Residents respond to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing demolition plans for College Bank and Lower Falinge
Date published: 29 June 2017
Mitchell Hey, Dunkirk Rise, Tentercroft, Town Mill Brow (all pictured) face demolition, whilst Underwood and Holland Rise (pictured) and Mardyke (not pictured) face renovations.
Residents have spoken out about their views of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing’s proposals for the future of College Bank and Lower Falinge, dubbed ‘the Rochdale Masterplan’.
Under the proposals, College Bank would see refurbishment of three blocks, Underwood, Mardyke and Holland Rise. The remaining four of the ‘Seven Sisters’- Tentercroft, Town Mill Brow, Mitchell Hey and Dunkirk Rise- would be demolished. Approximately 444 properties would be affected; almost two-thirds of the total number of properties on site.
The refurbishment would include remodelling to reduce the number of bedsits, combining both ‘studios’ on each floor to a single two-bedroom property and improved parking arrangements. There would be potential for up to 120 new homes.
Refurbishments plans could include opening the core of the building to bring more light into the stairwell and potentially light inside as a beacon, improving the energy efficiency through insulation and the possibility of a rooftop communal garden. The entrance could be extended and provide storage for other uses such as bicycles.
Consultant Curtins carried out a detailed survey and identified issues with pigeons and the pigeon netting, concrete, balcony and stairwell balustrades, block entrances and the safety of the public areas and walkways. Insulation, damp and drainage were also key problems identified.
Former Mayor of Rochdale, Robin Parker, has lived in the flats since 1974. He has long opposed the demolition of the flats and has been fighting for College Bank to be considered a ‘heritage asset’.
Infuriated about the plans, he said: “The consultation has been a complete fraud, as Tostevin has always had this agenda. RBH have not listened to residents in any way, shape or form, because if they took on board residents' views they would not be proposing demolition. Yes, there are improvements that need to be done but that is always the case with properties like ours over a period.
“It will cost them at least £6m to compensate all tenants and leaseholders before they even knock a brick down and a lot of good things could be done to the buildings with that amount of money. As for working to keep the community together in Rochdale Town Centre, what a joke. They are looking to demolish almost 500 properties and also evict everyone from the other three while they make improvements. So, where, in Rochdale Town Centre would we go?
“Our two-bedroom property has two large double bedrooms. They are proposing on the refurbished blocks to provide one double and one single, so where are the 'like for like' options there? Where are the 'new, high quality homes that meet our needs'?
“It doesn't of course help that we have a 'Director of Communities' that doesn't live in any Rochdale community and, when she does come into the borough, spends most of her time in her Sandbrook Park Ivory Tower because, so I've been told on good authority, Number One Riverside (in the town centre!) wasn't deemed good enough by RBH bosses.
“Do I sound angry? Too right I am!”
Tenant Michael Dunn, who currently lives in Mardyke, believes the plans would affect Rochdale’s heritage, but admits the flats do need some work doing to them.
He said: “The ‘Seven Sisters’ have always been landmarks of Rochdale alongside the Town Hall and Riverside. Losing them would hit part of Rochdale’s heritage and I’m unsure if RBH would be able to rehouse so many people when the ratio of people to houses seems to be terrible. Rochdale has a high homeless population already.
“Demolishing just over half is better than all seven at once, which may be too much of a workload. That might be too much change all at once, but it’s a good small stepping stone to a bigger picture. Everyone complained about the river but everyone seems to have embraced it now.
“I’m hoping the proposals will reinvent the area’s image, but people have to want to change. I hope we can move away from those who don’t care or have any pride in the town. Perhaps this development will be something to change peoples’ attitudes towards the town and have pride in where they live.”
He continued: “If RBH are merging the bedsits to one flat, will they have to move out more tenants? How will they prioritise who stays? What is the long-term purpose this will serve other than looking good?
“There are issues with the blocks being old-fashioned and outdated. They do need sprucing up. Plumbing and plastering is an issue and no matter which block of flats, everyone knows the problem with beetles and silverfish. I’d hope the buildings are well-maintained and that public access and safety is improved. Better lit areas and better access from the basements to the ground is required.”
However, others have welcomed the changes.
Underwood resident, Mark Foster, welcomes the proposals, saying: “It’s good for change.”
