? In November 2000 the Daily Telegraph exposed Urban Splash, revealing that the company got up to 40% of the costs of some of its major developments from grant aid, and in particular from the government funded Partnership Investment Programme. The scheme was subsequently outlawed by the EEC because it gave private companies an unfair advantage. “In short” concluded the article “public money provided the developer with his profit…with surprisingly few conditions attached.”
At the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee meeting, Councillor Karen Garrido, also asked that another minute which was left out about the cost of Urban Splash properties should be also be included…“Tighter controls on developers need to be implemented to curtail such issues.”
Salford City Council insists that there is “a commitment to affordable housing” but “details of the scheme have still to be finalised”. In other words public money has already been poured into the project, 30% of the houses have been sold, work is well underway on site…and they are still discussing it ?
Surely before committing millions of pounds to the Chimney Pot Park development someone, somewhere should have had cast iron guarantees of how many affordable units there would be, at what cost and exact details of how the scheme would work.
The council even had to remove its affordability clause from the agreement with Urban Splash so that work could commence on site because they hadn’t `finalised’ it. But it didn’t stop them approving `public sector draw down arrangements’ (ie public funding) at the same time.
Meanwhile, plans for 25 or 50 `affordable units’ funded by the Housing Corporation and managed by Manchester Methodist Housing Association have been scrapped. We are, however, assured by all parties that details of affordable houses are going to be released very shortly - with figures varying all over the place.
Urban Splash told us “At least 50 of the remaining houses will be made available though an `affordable’ [their inverted commas not ours] option which usually involves shared ownership/shared equity marketed and managed through an appointed social landlord.”
If there are 50 `affordable homes’ on the site out of the total 349, this is nowhere near the council’s own statement in its Affordable Housing IN Salford document that a “minimum of 20% of all new housing developments should be affordable” with “an aspirational target of 25%”.
Salford Council leader, John Merry says “There is a requirement for a number of units to be sold as affordable housing and Urban Splash are working with the city council, English Partnerships and Great Places Housing Group to make homes available to first time buyers through a shared equity scheme.” A spokesman added that the scheme will be funded by English Partnerships (which has already committed £3.5 million to the scheme) but doesn’t represent any “new” money.
But is it going to be funded by yet more public money and is Urban Splash putting any of its own resources into affordable housing on the site ?
“This scheme doesn’t really have anything to do with Urban Splash” a spokesperson for English Partnerships informed us “It is an English Partnerships initiative giving access to would-be owner occupiers who currently could not afford to get a foot on the property ladder.
“Agreements have yet to be made as to the number of homes” she added “so funding cannot yet be confirmed. But it is separate from the £3.5 million.”
So what are people in Seedley and Langworthy getting for the £15million plus that has eaten up so much of their regeneration budget ? Perhaps 50 `affordable homes’, if they’re lucky ? This would work out at over £300,000 per `affordable home’ in subsidies from the public.
Why are we doing this ? Why are we pumping public money into a private company to build homes that people who are from the area cannot afford ?
When pushed, Bob Osborne, Salford’s Head of Housing, finally reveals some sort of truth…
“It’s never been about affordable housing, per se” he admits “It’s been about rebuilding the community…”
`Rebuilding the community’ at these prices means losing the old community. And Salford City Council’s public statements now appear even more hollow…
”349, affordable, contemporary homes in the centre of Langworthy”.
Meanwhile, Tom Bloxham, Chairman of Urban Splash, says that “It’s good business to do regeneration.”
Not so good for the former residents who are standing on the outside, looking in on the `reinvention’ of their ex homes…
Carol Newbury and niece, Stacy
I’m Not A Millionaire !
I didn’t buy an Urban Splash house because I’m not a millionaire. I think that the houses are really good and I’d love one. But affordable ? I don’t think so, not for me anyway. Lots of people around here are on the social or in one parent families – a few could afford it maybe but not many.
Susan Copeland and Emma
It’s Not Good For The People They Got Rid Of…
I think the Urban Splash development is good for the area but not necessarily for the people they got rid of. I go to the meetings so I know £15million of public money went into it. I think it could have been better spent elsewhere and if Tom Bloxham wanted to invest in this area he should have done so himself.
