"Now you've got the public involved we can help" local resident
Last night, a public meeting was set to angrily oppose any plans to build houses in Buile Hill Park as part of a deal with Salford Red Devils Foundation and developer Capital and Centric to restore the Grade 2 listed Mansion for community use.
Just hours before the meeting however, Salford Mayor, Paul Dennett, dramatically u-turned on the idea...
"...A private housing development will not be built in the former depot area at Buile Hill Park" he said in a rushed statement "There were never any solid proposals on the table to build homes on the park, despite open-ended speculation..." (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
However, the meeting learned that building houses was very much on the cards... John Blackburn, from the Salford Red Devils Foundation, confirmed that Capital and Centric had the plans when he spoke to them eight months into the Foundation's bid to restore the Mansion...
"I thought 'Building houses in the park? That's contentious'" he said "Since then I've been down to Smithills Coaching House where they've done the mansion up and the outbuildings have become properties and it's brought it back to life. There would be more security in the evening when you're walking around..."
With the Mayor now vetoing such plans after a public outcry that has seen over 2,700 people sign a petition, John Blackburn insisted that "There's no Plan B, unfortunately..."
He gave a full history of the bid, the plans for the Mansion, the £3.5million redevelopment and fit-out costs quoted, and likely sources of finance, including a £1.7million Lottery bid, World Cup 2021 legacy funding from the Rugby League which has a £12million pot...and he revealed that two big commercial companies might invest without looking for a return.
Weaste Councillor, Paul Wilson, added that the Council was also looking at a possible patient hotel in the depot grounds funded by the NHS, and spoke of other developers interested in schemes for the depot area..."Capital and Centric is also keen to see what ideas this meeting comes up with" he added "It's about generating ideas and getting a working party together..."
While former councillor Mary Ferrer, who called the meeting, insisted on keeping ideas from the community positive, many residents also criticised the secrecy surrounding the project...
"A lot been going on that we don't know about but now you've got the public involved we can help" said one resident, while Beryl Patten, who is involved with the Agecroft Chapel restoration group, which publishes minutes of its meetings and full updates, added that "Part of the problem is that the wider community don't know what's going on". She asked Blackburn "Are you willing to have input from this meeting?"
"We we need everyone involved" he responded, naming the Irwell Valley Mining Project and Sounds of Salford Radio as community groups that are on board..."We've not tried to hide anything...We're proud of what we're doing..."
Other residents questioned the Council's priorities on parks, which has seen Victoria Park look immaculate and millions of pounds pumped into Peel Park, while Buile Hill has 'degraded'...
"Buile Hill is supposed to be the premier park in Salford, so if they can't do it for Buile Hill there's something very wrong" said one speaker "The Council has allowed it to degrade and, I think, has some responsibility to put some money into it...they've slowly but surely taken every amenity away and all we're left with is a tennis court that you can't play on..."
Another added "People think that the Council is not interested...", to which Councillor Wilson responded; "Paul Dennett is willing to work with the community, so we need to come up with ideas and generate things that are going to work and move forward positively..."
Indeed, initial ideas from residents for the Mansion included uses as a registry office, cafe and a community hub, whereby charities that currently have rent for premises funded by the Council would be re-located to the Mansion providing an income and a saving.
Other proposals included using the Mansion as a training project for apprentices to learn specialised construction skills; school projects where pupils come up with their own ideas for the Mansion and park use; a staged redevelopment to provide income as the restoration progresses; and a land swap deal with developers, where the Council provides a plot of land for building houses with the Section 106 money going direct to the Mansion.
Those who didn't want to publicly air their ideas were invited to jot down ideas on pads provided which were collated at the end of the meeting. A working party was also set up to take the community ideas forward...
One thing that all these developments do show is that when Salford people get together and campaign it does get results. The u-turn by the Mayor is a massive victory for people power...
The date for the next public meeting was set at 3rd July.
For a full background see previous Salford Star article – click here