Demolition of ‘eyesore’ shopping parade in Collyhurst is delayed - by bats

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Manchester city council now owns the whole building located off Rochdale Road and the only thing standing in the way of demolition is a roost of bats.

It’s a relic of a bygone era in a corner of Manchester on the cusp of complete transformation. But for the hundreds of people living in the towers around Eastford Square who see the ‘eyesore’ every day, it could not come quicker.

The abandoned block of maisonettes and shops in Collyhurst was at the centre of a council estate built in the 1960s – but now, it stands in solitude. Derelict for around a decade and branded a ‘ghost town’ by some, the demolition of this once thriving community hub was held up for years by a ‘legal wrangle’ with one of the shop owners.

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Manchester city council now owns the whole building located off Rochdale Road and the only thing standing in the way of demolition is a roost of bats. Last week, fences were erected around the perimeter of the old shopping parade.

Work to remove the concrete artwork facing Hamerton Road has now started too with contractors excavating its foundations this week in preparation for it to be preserved elsewhere. But lifting the ‘substantial’ sculpture up from the land which sits above a tram line has proven to take longer than expected.

Last week, councillors were told that once the gas is turned off and the bats are relocated, the building will be gone.

What do Collyhurst residents think?

Walking past the dilapidated block on a wet Wednesday afternoon (March 29), several residents reacted in the same way to news that the three-storey structure will soon go: “It’s about time.”

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“I can’t wait,” says Michael Hattemore, who has lived in a flat on Hamerton Road for 23 years. “It’s awful. It was lovely when it was all shops. All these used to be flats. But they chucked those people out and the shops deteriorated.”

An active member of the tenants’ association, Michael says the site is often used for filming with television companies coming a couple of times a year. He claims that the flats even featured in the opening credits of TV’s Shameless.

Another woman walking past corroborates his claims and recalls seeing the site engulfed in flames as film crews depicted the decrepit block ablaze. The local resident of 11 years says she is ‘not bothered either way’ about the block.

Eastford Square in Collyhurst, Manchester. March 30, 2023. Credit: LDRS.Eastford Square in Collyhurst, Manchester. March 30, 2023. Credit: LDRS.
Eastford Square in Collyhurst, Manchester. March 30, 2023. Credit: LDRS.

But Janet Green, who lives elsewhere in Collyhurst, reckons people will be happy to see it go. “It’s an eyesore waking up to it every morning,” she says. “I thought they might have redone it up. It’d be nice to see it go to good use.”

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Eastford Square has been ‘identified for development’ as part of a major plan to transform north Manchester forever. Under the Victoria North scheme, a joint venture between Manchester city and Far East Consortium (FEC), 15,000 new homes will be built along the River Irk valley over a 20 year period.

While it is not yet clear exactly what will replace the shopping parade, work has already started nearby on other projects within the scheme. The first phase of development in Collyhurst will see 274 new homes built in the area.

This includes 130 new council homes, a new park and new retail facilities. But the development will also see 29 properties demolished to make way for it.

Tenants of the 22 council homes on the existing estate which are set to be knocked down have been offered like-for-like properties on the new site just metres from where they currently live. But the seven properties and the convenience store which are privately owned will be forced to sell up soon.

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Stacey Jones is one of those residents living on Thornton Street North who is waiting to be relocated to the new estate. She says she cannot wait to move. “I’m excited to move,” she said. “I’ve been waiting to move for so long.”

Labour councillor Pat Karney who represents the area said local residents suffered a ‘big betrayal’ when previous proposals to redevelop the north Manchester neighbourhood fell through under the coalition government. His comments came as the council set out a timeline for the current scheme.

Work on the Collyhurst Village site is starting now, while initial work to lay the foundations for the South Collyhurst site is also scheduled to be under way. According to a council report, the new homes are expected to be completed by April 2026 with the first few sales of private properties already secured.

The first 10 new council homes are set to be finished in the next financial year with the rest to be done by the year after. The privately owned properties on the existing estate have now been served compulsory purchase orders (CPO).

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Discussions with the owner-occupiers are now under way, the report says, with loans offered by the local authority to help them purchase new properties. At the town hall last week, Coun Karney said: “It’s a huge change for Collyhurst.”

“The residents at Collyhurst Village have been waiting for this for 13 years. It’s fantastic to see that we now have definite timelines to build the new Collyhurst.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the new homes in Collyhurst, particularly the 130 council homes that are part of this project.”

The Harpurhey councillor also welcomed the demolition of Eastford Square. He now expects the block to disappear within weeks – once the bats are gone.

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