Did I buy an Urban Splash house ? No, I can’t afford one…£15million of public money gone into them ? There would be wouldn’t there, it’s always into things like that. People think it’s ridiculous – they’d rather have the money spent on council houses and things for the kids around the area, like sports facilities.
A Smack In The face
No I didn’t buy an Urban Splash house – it’s too much money if you live around here. It’s a bit of a smack in the face for all the people who have lived around here. They’ve pulled all the houses down and built these so no-one here can afford them. I think they’re for yuppies coming from the Quays, and the BBC will just make it worse, honestly. Where are we supposed to go ?
AFFORDABLE HOUSING ?
WHY IT’S IN THE COUNCIL’S INTEREST FOR URBAN SPLASH TO MAKE `SUPER PROFITS’…
t’s complicated, very complicated…”hideously complicated”
according to Bob Osborne, Salford City Council’s Head of Housing And secret. But we’re going to try and unravel why those first phase Urban Splash houses cost so much. If we get it wrong, we apologise. But, hell, you only get one life so…shall we have a go ?
OK. When you question the public sector partners of Urban Splash – Salford City Council, English Partnerships and Housing Market Renewal – about the vast sums of public money that have gone into the Langworthy housing project they argue that when the
properties are sold they get a `return’ on their `investment’.
In other words, there’s a lot of public money going into the scheme but at the end of it a lot will come back into the public pot to be reinvested in other projects. Or, as Bob Osborne explains in an e-mail…
“The overages from the scheme will be split pro-rata dependent on the initial investment. City Council resources which are recycled back can be utilised further to invest in the area.”
And as English Partnerships explained…
“When the properties are sold, the total receipts are divided
between the public sector and Urban Splash, through a pre-agreed formula, based on the original investment contributions.”
The formula - or `sophisticated overage scheme’ - is `commercially sensitive’ so they won’t tell us what it is. However, we have
managed to get hold of a similar secret `overage scheme’ that is being used on the Kersal Heights development…it’s an
arrangement based on “a split of super profits”. `Overage’ is defined as “returns to the developer over and above that forecast in the development appraisal accompanying the detailed Development proposal notice…”
In other words, the partners don’t get a straight split on the profits made from the scheme but from the `super profits’, which seem to be profits over and above what they all agreed Urban Splash might make in the first place. So, unless the scheme makes `super profits’ nothing comes back to the public purse. Does that sound right ?
Sounds right to us. And it doesn’t seem to fit with any concepts of `affordable housing’ which would explain a very strange statement by John Merry, Lead Member of
Salford City Council…
“Some public funding went into the construction of these homes” he understates “and there is therefore a requirement by all partners that the homes be sold at market value in order to get good value out of public money invested in the scheme.”
The first 30% of houses that were sold from the Urban Splash scheme were definitely sold at market value. But surely the whole point of public money going into housing schemes is to provide homes to those in need at less than `market value’ so they can afford them, otherwise what’s the point ? To provide `super profits’ ?
SOMEONE HELP US
BECAUSE THEY’VE LOST
THE PLOT DOWN HERE…
By John Yendall who owns the newsagent on Langworthy Road.
When the Urban Splash scheme was first announced I thought `At last, great, they’re doing something for the area…how fantastic’. And then two years on from that…oh it’s all changed…
he first houses have already been sold to their staff, the cheapest one is just short of £100k, and how many have been bought by speculators and private landlords ? I’m sure there was a rule that they couldn’t buy to rent – that seemed to go out of the window…`We must make sure that the houses are accessible for the disabled’ – the kitchens are upstairs. Everything they’ve said, they appear to have contradicted.
Thousands of people were led to believe that the Urban Splash scheme was affordable houses for local people. It’s there in black and white. How have they been able to go back on that… because the cheapest house in the first phase was £99,950 rising to over £140,000, plus £5,000 or £10,000 if you want a car park ?
