Yesterday, on the High Street Estate at the back of Salford Precinct, one of the houses was on fire, with smoke billowing everywhere. Two engines were present, firefighters with breathing apparatus, the works... 'Who set the house on fire?', we asked, only to be told it was the fire service itself; as a training exercise.
It's nothing new on this post-apocalyptic estate, where row after row of houses are tinned up and old belongings are strewn everywhere in what has become a playground for anti-social behaviour.
Two years ago, in the wake of the Salford riots which were centred around the High Street Estate, Salford City Council slapped a 'decant notice' on the properties in lieu of 'clearance', or what many in Salford now call 'social cleansing'. 150 affordable houses were to be tinned up and eventually demolished as part of 'Creating A New Pendleton'.
Just 52 affordable houses were being built to replace them in the market led housing scheme that the Council stated in its business case would "lead to a dilution in the current concentration of economically inactive households" by "young professionals..."
Since then, 141 houses have been emptied as the place has become a ghost estate. But, in the midst of the midden, nine families are still living in limbo, holding out for a better re-housing deal, including elderly and disabled Sandra Preston and her family.
Unfortunately, after living in the hell of regeneration for too long, Sandra's husband died around Christmas time and now, while her son and grandson are out at work all day, she sits housebound with just her new puppy for company watching the anti-social behaviour unfold in front of her own doorstep.
"It's scary at night and even through the day" she told the Salford Star a few weeks ago "We're getting druggies shooting up in the doorways, and there was a homeless chap sleeping in the bushes...you get people with dogs coming to the grass where the kids used to play and they let them do everything and don't clean it up...
"...There's dirt bikes, motorbikes and the dog goes beserk, he's frightened of going out" she added "There's druggies, alkies...that's what it's getting like. They tell you to phone the police but by the time they get here, they've gone."
This is what Salford Council called implementing Salix Homes' "intensive management of the area in transition" in its initial report on the 'decanting' of residents...
"They've put security lights up but no actual security" explained Sandra "They've done it all wrong, leaving people like me until last. They've known about me and others on the estate like me who have mobility needs, and they should have done something for them either first or somewhere along the line but they've just done nothing."
Sandra couldn't move to one of the few new houses being built by Pendleton Together because they weren't big enough, nor suitable for her requirements as a disabled person...
It's like current residents won't be allowed to 'pollute' the 'young professional' 'New Pendleton'. It was the same story with the other regenerations in central and east Salford – in Higher and Lower Broughton, in Langworthy and Seedley, in Charlestown and Lower Kersal. Pendleton is the latest front line.
Indeed, this time last year, Jeremy Corbyn made a speech at the Labour Party conference about 'regeneration' meaning "forced gentrification and social cleansing". And here it is, on the doorstep of Salford and Eccles MP and shadow Labour Party minister Rebecca Long-Bailey.*
"We wanted to stay around here with the neighbours because we knew everyone and me being stuck in the house and everything; but most of the properties I couldn't get the scooter out on my own so there was no way I could get to the Precinct" Sandra explained.
"They offered us Tootal Drive, but that was too far away, and it was at the back of the homeless hostel so my husband didn't want to go there" she added "And the streets were hilly which was no good to me and my husband because we were both bad on our feet. Then they offered us a temporary move to Ordsall but we said 'No way' because if we went down there would be stuck there forever, so we refused that. We've had upteen offers but none were where we wanted to go."
The latest chance of a move centres on the Rainsough estate, to a large disabled-friendly property, not only out of the Pendleton area but out of Salford, over the border into Prestwich and the Bury borough... "Some of my old neighbours have moved into adjoining streets there so we'll see what it's like, and if we don't like it we'll have to wait until something else turns up..."
This is the second time that Sandra and her family have been forcibly shifted from their home. 33 years ago they were moved to the High Street estate from Trinity during that area's 'regeneration'.
Sandra and her family settled on the High Street estate and ideally wanted to stay, it being close to the Precinct and people who could keep an eye on her... "We were alright here, the neighbours were fine; they could have just tickled the houses up a bit..."
Yesterday, amidst the billowing smoke of the fire service training exercise, we visited Sandra again to see if anything had materialised and she'd finally got her move out of the apocalypse. Nothing had changed.
In the meantime, amongst the tinned up rows of houses, the nine families are still holding out, with most people reluctant to speak out, either through fear or mistrust of anyone entering the estate, as yet another tight knit Salford community gets smashed to pieces...
What is going on within the High Street Estate is the subject of absolute secrecy from Salford Council. Since its original 'decant' notice report two years ago, there has been nothing in the public domain on the issue.
This month there's been a decision notice to award Urban Vision the contract for 'pre demolition surveys, and utility disconnections, in advance of the demolition of the High Street estate', while a report to the Lead Member of the Housing and Neighbourhoods Committee on the 'High Street Demolition' was kept secret from the public under Part 2, arguing that disclosure wouldn't 'help people to understand and participate in public debate'.
The Salford Star would have contacted Salford Council for a comment on the High Street Estate but the Council hasn't responded to any Salford Star questions or requests for interviews for five years...
* For a full background see previous Salford Star articles...
Pendleton Demolitions See More Social Cleansing – click here
Jeremy Corbyn Should Come To Salford and See Gentrification and Social Cleansing at its Finest – click here
Pendleton Together Gentrification Slammed by IUD Project – click here
Photos by Steven Speed