However, he is concerned about having to move during the renovation process and where he would be housed, if applicable, during that time.
He asked: “If I have to move out because of renovations, where will I be placed? Will I get first priority of a new place?”
Former resident of Underwood, Spencer Rogers, said: “Change is needed in Rochdale. Other boroughs have moved on with their refurbishments but Rochdale has been held back for about 15 years.
“I’d hope the remaining flats have a full rehash of the irrigation and plumbing, plus abolishing the economy heaters. The new designs need to be different to give the town some character other than the grey panelling of the college, the council offices and the bus station.
“Environmental health is another concern and the security measures need improving. There have been instances of people sleeping rough in the entrances of the buildings and in the bin rooms.
“If Tentercroft is going, they would need to relocate and improve the shop. Perhaps on the ground floor of Holland Rise with maybe a 24-hour Spar. A well-stocked shop would open up jobs for the area too.
“It would be good if the bin chutes are overhauled. Currently, they are too small for the size of most people’s rubbish bags and it would be great if they installed integrated recycling chutes so people don’t have to walk all the way down to the basement to recycle things.”
Mr Rogers added: “Currently there are no child-safe areas and there are a lot of families in the flats. It would be good if they had somewhere, and if there were better qualified grounds maintenance so there could be attractive and well-kept green spaces.
He concluded: “I think it’s a fantastic idea providing there’s a scheme in place to do the other blocks. The project is a great idea, and I hope everyone in the flats receives a settlement fee. I’d also hope to see an excessive drop in rent in the three blocks that have the old structure when they’re next to these new properties.”
Under the proposals, Lower Falinge would see: 'Significant demolition to create meaningful development areas to attract private sector investment and offer a mix of housing of different types and tenures.'
Currently, there are approximately 450 properties on the site, with the plans affecting around half of these. However, up to 560 new homes could be built in an ‘improved network of streets, public realm and landscaped spaces’ with ‘integrated landscape and play’.
Of the blocks, Thetford, Stavordale, Quinton, Pershore, Glastonbury, Dunstable, Atherstone, Hinton, Edington and Bromfield would remain.
Andy Littlewood, a resident of Lower Falinge, has campaigned over six long years for improvements to be made in the area. He personally welcomes the proposals, feeling his hard work is paying off.
Mr Littlewood said: “I’m happy I feel I’ve been listened to as I’ve campaigned for six years for better housing in Lower Falinge. This is our chance to get this and we’d be daft to turn it down. I’m looking forward to seeing it finished; it should look very nice.
“I do have some concerns that RBH need to tackle before plans are put into place:
- Will affected residents who want to stay in the Lower Falinge area be able to?
- What traffic calming measures will be put into place with the new road systems?
- Will vulnerable residents be given the support they need and accommodation of a satisfactory standard?
- Will we get a community centre?
“The main thing people are concerned about is no timescale. People who aren’t directly affected will be living in a building site and they aren’t going to cherish that.
“I understand some people are against it because they don’t want the community to disappear and have become comfortable. I conducted an unofficial, personal survey asking if people wanted demolition. 20% said they didn’t want any; 24% said they welcomed partial and the remaining 56% said they wanted total demolition. I had about 200 responses.
“I was informed the flats were put up very quickly 50 years ago with a 40-year lifespan. With a lot of the issues, it would be wasted money trying to refurbish them. A lot of the important work is near impossible. The soil pipes were embedded in the walls and they’ve blocked on numerous occasions, which is very serious as it then flows back into the nearest toilet. The latest instance of this I’m aware of happened in February.
“There’s the flooding; I’ve lived in Lower Falinge for eight years and I’ve been flooded eight times. It is demoralising because you try to make your home look nice and wake up to essentially a swimming pool in your living room. There’s a lot of damp and mould in the properties too.
“The flats were built in the 70s and are outdated: it’s time to move forward. If RBH tackle my concerns, everyone should come out of this very well with decent homes and a decent quality of life.”
Former treasurer for the Lower Falinge Initiative (a previous Tenants and Residents Association) Andrew Roche, who resides in a Lower Falinge block proposed for demolition, feels very differently.
He said: “I’m upset the impression will be given that Lower Falinge is happy with being demolished.