I don’t understand why a private company is receiving public money – if they were turning round and saying `We’re receiving public money but the houses are going to be £50,000 and you’ve got to live in the area to get one’ then fine, at least people in this community would benefit from that. But they can’t receive public money and say the houses are £120,000 and sell them to outsiders – what about the public money ?
If I was another property company I would be extremely unhappy about them being given public money – why aren’t they going to banks like any other private company and paying interest rates ? The difference, they’ll say, is that they’re doing it for the community. How can that be true ?
When the prices were first announced people were coming into my shop disappointed, every other customer was making comments like `What a con’…`What a sham’…`I knew it was too good to be true’…`What happened to the affordable houses ?’...just general comments like that…
And when they actually went on sale I’ve never seen so many police around the place, there were people coming from all over the country. I know because they were coming in the shop buying papers.
As for bringing prosperity to the community, I don’t think so. It will be a community within a community. We’ve just found out that they want to build luxury flats with coffee shops and boutiques at the front of the site. That just tells you the type of person they want to live here – boutiques and coffee shops. Enough said. It’s not called Langworthy Rd any more it’s called `Langworthy Village’.
They can use all the fancy educated words they want but for me it’s social engineering. In 10 years time, when that BBC is set up, there’ll be BBC employees over there in the Urban Splash housing. I think that it will be a completely different community on its own. We’re Salford residents who have lived here all our lives and basically they don’t want us. It’s going to be an extension of Salford Quays…
The Quays is taking over the lot, it’s spreading very slowly but it’s spreading. They can’t say `You...You…and You… we don’t want your type in the area’, No. But they can knock your house down so you can’t stay in the area – it’s as simple as that.
Loads of people have already gone. Some have gone through Homeswap but I don’t know where the people they swapped with have gone – they’ve just gone.
As a resident of Langworthy, and having spoken to a lot of residents in Langworthy, we don’t want flower baskets…We don’t want the council printing its own propaganda magazines once a month with someone on the front with a basket of flowers…we don’t want that…no-one wants it, believe me… yes, when it’s all finished…But to gate off the alleys and fill them with flowers…we’re just tinkering. What people have got to remember is £70 million, and all they’ve got to shout about is bringing Urban Splash in, and filling up flower baskets and hanging them on lampposts…It needs investigating.
Whoever’s given them the cash needs to know where it’s going and what’s happening. I’m so frustrated because I don’t know where the money has gone.
They need to get a team of forensic accountants to scrutinise the accounts, I think there’d be some interesting findings. This shop received £50,000 of improvements – it’s had a new front, double glazing, been pointed and had a new roof which is apparently the cheapest Spanish slate you can possibly buy. I could personally get it done for less than £20k. If that is the case I know where all the money’s going. And they accepted a guarantee of 12 months for a new roof. It’s usually 10 years absolute minimum, I couldn’t believe it.
I don’t want to be negative all the time - a lot of people are very happy that they’ve had work done on their properties but they’re not happy with the quality of the work.
Where else has the money gone ? Well, we’ve had four sets of plans for Langworthy Rd, they’ve acted on none of them – and the people who draw up those plans don’t come cheap. We’ve had plans for the parking at the back of our shops – they’re not doing the parking at the back of the shops… They’ve put speed bumps on Nansen Street because the residents asked for them years ago. By the time they put them in the houses were knocked down and it’s now going to be a school playground so they’re going to have to rip them out again.
I watched them put new edgings and pavements around a house, then a fortnight later drive a 40 ton digger over it and knock the house down on it. So there’s your money.
They say the money’s run out but just look around and tell me they’re competent, they’ve done nothing. If those people can go home at night thinking they’ve done a good job we’ve got a serious problem.
I’ve seen what private money can do – it was seven months from knocking down the Ambassador picture house to building and selling lovely flats – seven months – we’re over eight years and we’ve got nothing…empty crofts where houses used to stand with knee high rails.
All we get is strategies, consultants, auditors and solicitors…and everybody’s had enough.
