A press release from Stoke-on-Trent City Council this morning says that the Cabinet have agreed to plans to negotiate the sale of the Slater Street site to Sanctuary Group and developer ID4Living, part of the Seddon Group for a mixed-tenure development.
Hundreds of homes have been demolished, whilst more remain derelict, shuttered-up with painted boards in a vain attempt to make the place less like a slum, and yet the city council and Renew are still pressing on with their plans to throw people out of their homes, against their will.
This week, councillors will contemplate more clearance which partner Renew favours for the scrap heap in Middleport, an area which has already seen the unpopular demise of the vicinity of Slater Street for what residents
could see as no good reason. Some in fact still remain amid the desolation awaiting a fair deal in recompense for
their untimely and unwanted move.
Over in Eaton Street, Hanley, after a couple of years of struggle from the half of the homeowners who could be
bothered to dare to argue with the council that they deserved to stay in the houses they thought were theirs for keeps, the block is still standing, awaiting a fate which is yet to be announced.
But the so-called regeneration machine just keeps finding excuses to announce the next bulldozing project. The council meeting will take place in private this Wednesday to debate the fate of this new set of 127 homes in Shirley Street, Middleport, which for whatever reason have been selected by Renew’s team of redevelopment experts to be either knocked down, do them up, or just leave them the way they are.
And according to The Sentinel, Renew has already indicated that it prefers the clearance to make for ‘better quality
The question is, how dare they? How dare Renew have a preferred option of people’s houses? I have interviewed
scores and scores of people who have been directly affected by these Compulsory Purchase Orders, and I have yet to come across someone who owned their house in one of the earmarked areas say they were in favour of the proposals. In Slater Street, the overwhelming opinion was that they might as well take what they can get from the
council, since they believed they had no choice but to leave their homes, even though they didn’t want to. Others
stayed on to fight a long, unsuccessful battle which ended up being a waste of time after the public inquiry found that the CPO should stand and the people would have no choice but to up and leave their properties.
In Eaton Street, many residents fought against the council in another case which saw a public inquiry find in favour
of the authority’s proposals.
People like Eve Maley in Eaton Street, as far away as Elizabeth Pascoe in Liverpool, took their plight to the High Court when they found themselves in the same position, and now even talk of some regret the move, despite vowing never to leave their homes against their will, having wasted years of their lives on a fruitless campaign which took a huge toll on their health, their wallets, and their sanity.
Yet the authorities along with partners like Renew, continue to make decisions like this which they believe are right for ‘the city’, with no regard for those who get in their way, even if they are the ones who made the houses their homes. Why should people be forced out of their homes, their community shattered, and forced to move to a new area where they don’t know a soul, and have to fight for a fair price for their property, all in the name of the regeneration of Stoke? It’s simply not right. But, with those who chose not to accept a fate allotted to them taking their cries of help all the way to the High Court and still found no relief, it appears there’s no stopping them.
By Matt Taylor
Back in March 2008, we produced a film in partnership with Junction 15 about the plight of residents in Middleport amid plans to demolish terraces in the area (see bottom of piece for link to updated version of the video).
A year and a half and a public enquiry later, most of the terraces have now been pulled down, leaving behind a strangely desolate wasteland surrounded by the housing that remains.
And to date, the council is yet to publicise any plans for what will be done with the land now that the previous community (pictured in the film in 2006) has been displaced and separated.
Residents in the area asserted that there was nothing wrong with their houses, and that reasons of ‘excess cold’ were just excuses to get them out, so that the clearance and subsequent developments could go ahead.
But now that demolition has taken place after the Compulsory Purchase Order was confirmed following the Public Enquiry, it emerges that a small number of people are having to live in what is left of the area, and have been there all the way through the noise and dust created by the demolition machines. I chatted to one of the few who fought till the end, and is still awaiting what she thinks is a fair resolution to her situation. Conny Armstrong, aged 54, of Dimsdale street, has lived in the area for 25 years and lives in one street yet to be demolished, amid empty, steel-shuttered properties. She said:
“It is an understatement to say that people have been mistreated.
“Over the last year it’s been hell. There was all the dust from the demolition. They said they would protect us from it, but they did nothing.”
“They are eventually going to knock us down too. But they haven’t found us somewhere to go yet.
“I opposed the demolition. Everyone did at first.
“It was a really nice spot here at the edge of the canal and I wanted to stay where I am.
“But I believe they deliberately made the area worse. Housing associations started buying up houses and putting undesirables in which of course brought the area down.
“And then, after Renew had told us years ago that the regeneration would be a good thing for us, in 2006 we all got letters saying our houses were going to be demolished.
“They said the house is excessively cold, and my steps are uneven. It’s all lies.”
