Housing association urged to end confusion over regeneration masterplan

Date published: 28 March 2019

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) has been asked to end the confusion over a controversial regeneration ‘masterplan’ involving the demolition of four iconic tower blocks.

RBH plans to demolish four of the ‘Seven Sisters’ flats as part of its redevelopment of College Bank and nearby Lower Falinge.

But exactly how many homes would ultimately be created under the scheme is difficult to pin down.

Information on the RBH’s website says the latest proposals show ‘670 new homes within the Lower Falinge and College Bank areas’.

However, it also boasts that the sites ‘could provide over 1,000 homes, including at least 500 new homes, and possibly more depending on the type of homes built’.

Yet in an interview with Granada Reports last week, chief executive Gareth Swarbrick said the regeneration process would result in the same number of homes as at present but with a ‘better mix and quality’.

Residents complain they now felt more confused than ever about RBH’s intentions.

Mr Swarbrick says that RBH recognises this is an ‘upsetting and unsettling time’ for some residents – and dedicated support is in place.

But with residents in the ‘big four’ blocks receiving demolition notices last week, serious question are now being asked.

At a full meeting of Rochdale Council at the town hall, Councillor Daniel Meredith told the chamber he had serious concerns.

He told members RBH had put out a range of estimates for housing numbers.

“We have been told there will be 480 flats demolished, then had a figure of 120 houses to be built in that area, we then heard about 500 houses, then we heard about 2,000 houses.

“This figure is always changing, we have not actually been told what the plan going forward is for the amount of houses RBH wish to build in that area.”

He questioned what the ‘mixed type of housing’ promised by RBH was.

"We don’t know whether we are going to be getting social housing, whether we will be getting part-owned housing or just going to be getting private housing.

“The figures just don’t add up at all and I am getting extremely concerned,” he said.

Councillor Meredith, who chairs the council’s Communities, Regeneration and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee added: “I would like the chief executive to take a long hard look at what is going on in College Bank and Lower Falinge and want us to get a plan in place and stop the confusion.”

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Meredith said he would be prepared to call for senior RBH staff, including Chief Executive Gareth Swarbrick, to resign if they do not bring clarity to the situation soon.

Mr Swarbrick adds that councillors have been provided with regular updates and that RBH bosses would be ‘very happy’ to discuss matters in more detail with elected members.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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