They keep asking us what we want. If someone’s saying to me after eight years and over £70m spent `we want to know what you want’ it’s beyond belief. It’s frightening. We were talking to a woman a few weeks ago who said `We had one of these meetings 12 years ago’…12 years…
After all this time they still want to know what residents want – somebody help us because they’ve lost the plot down here.
And if anyone from Broughton reads this, God help you because they’ve made a complete mess of this and they’re going to do the same to you.
I’ll be like `have you heard about this …And people are going `Oh what now ?’ They’re browbeaten. They’ve done a good job on the residents of Langworthy because they’re fed up and not interested any more. And that’s exactly what they want.
Recently we went to a meeting as traders and residents of Langworthy Rd and when we first got there we saw the meeting lists and we thought `hold on it’s not for us this’…They’d changed our area. That’s how much we know after eight years – we don’t even know where we live…whether we’re Seedley South, North, East or West…They gave us no official notification of the meeting, it was only because someone told me about it that I knew. It’s their job to communicate with residents and they’ve failed miserably on a simple thing like that.
I think they’ve got a master plan for the area and it’s going to be put in place. They want to make you feel like you’ve got a voice and that you matter. You don’t. What matters is big business and big money. They’re not interested in us. Simple as that.
But I believe that people have got to keep fighting.
IS EVERYTHING FAB IN SEEDLEY/LANGWORTHY ?
Money. So much money showered on Langworthy and Seedley. The place should have pavements of gold lined with Dick Whittington and black cats. So much money, that everyone seems to have lost count.
In the last seven years alone the area’s had something like £13.8 million from the SRB; nearly £9 million from Pathfinder; over £17 million from the private sector; £4.2 million from ERDF, NWDA and a load of other agencies with initials. Plus the council’s occasionally stuck its hand in its pocket. Langworthy and Seedley has probably had around £50 million, although no-one seems to know an exact figure, there’s so much money cascading in from different pots. With another massive wad coming in the near future, the council puts the total figure at near-on £88million. That’s £88,000,000. Everyone should be delighted. But they’re not.
Maybe it was pure coincidence that local people we spoke to talked either of chaos, confusion, incompetence or corruption. No-one knew where all the money had gone. And no-one was impressed with attempts to regenerate the place. We found businesses going to the wall, kids cautioned by the police for playing out, families fighting to save their homes, school mergers that no-one wants, and old people sad and sidelined by Salford’s attempt at a brave new world.
A stroll down Langworthy Road, taking in the back streets, reveals continued dereliction, tinned up houses and lots and lots and lots of placards, posters and banners barracking the council. No-one seems to know what’s going on. Everyone’s fed up. And nothing seems to be happening.
Of course, everyone thinks the place has improved from what it was before. But most question the agenda and motives behind that improvement. The so-called `community-led masterplan’ is seriously struggling for support.
My Kids Can’t Go Out…
I haven’t really got a problem with the housing in Langworthy. I like my house, but my kids can’t go out to play. Since they’ve brought dispersal orders to the area my seven year old son has been told off by a Community Police Officer for being on the street – at 4pm. And my daughter went into a shop to get a kebab and the real police walked in and gave her a warning – if she can’t go into a kebab shop what can she do ?
If they see kids on the street they get a police caution, and if you get two cautions a letter goes out to the parents. I think it’s their way of trying to protect us from youths but I don’t need protection. For me they’re targeting the wrong kids, picking on 12 and 13 year olds and splitting them up if they’re in groups. But a girl got raped in Walkden at 10pm so I’m not having my daughter walking around on her own. Now it’s either that or she sits on the computer all day.
I’ve got to throw her out now because she won’t go out, and if she does, she gets thrown back in. You can’t win – they want our kids to be prisoners in their own homes.
The Landlord – why isn’t the council listening to residents ?
Our firm manages several properties around Nansen Street and is keen that the community is able to continue living together, in their own homes, as they have done for a generation or more. We think it is unfair to uproot a community and support the Seedley South Residents Committee in their efforts to save their streets from demolition in the regeneration scheme.