I can’t agree with the regeneration plans as they stand. The consultation was minimal with two ‘workshops’ in eight months, both during the working day. Residents were not given any guarantees that they would be able to remain on the estate after regeneration, so it seems our views are irrelevant.
“They made no guarantees of the size of the new homes, they are only saying ‘like for like’, which may only refer to number of bedrooms. They are not guaranteeing that the new homes will be of a similar rent, they have made no promises that the number of ‘social rent’ homes built will replace those demolished.
“One of the things people like about this estate is the green areas, trees and lack of traffic; this regeneration will convert most of these into small private gardens and roads. The estate is safe for kids because of the lack of traffic cutting through.
“Personally, I would like the blocks to be replaced with modern versions of high density housing like those by Bjarke Ingels. That's obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, but there is a large waiting list for social housing, and a homelessness problem.
“As to what should happen, the residents need to be consulted properly, with guarantees that they will be designing the house that they will eventually live in. This is what the guidelines for the Estate Regeneration Fund stipulate. I am happy if the residents are listened to a and respected.
“I am suspicious of their claims that refurbishment is more expensive than demolition and rebuilding. If that were the case, why not demolish all the blocks?
“We need more homes, not less.”
Tenant Danny Angle, who lives in one of the blocks earmarked for demolition, commented: “I liked all three plans from RBH, but I think they could have taken a better approach. They’re doing one to one consultations now, which they should have done first to get a more accurate result of what the tenants want.
“A lot of us guessed this might happen because the work on the doors and windows on other blocks stopped for a while and no-one knew what was going on. Rumours started that the flats were being demolished.
“I’ll be happy to move on. RBH mentioned a new product they’re offering called rent to own, which is slightly cheaper. You pay off the rent and then own the property. If not, I’ve been looking at moving to Chadderton or Oldham.”
RBH has been working closely with Rochdale Borough Council on a collective vision for the transport and movement network in the College Bank and Lower Falinge areas. The key objectives identified are:
- Create a traffic calmed green route attractive to pedestrians and cyclists that connects Falinge Park and College Bank.
- Create a strong pedestrian link through Lower Falinge that connects the town centre, Lidl supermarket, the green spine route and Falinge Park.
- Pedestrian connection linking Spotland High, College Bank, ASDA, Hopwood Hall College, Broadfield Park, Exchange Shopping Centre and Rochdale Interchange. .
- Create an easily navigable connection between the town centre and Rochdale Infirmary.
- Downgrade Sheriff Street.
- Create legible east to west routes to allow easy movement between residential areas to the west and the retail park directly to the east of Lower Falinge.
- Introduce frontage onto College Bank Way to active street.
- Potential elevated walkway allowing easier access from College Bank into the town centre.
- Potential pedestrian crossing across St. Mary’s Gate.
RBH has also outlined a number of support measures both residents of both College Bank and Lower Falinge, including:
- ‘A like for like home.’
- £500 disturbance payment, plus £250 towards removal costs.
- £5,800 compensation for RBH tenants and owner occupiers.
- At least 12 months’ notice.
- Highest priority for re-housing.
- An offer to buy your home if you’re an owner occupier with covered costs.
- ‘Tailored support’ to meet needs whether renting or buying.
A spokesperson for RBH said: “Our proposals for College Bank could see three blocks stay on the site. These would be fully modernised internally and externally to provide spacious high quality new homes. The remaining four blocks (Mitchell Hey, Dunkirk Rise, Tentercroft and Town Mill Brow) could be replaced with new development including new homes of different types and sizes.
“Open and shared spaces would also be enhanced and work completed to make it easier to get to the town centre and all it has to offer.
“At Lower Falinge, we propose to demolish 15 blocks, with ten blocks retained and refurbished. The proposals include new homes of different types and sizes, better quality open spaces, improvements to play areas and improved parking for residents.
“Within these two Rochdale town centre neighbourhoods there are around 600 occupied social rented homes affected by demolition as part of these proposals. Within the town centre there is the opportunity to provide in the region of 500 additional new homes of different types and sizes to meet the needs of local residents now and in to the future.
“Proposals are still at an early stage and we will continue to consult with the local community over the coming months and develop more detailed plans for redevelopment as part of the continued regeneration of Rochdale town centre.”
Rochdale Online asked RBH further questions and are awaiting a response.