In the posh area of St John Street in Manchester, a clenched fist banner and a Palestinian flag are flying from two Grade 2 listed buildings which are about to be turned into more luxury accommodation.
Homeless people and activists have occupied the properties for over a week to highlight the lack of affordable housing in the city and Gary Neville's role in that, both though his developments like these houses and his directorship with Zerum Construction Management Ltd, which has represented developers in the planning process avoid Section 106 planning contributions and the provision of affordable housing.
In Salford, Zerum has represented Middlewood Locks and Peel Holdings which has led to the loss of millions of pounds in contributions through the use of 'viability assessments'. In Manchester, the huge and ultra controversial St Michael's development avoided providing any Section 106 contributions for fees and affordable houses at the behest of the Council which has a stake in the land.
"As well as having a place to stay, we're here to highlight that all Gary Neville's plans revolve around gentrification and profiting" one of the occupiers told the Salford Star "He markets himself as being a working class lad but his involvement around the city doesn't show that.
"He should be doing more for affordable housing and publishing his Section 106 viability assessments" they added "He's also providing advice for other developers through Zerum. We hope to influence his behaviour, to do more for the area instead of being 'profit Neville'."
Indeed, the squatters, or 'persons unknown', have published an open letter to Gary Neville, via Lousy Badger Media...
"If he does not have his viability assessments, or the same has been wavered by councils due to introduction of funds through land purchases, then we want all documents in relation to the same showing the considerations for public services and affordable housing" it reads
"The publication of 106 documentation would go towards aiding an understanding
why affordable housing is not being commissioned around Manchester City
centre and transparency in city wide developments" it adds.
"...The social fabric of Manchester has always been one of the deepest rooted working class regions in the country, the birth of the industrial working class revolution and the home of the suffragette movement" it continues "We feel Neville's plans are the antithesis of these roots spawning massive gentrification in the city centre and ultimately directly impacting the lack of affordable housing in the region and displacement of the working class in exchange for luxury, profit driven housing developments..."
The response by Gary Neville was a successful application for a possession order for the properties, granted by a judge at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre last Friday, and the occupiers are braced for an eviction any day.
"We hoped we could get him to ask himself 'Could I be doing more to help affordable housing in Manchester?' and to put pressure on him, so he can do more for the people of Manchester" said one of the squatters "So far, none of his behaviour reflects that."
Indeed, another of the occupiers stressed that the court papers included a photo of the community board outside the buildings highlighting rights for cleaners in precarious jobs, rights for migrants and a strong anti-racism message..
"This progressive narrative and community engagement was used as something to try and discredit us" they explained "It reveals the mindset of Gary Neville and his partners..."
To read the full open letter see the Lousy Badger Media Facebook page – click here
See also previous Salford Star article - Salford Council Wins Gary Neville Finger In Pies Award - click here
Main photo shows 'Persons Unknown' turning their back on the system