We’ve had insurance agents and surveyors come and see the houses and they’ve all remarked that there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re ideal for first time buyers and there’s no reason on earth why they should come down. They should be improved. You can’t just suddenly destroy a community. We do not understand why the council seems not to be listening to the residents in this regard.
David Neumann, Mayfair Management
GOING…GOING…ALMOST GONE – the schools, the bowling green, the social club and four unique houses…by the residents of Derby Road off Liverpool Street
I moved from Nelson St, which was featured on tv in Neighbourhood From Hell, and I’m still paying off £40,000 negative equity. We had to get out because we’d put up with it for ten years while the council did nothing. We’d lived here for five years and the next thing we knew was that the council want to put up a new school and pull down these houses, plus the Conservative Club with its bowling green.
The club has 400 members and it’s their focal point, their lives. And these houses are unique in that they are all individually designed, and less than thirty years old. You’d never find another four houses like these. A few of us have been to every meeting at the four schools and everybody wants their schools to stay as they are – they don’t want one massive school. But whether Salford council listens to them you’ll never know.
If they pull our houses down we’ll get nothing for them and, I presume, we’d have to leave Langworthy to get somewhere we can afford. They’re totally not interested in you as a person. The council is ruining Salford. I wanted to end my life here because I’m linked with the church and everything. I’m not going anywhere – I will come out of here in a box.
They said to us that if they take the four houses and the existing school they still won’t have enough land to build the new big school. But if they’re going to take all this and they’ve not got enough for the school it doesn’t make sense – why take it ? We think they are trying to put apartments here.
In a couple of years we could lose our house, the school might get built as a little two storey thing and then they could put up flats. They put them in everywhere
We’re never going to get something like we’ve got now and why should we anyway because we’ve all worked hard. We’re not in our twenties, we’re in our fifties so how can we go and get a mortgage to find something like we’ve got now ? I think it’s disgraceful.
Hair 2 day gone tomorrow ?
The council argues that the Seedley and Langworthy regeneration is good for local businesses – here one local business woman, Ruth Critchley of Hair 2 on Liverpool Street, begs to differ…
The regeneration of Seedley South will end up closing my business for the simple reason that there’s hardly anyone left in the area. Nearly all my regulars have moved and the houses boarded up or demolished.
Employed at my salon are myself, my daughter and another stylist. There’s also a nail technician and a beautician – so there’s three businesses in one shop possibly put out of work because there aren’t enough customers to keep us going. My business will not hold out until they sort the place out – nobody will give us a bank loan because I can’t guarantee to pay it back. And I can’t have an overdraft for the same reason. Yet I’m still paying business rates.
Even when the area is finished it looks like they’re bringing money people in, and they’re not going to be going to a little hairdressers on the corner of the street, they’ll be going up town where they work…
The original council plan was to turn our shop into houses and move us, with a 60-40 equity split on a new property. I still think that’s what they’ll do, even though no-one agrees with it. For a start I know I couldn’t even get a mortgage on 40% of what the property will be worth for the simple reason that I haven’t got any equity anywhere else. I’ve got nothing in the bank because I’ve used it to keep this business afloat, and that will be gone. Plus I don’t owe anything on my property, it’s paid for in cash, so why should I get into debt when I don’t want to move ? I don’t know where they’re going to move us to because there isn’t anywhere really is there ?
But I’m not going without a fight. The family have put so much into this place, when we moved in it was a shell and we’ve virtually rebuilt it ourselves. There’s no way we’re going to walk away from it all.
In the meantime, they’re not letting anyone know what’s happening. And I’m not getting any help from anywhere. John Merry came to see me but I think the same of the council as before – they’ve made their minds up about what they want to do and unfortunately we’re stood in the way causing a problem for them. They don’t really give a toss about anyone. I think they just want Salford people out and there’ll be no Salford people here soon –how big do they want Manchester to be?
DOWN THE PUB…
What do people think about what’s going on in Seedley and Langworthy ? We popped into the friendly Ashley Brook pub on Liverpool Street and chatted to a random selection of regulars…
“People driving through Langworthy and Seedley will think `Oh what a great regeneration, what a wonderful place’. And if you go in a rectangle along Liverpool Street, up Langworthy Road and go along Lower Seedley Road and all the way down Seedley Park Road, you’ll see that they did up all those outside houses. They’ve spent millions where it’s all within sight. But they’ve neglected the streets inside. It stinks.
