New homes and jobs are transforming some of Trafford's poorest areas in an £8.5million planning development scheme.
Four out of seven of Old Trafford’s Tamworth Towers are to be demolished as part of the plans set out over two years ago by the Trafford Housing Trust.
The scheme, entitled the Old Trafford Masterplan, is part of a wider process of transforming the entire neighbourhood – including Rylands Court in the North and Clifton in the centre – in ten to fifteen years’ time.
In spite of the famous Old Trafford Football Club and the new MediaCityUK, Old Trafford is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, particularly in Old Trafford East.
The Tamworth Estate is adjacent to Moss Side, an area that has experienced trouble with anti-social behaviour in the recent past.
The current tower blocks were intended as replacements for inferior Victorian homes that were demolished during a period of slum clearances in the 1960s and ’70s.
These colossal buildings were once prevalent across the country, their ‘brutalist’ designs have been criticised by architecture enthusiast Prince Charles, and have been historically associated with poor maintenance, economic marginalisation, and anti-social behaviour.
Sahar Farzan, 26, of Eagle Court said: “The building has a history of rat problems and it has leaks, so the walls are wet when you touch them.”
She added: “Sometimes the windows are not locked completely. We can shut them, but the wind still comes in through the holes.”
Catherine Bellis, a Housing Trust representative, explained: “The Trust carried out an appraisal of the tower blocks which showed that nine tower blocks in Old Trafford are too many and not particularly sustainable.
“It was decided that we should demolish the ‘bird’ blocks as they had slightly higher turnover of tenants and were more difficult to manage.”
But three of the other buildings will be retained and modernised. Co-partnered with Bolton’s Seddon Construction, the Masterplan has also created new jobs.
Five apprentices selected from the Estate and sourced from a contractor named Procure Plus have learnt how to refurbish in Clifford, Grafton and Pickford Courts.
Michael McGowan, 22, who is working towards a NVQ Level 2 qualification in cladding said: “I’m over the moon with this.”
He added: “The apprenticeship will give me a permanent trade.”
Keil Curran, a 26-year-old from Eagle Court, said: “I like having a ‘hands-on’ job and I’m enjoying the work.”
Mark Dawson, construction manager from Seddon, said he is pleased with the interest shown in the project: “They are very keen and very eager to impress us.”
The ‘Three Sisters’ are undergoing new external cladding, the installation of energy-efficient glazing windows, new ‘winter gardens’ and a new centralised communal heating system, all of which will better insulate the blocks and reduce tenants’ energy bills. The high-rise improvements cost £8.5 million.
This would inconvenience tenants, but the Trafford Housing Trust has an innovative policy of involving tenants in the decision-making process.
The Trust has also commissioned ‘Old Trafford PHEONIX’, a group of Independent Tenant Advisors, to support residents through various processes.
Attendees of meetings have raised their current concerns with the Bird Blocks, such as the lack of balconies and of nearby places to safely socialise.
The high-rises are near a small set of shops and one pub, the Seahawk, which had been closed down before by the Licensing Sub-committee, after its landlord failed to report frequent fatal incidences occurring at the doorstep.
A Grafton Court resident claimed that the retail units were to be demolished with the Bird Blocks as well. It was later confirmed that these are to be moved to an existing shopping parade on Moss Lane in an attempt to attract passing trade.
Ms Bellis said: “We have carried out detailed consultation and the majority of tenants are pleased that the work is going ahead and, if anything, would have liked this to be done sooner.”
She added: “Tenants that are already benefiting from the work including the switch over to the new heating system.”
The charity was set up in 2005 after Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council consulted with their tenants and they voted for an independent Trust to be responsible for over 9000 properties previously under the ownership of the Council.
Osprey Court and Raven Court are expecting to be demolished in June 2012, while Eagle Court and Falcon Court still have residents in need of suitable new homes.