College Bank Support Group respond to RBH's £7,000 offer for residents to move out

Date published: 21 January 2022

The College Bank Support Group has hit back at Rochdale Boroughwide Housing's offer to residents in five of the Seven Sisters high-rise flats at College Bank.

Residents of Tentercroft, Dunkirk Rise, Underwood, Holland Rise and Mardyke who wish to move permanently are being offered a payment of £7,100 by RBH, plus an additional £500 disturbance payment and £250 towards moving costs.

A letter to residents earlier this week says this ‘homeloss payment’ can be used for either another RBH-owned home, or if residents wish to purchase their own homes.

Underwood has been earmarked as the first block of flats for regeneration, followed by Mardyke and Holland Rise. Residents from Underwood who wish to stay in the flats will be temporarily rehoused in Mardyke and Holland Rise whilst the £12m refurbishment is carried out.

RBH estimates work on Underwood will begin in 2023, and be completed in early 2025 and will have “individual conversations with all residents in Underwood around what this ‘decant’ move will mean for each household and what support they might need.”

However, the College Bank Support Group, which opposes the plans, has hit back at the mutual housing society’s offer.

Mark Slater, chair of the College Bank Support Group, said: “It is with some disappointment that the residents on College Bank received the latest leaflet from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing about their proposed plans for our homes.

“The headline figure of £7,000 plus expenses might, on the face of it, seem like a very attractive offer but – when taken into context that the original figure of £6,000 has been widely rejected by the majority of the residents who quite simply don’t want to move at any price – the relevance of increasing the amount to try to buy out elderly, vulnerable and people simply happy with where they live, becomes apparent.

“This figure also ignores the many, mostly elderly leaseholders, people who invested their life savings in owning their own ‘forever home.’ With the minimal amounts being offered to them by RBH to move, they would have little or no chance of getting a mortgage and buying somewhere else so they would be forced into private rented, or – worse still – another rented RBH home, totally devastating their income and lifestyle.

“There are hundreds of residents that fall into this category; they are determined to stay on the estate and are in regular contact with us, as a campaign. They are aware that we are working very closely with Rochdale Borough Council who have rejected the RBH plans as a full council motion, presented by Councillors Sultan Ali and Daniel Meredith last month confirmed.”

Councillors Danny Meredith and Sultan Ali have been suspended from RBH’s representative body, after they hit out at plans to demolish four of the Seven Sisters. The pair, now facing a formal investigation, tabled a motion at a recent council meeting calling on the mutual to ‘reconsider’ its proposal to demolish four of the high-rise flats.

Councillor Meredith, portfolio holder for housing, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he feels RBH is trying to ‘gag’ him – and knew his stance before accepting him onto the representative body.

“I don’t know why they would accept me if they had an issue with that,” he said.

Councillor Meredith says he is not just standing up for College Bank residents, but the 8,000 families and individuals currently waiting for a home in Rochdale – including those being put up in B&Bs or resorting to ‘sofa surfing’.

“The reason I went on the representative body is to work with them on other things – but if they won’t accept any scrutiny, what’s the point?” he said. “I don’t believe we should be knocking down housing stock in the middle of a housing crisis – which I have made perfectly clear.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands RBH will appoint a panel to carry out the investigation on 25 January.


View of Rochdale’s iconic Seven Sisters tower blocks
View of Rochdale’s iconic Seven Sisters tower blocks


Mr Slater continued: “The council has voiced their serious concerns many times about the unacceptably high level of individuals, families etc. that are on the waiting list for a home in our community.

“RBH state that there will be 120 new builds of ‘affordable’ houses (as distinct from social housing) built on College Bank to replace some 480 homes that would, if RBH is successful, be demolished, the figures speak for themselves.

“RBH state that there needs to be a new ‘mix’ of family homes going forward. This in itself totally ignores the fact that before Covid there were 19,000 people, individuals, families and children on 8,000 applications waiting for a home, approximately 3,375 were waiting for a single bedroom and approximately 750 are in Band A, the very highest priority for a home, some waiting for years.

“RBH is currently and deliberately holding over 300 apartments empty on College Bank alone. These could provide homes for people who are desperate, immediately. We strongly believe that social housing in Rochdale is in crisis.

“One of the comments that RBH make on their leaflet is that they are aware and recognise that we, as a campaign group, are working closely with the council in trying to find alternatives that will be acceptable to all parties.

“They go on to say that they would be willing to transfer ownership to the council if the council would be in agreement. Bearing all this in mind, it is very disappointing that, given that the whole project and the regular communications are very distressing for some of the residents, it is very disappointing the RBH will not suspend the pressures to leave the estate rather than working with the council.”

Responding, a spokesperson for Rochdale Boroughwide Housing said: “We want to make sure that current College Bank residents and future generations have the quality and type of homes they need and deserve in central Rochdale.

“We have in place a dedicated team to provide personalised support - ensuring we help each resident with every aspect of their move.

“We have not increased the homeloss payment as suggested. The amount offered (£7,100 plus an additional £500 disturbance payment and £250 towards moving costs) is in line with the statutory amount set by the government for homeloss at this point in time. It is reviewed by government each year and set out in the Home Loss Payments (Prescribed Amounts) Regulation 2021.

“Over 80% of residents have moved from the first phase of rehousing in College Bank. Of the original 54 homeowners across all seven blocks, 65% have either moved or are due to complete very soon.

“Our equity assistance scheme means these homeowner leaseholders can be helped to move into a new home of their choice which is of a higher value than their current home and without any additional rent or mortgage payments. We have already supported successful moves via this route.

“We know that there are high levels of need, particularly for families with children due to years of right to buy reducing the number of larger social rented houses. The homes at College Bank do not meet this need.

“It is unfair to residents of College Bank to suggest that there is an alternative proposal. We have worked with residents to develop proposals that meet the greatest need. The council has not come forward with an alternative proposal

“The cost of refurbishing all seven blocks at College Bank is over £90m – this figure was confirmed last year by an independent report commissioned by the council itself. 

“We do not have access to this level of investment, but we have been clear that if the council does, and wants to invest the money needed, then we are happy to look at alternatives.

“We made this offer 22 months ago and it still stands.”

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