Where I live in Grange Street. And that, and the one next to it, have been left out. All we wanted was what everyone else has got, double glazing and a front door. Nothing more. And they’ve turned around and said you can’t have that now, the council’s run out of money. I’m reluctant to spend on my house because you see all the money that’s gone into the area for other home owners like myself. The difference is that no-one can see the front of our house, so we didn’t get a penny.”
“I’ve lived on Knutsford Street in my own house for 19 years in the regeneration area. I’m badly disabled and applied for a grant to repair my home in January 2000. It was approved then the council ran out of money. Instead they told me I could have a loan which I don’t have to pay back until I die or sell the house. I don’t want that. In my street there are around 17 houses and 15 have been done up for homeswaps or private landlords. My roof’s leaking, all my windows are leaking and they refuse to do it.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I’m on fixed income and they can’t put a roof on or new windows but they can do it for homeswaps and private landlords. I think it stinks because when they showed us the scale model for the area at the Cornerstone in 2000 they told us there’d be unlimited grants. And now they’ve done a complete u-turn.“
“They don’t want us here – we are like the centre of London now aren’t we ? They want to push us out and get other people in. It’s like living in a country village where people buy second homes and the price goes up and the children from that village can’t afford to buy their own houses. That’s what’s happening here. They’re ripping the heart out of this community with what they are doing. They ripped the heart out of Salford by turning it into motorway, and now they’re ripping the heart out of Seedley and Langworthy by putting in business people who want to commute from A to B because it’s easier for them. I think the BBC should f** off to Manchester and let them have the problem. So my children can have affordable houses to live in.
“The people from the Cornerstone and the SALI shop who are saying `We’re the good fairies’ and `What a good job we’re doing for this area’ are just the devil’s disciples and they don’t realise it – they are doing the dirty work for the council.”
“The first thing they did was knock the library down – it was the most beautiful building you’ve ever seen - and they knocked it down and put up another building that cost £5million. There was nothing wrong with it but some builder must have said `Right we’ll have a few bob out of this’. They put this awful community centre up but there was a beautiful one there already. Then we had people from Altrincham coming down to tell us what was wrong with the area and they were getting huge fees. The money they’ve spent. And they did that before any house was touched. And then there’s Urban Splash – he’s making a fortune out of that – the kids will run riot…”
“Real people who live in Salford on £12 - £15,000 will not be able to live in the area. The council are trying to get rid of people from the Salford area. When the BBC gets developed, this side of the Quays is where people will live. Have a guess who won’t be here? People who actually live in Salford now. Langworthy’s a joke and it’s been going on for 15 years.”
Tony `Two Pints’
HANDS OFF OUR HOMES...
Walk along the back streets off Langworthy Road, right opposite the glitzy Urban Splash site, and it’s another world. Row after row of tinned up houses…and anti demolition posters in virtually every window of homes that are still occupied. In the face of the Pathfinder bulldozers these families are fighting for their future…
Stephen and Kerry Plaister, from Kara Street
We’ve lived here for 16 years and we want to stay, that’s why we’re campaigning. We’ve got two daughters aged 14, and 9. They’re embarrassed about the conditions around here and they hear their parents argue about it. In winter time it’s absolutely freezing, being next door to empty tinned up houses. We have to leave the fire on all night because it’s so damp which is a health and safety issue, and the gas and electric bill are shocking. All my youngest child has ever known is this and I feel embarrassed about it too.
But I can’t move. I like my house, I like the community, I like my principles, so I’ll stick it out to the end. And I may end up out of pocket with my marriage falling apart but it’s my house, I’m going to stay here and fight tooth and nail to keep this community. They’re good people. I bought this house not for an investment but as something you pass down the line to your children. The housing market has trebled for me. But from the day I moved in I had no intention of moving out. I’m Salford born, I’m not far from my mother, and I class the community as my friends – they’re of the same feelings.
