"They promised everyone around here that they would build us a brand new estate and that they would all move together..."
Yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn's keynote speech at the Labour Party Conference included some truths that everyone wanted to hear...
"Tenants are not being listened to" he said "After Grenfell we must think again about what are called 'regeneration' schemes. Regeneration is a much abused word. Too often what it really means is forced gentrification and social cleansing, as private developers move in and tenants and leaseholders are moved out."
Well, Mr Corbyn, welcome to the front line of 'regeneration', Labour Party style, in Salford, in the constituency of Rebecca Long-Bailey and under the tutelage of a supposed Corbyn-supporting City Mayor.
Welcome to the High Street estate in Pendleton, with MediaCityUK around one mile away; the old Salford Precinct across the road and in the shadow of the nine Council-owned blocks with dangerous ACM cladding half on, half off on the sides of the high rises.
Pendleton is right at the front line and sharp end of 'gentrification', with the whole estate handed over to Together Housing, with bright new 'Pendleton Together' branding ushering in 'change', fired by an obscenely expensive PFI deal (see here).
The Business Case that went off to the Government to get the PFI grants stated that the final plans for Pendleton "will lead to a dilution in the current concentration of economically inactive households" by "young professionals and individuals who wish to live in Pendleton".
Here is the perfect storm, raining every housing issue raised on the platform of the Labour Party conference. And here, under a local Labour administration, is everything that's wrong with 'forced gentrification and social cleansing'.
It was in July last year that Salford City Council approved the bulldozing of the High Street estate. Families living in 149 social rent homes were to be handed 'decant' notices – a polite expression for 'pack your bags and get out'.
To replace the 149 houses being knocked down, just 52 so-called 'affordable rented homes' were to be built.
According to the last public figures available, over the whole of Pendleton 885 affordable houses are being bulldozed, with only around 500 so-called 'affordable homes' being built, out of 1,500, to replace them.
When, last year, the Salford Star broke the news to residents – because no-one had actually told them their houses were coming down – one person said "I think it's wrong. If they know you're going they should have another house ready for us to go into. If I am being driven out for some top bloke to come in, that's not right. If they make a decision it should be for the people who are here not for the people they want to bring in." (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
Fast forward to this week, and this family's house is now empty and tinned up, like the majority of houses on the estate. On Brydon Close there's a whole row of tinned up houses, with just one home still occupied. Living in the deserted street are disabled couple, Colin and Carol Midgley.
When Salix Homes - which now owns the estate after Salford Council urged tenants to accept a 'stock transfer' privatisation deal – originally came calling on Colin and Carol, following the 'decant' notice, they got a shock, as their son Paul recalls...
"They were hoping to get a new build but the lady from Salix Homes turned around to my mum and dad and said 'You can't have one because Pendleton Together will not put a stair lift or a wet room into a new build'. No reason just that."
Instead, they got offered properties as far away as Little Hulton, Irlam and Cadishead... "As their carer, I told them that I needed them to be around here, and their doctor is local, plus all the facilities" Paul adds.
After refusing to take a property outside of the area, the disabled couple were just left hanging on, as the houses around them were emptied and half tinned up, with pigeons nesting in the former bedrooms.
The family heard of a house being vacated on Rosehill Close – the only street on the estate that's staying up – and managed to get it... "We found this property ourselves and wanted it as my parents were so scared of being the last ones left on the row – they've seen kids breaking in setting fires, smashing windows...it took me to go into the Salix office and kick off before they'd even tin up all the empty houses properly."
Colin has COPD, type 2 diabetes, is partially sighted and uses a mobility scooter. His wife, Carol, has the early onset of Parkinson's disease. They've been living in the last habited house on the row for months on their own.
Last week the couple had kids throwing stones at their windows, front and back. There's no security at all. Again, Paul had to kick off in the Salix office, and now the couple get one phone call between 8pm and 9pm to make sure they're ok...
"They phoned up last night and said 'Are you alright?', and I said 'Yeah' and that was it, they just hung up" says Colin.
So what do they think of Salix Homes' duty of care to the vulnerable? "A waste of time" he laughs, in a gallows humour sort of way.