Until a couple of months ago, poppies began to flood the fields that are left now that the terraces around Slater street have been pulled down – drawing eerie comparisons with the poppy fields of flanders. Conny added:
“The council came and mowed them all down, I really don’t know why, they were beautiful. It’s as if they just want to make things as bad as they can for us.
“They have no thought for the people whatsoever. It’s just plans on a piece of paper to them.”
You can watch the video about the demolition in Slater street which has now been updated with current photographs below.
Battling residents were dealt a knockout blow today as they received the news that a public inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) issued by the City Council for their homes had failed to overrule the decision.
There are only six houses left occupied of the 237 earmarked for demolition in the Slater Street area of Middleport and the neighbourhood has now deteriorated into a deserted wasteland as the bulldozers go in around the remaining residents.
The campaigners, backed by ex-local councillor Ted Owen, have always maintained that there was nothing wrong with their houses, and that all they wanted was a fair deal a decent price for their property which would enable them to buy something similar elsewhere, plus an extra amount in recompense for the upheaval.
And despite having torn a once strong community apart, there are still no plans as to what the land will be used for once the houses have been flattened. Ted Owen said:
I’m upset, angry and almost bitter. But it doesn’t surprise me. It’s a complete whitewash. I think we put a good case forward at the enquiry which lasted seven days. We though there was an opportunity to demolish the worst parts and refurbish the rest.
And now in light of the downturn, we have been proven right because they’ve destroyed a community, and now nothing is going to happen.
Renew has got no vision. Regeneration is not about bulldozing, it’s about what you can create. But all they want to do is flatten everything.
We really didn’t need this. We’ve lost a great deal, and we are going to gain nothing. We’ll never recreate what we have lost. I see people that used to live there and they say to me I’d give my right arm to be back.
They have been knocking down houses around the people who are left, which is totally wrong. And they started the work while the enquiry was still going on, which surely is illegal.
The council stated that the houses in the area were unfit for habitation, and even asserted that they were a health and safety risk because of cold, damp or structural failure. But the people who live there claim this is a blatant untruth. Julie Alonso, of East View, is one of the residents still there and is awaiting an offer for her house from the council. She said
We weren’t surprised really. The 2004 housing act really allows them to do what they want. Before that they had to prove there were structural defects. But the new rules gave them carte blanche and they can now say it’s cold or damp, and call that a class one hazard so they can knock it down.
Once they own the houses they can do what they want with them. They are knocking down the houses in between me and Dalglish, who’s still living at the other end.
It’s all wrong. But it’s been going on for years and it doesn’t matter what we say, they just don’t pay attention. Now they are not even going to do anything with the land.
Radical Press and Junction 15 produced a short documentary last year, highlighting the situation in the Slater Street area at the time, and showing pictures of what the area used to be like, before the council began acquiring the properties in order to demolish them. Click below to watch the film.
If you have information or have been affected by regeneration plans, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A compulsory purchase order for an area of run-down housing in Stoke-on-Trent
has been approved by Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local
The order affects an area of 237 properties in the Slater Street area of Middleport.
The houses were proposed for clearance under the Housing Act 1985 following detailed surveys that showed 128 of the 237 houses had serious defects that put
the health and safety of occupants at risk – including cold, damp and structural failure.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council made the decision to propose clearance for this area in May 2006.
Following 11 objections, a public inquiry took place in September and October 2008.
In his decision letter the inquiry inspector says there is a “compelling case in the public interest” to confirm the compulsory purchase order.
Regeneration of the Slater Street area is part of the RENEW North Staffordshire programme to regenerate the area, improve housing conditions and transform run-down neighbourhoods into popular places to live.
The vast majority of residents in the Slater Street area have been successfully helped to find new homes.
A wide range of support has been available to residents, including:
- Compensation and interest free loans to buy a new home
- “Home swaps” to help residents into a new home
- Help to find an alternative housing association home
- Help to find a council rented home
- Independent advice through the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The city council has acquired all but six of the 237 properties by agreement with the owners and has already demolished 198 of those to remove the risk of vandalism, arson and theft in the area.
Adrian Knapper, Stoke-on-Trent City Council portfolio holder for regeneration,
said: “The city council proposed clearance in the Slater Street area because of the poor housing conditions and low demand for housing.
“The Secretary of State and the inquiry inspector have sent out a clear message that the evidence presented showed that clearance is the most appropriate way
forward to deal with these properties in this area.
“The local authority has always helped and supported people during transformation taking place in this neighbourhood.
“The city council will now continue to offer assistance to the few people left who need to relocate and work with the community to plan for the long-term
regeneration of Middleport and Burslem.”