12 years ago we heard that there may be regeneration but it’s kicked in over the last nine years. At first we thought it would be brilliant, you could see the deterioration. And you can now see that the area’s been done up but we seem to be in this little pocket that’s out of the way of the Langworthy corridor, so we think there may be a hidden agenda. I think that with the BBC and Urban Splash taking off across the road, maybe they’ll do the same over here. That’s what I personally think.
We’ve got written assurances from Hazel Blears that the houses will be staying up, we’ve got an e-mail saying that they would come under block improvements in two to three years - that was sent in Aug 2002 so if you look at the timescale that would be about now – nothing’s come of it.
Six years ago they starting tinning up houses…acquired by Salford City Council. A few weeks ago I was in the back entry and staff came to borrow keys to tin up number 27. When I asked him why they were tinning it up he said the council had acquired it for demolition. We‘ve set a group up now to work side by side with the council to come up with ideas for this area but you’ve got one of their own employees saying that the houses have been acquired for demolition.
I’ve got a breakdown of the monies they’ve got for the Langworthy and Seedley area this year and it states that money’s there to acquire properties from residents if they want to move out of the area. So it frightens me that maybe they’re going to put you in a position where they’re bullying you out of your house. It seems to me that they’re trying to socially cleanse the area. I’ve seen hundreds of people go from around here and I don’t even know where they’ve gone – I’ve no idea.
The only good thing that’s coming out of all this is that we are starting a residents group. We’re a tight community now, all looking out for each other, all trying to go forward and beat the demolition. “
Kevin and Karen Ainsworth, from Nansen St
Karen: “There used to be drug dealing, drinking, fighting and it was a rat run for cars around here. So at first everyone supported the council when they said it was a development area…But since then they’ve spent, we’ve been told, £75 million, and all they’ve done is split up the community.”
Kevin: “We’ve seen the affects – a lot of mental illness and depression. There’s an old lady called Edna who they moved out of Harmsworth St and put in a homeswap in somewhere else. The poor old girl still comes around here looking at the bedroom windows saying `I can’t get in my house’ and neighbours are taking her back saying `You live here now Edna, you live in Langsam St’. `But it’s not my house’ she says – and she’s still walking around – she came round the other week and fell over, broke her arm. It’s awful.
“But at first it all seemed fine. In 2002 they showed us plans with the houses re-modelled and recreation areas, and everyone was happy. They said it would take some time so we all sat back and waited. And then nothing happened until they came out with another plan. We all went to have a look and all our houses had been demolished.“
Karen: “I looked and my house wasn’t there – it was a pocket park. There were a lot of old people who were really upset. We got a petition up and I said ‘What happens to me if you pull my house down?’ They said `You can go to one of these new builds here…we’ll say yours is worth £50,000 and that new one’s worth £100,000…we’ll give you £50,000 and you can have one of these nice new houses with a garden – you won’t have to pay anything until you sell your house’.
“I said `Are you for real or what – do you think I’m stupid ? Why would I want to move out of a house that we’ve paid for and done up for that ?’ Everyone went mad so we got those plans overturned. But Ardner Street residents didn’t fight and their houses were up for demolition. They came up with plans for new builds with Ardner Street as a park but our houses were staying. And then the money ran out, so all the houses they’d bought and boarded up they couldn’t afford to do anything with. You’ve got to question why and the only thing that we can think of is that they don’t want us here – that they want these demolished to build new houses. I think it’s all linked up to the BBC and Urban Splash.”
Kevin: “There’s nothing wrong with my house. There’s nothing wrong with these houses. A lot of people around here said `Oh we know what will happen’, but you walk around the streets now and you’ll see all the `Save Our Houses stickers. We’ve formed the Seedley South Residents Group and our community is getting stronger by the day.”
Karen: “They’re going to have to do something because those people in the Urban Splash site are not going to appreciate looking over at boarded houses. So we’ll either be flattened before then, or whatever, but we’re not going to make it easy for them because we’ve got nowhere else to go.”