"My dad is not allowed out on his own because of his eyesight, but last week he went off in his scooter and I eventually found him riding around the Precinct" Paul recalls "He just told me 'I've had enough; I feel like topping myself with all this'. I shouldn't be having to listen to this...They know there's vulnerable people left on here."
It's not just Colin that the 'regeneration' is negatively affecting, it's Carol too... "It's shocking" she says "I'm in the early stages of Parkinson's but this has really got to me. I said the other day 'I just feel like walking out and not coming back'. It's got me that way."
Unfortunately, this couple's predicament gets even worse. Having been accepted for the house in Rosehill Close, they were absolutely distraught at the state of the place they were expected to move into.
"Salix had the property for ten to twelve weeks doing it up, and gave us the keys two weeks ago...well, the guy should have met me to go round and inspect it all but he didn't; he saw my mum and gave her the keys on the street" says Paul
"We found problem after problem after problem" he explains "...electric sockets hanging off the wall, the connecting gas pipe to the cooker left hanging off the wall, holes in the floorboards, holes in the skirting boards, cracked walls, soil grow-bags in the attic...they were expecting us to do it up out of the home loss payment of £5,800."
The Government's guide to 'compulsory purchase and compensation'* states that "home-loss payment is an additional sum to reflect and recognise the distress and discomfort of being compelled to move out of your home"...and thus not to sort out a property that should be provided on a like for like basis.
Again, Paul had to go to the Salix office and complain, and Salix workers were back in the property this week finishing off the jobs. When the Salford Star visited the house there were still huge cracks in the ceiling, there were still holes in the floor and skirting boards, a hand rail in the wet room was left unscrewed to the wall, a bulb left hanging on a wire was ripe to be smashed every time the bathroom door was opened, the gate at the back was rotten and the garden itself was totally overgrown. There was no ramp for the disability scooter.
A decorator who the family had employed to paint the property was just shaking his head at all the failings. Colin and Carol can't move in yet, so they are still just left in the deserted tinned up row fearing what will happen every night. Another person left in another row wanted to talk to the Salford Star about the conditions he was living in but was just too ill to meet us.
Years ago, when Salford City Council first announced that the estate was to be 'regenerated', there was a meeting of tenants which Paul and his family attended...
"Paul Dennett, who was then the local councillor and is now the Mayor, was there" he recalls "They promised everyone around here that they would build us a brand new estate and that they would all move together. There would also be a special pensioners' estate..."
All three just laugh ironically at the thought...
Back at Brighton yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn's words might have brought hope to many; but in Salford, where there's been 'regenerations' of virtually all central areas – Higher Broughton, Lower Broughton, Langworthy, Seedley, Whit Lane, Ordsall and now Pendleton – it's been a Labour Party administration that has overseen what is widely seen by communities as social cleansing, and documented in infinite detail over the eleven year history of the Salford Star.
"Regeneration under a Labour Government will be for the benefit of the local people, not private developers, not property speculators" said Corbyn "First, people who live on an estate that's redeveloped must get a home on the same site and the same terms as before.
"And, second" he added "councils will have to win a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders before any redevelopment scheme can take place. Real regeneration, yes - but for the many not the few."
If Mr Corbyn wants to see 'forced gentrification and social cleansing' at its finest, for the few not the many, he only needs to visit the constituency of Rebecca Long-Bailey...
The Salford Star asked Salix Homes the following questions...
*Why was a vulnerable couple left as the only tenants in a tinned up block of houses, coping with kids chucking stones at their windows?
*Why couldn't they have a new build property in the area – is it because of a shortage of social housing?
*Why did Salix hand over the keys to a property that obviously wasn't fit for purpose?
*Does Salix acknowledge the stress that this couple has been put under?
Salix Homes never even acknowledged the email, never mind respond...
* For details of home-loss compensation see the Department of Government and Local Communities booklet number 4 – click here
For full background see previous Salford Star articles...
Only Two Affordable Houses out of 4,172 Built in Greengate and Chapel Street – click here
Salford Housing Crisis – The Causes – click here
Pendleton Together Salford Gentrification Slammed by IUD Project – click here
Salford Housing Report Shows Working Class Community Being Priced Out of Regeneration Area – click here
Higher Broughton Social Cleansing Eviction Anniversary – click here
Social Cleansing in Salford – see the huge article in print issue 10 – click here for electronic version (pages 18 and 19)