The 'embarrassing' estate on the edge of Man City's Etihad Stadium that's been left 'in limbo'

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Left in limbo for years, people living on the edge of the Etihad Stadium say their estate now looks ’embarrassing’. Many homes off Grey Mare Lane in Beswick have been done up over the last 18 months, but some residents are still waiting to find out if the work they were promised will actually go ahead.

And now plans to demolish some of the estate to make way for new housing have gone back to the drawing board with uncertainty over who will complete the long-awaited redevelopment project. It comes as housing association One Manchester is deemed ‘not up to the task’ of delivering the scheme in full.

Manchester council has stepped in to save the scheme which has left the estate looking like a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ after work to retrofit privately-owned properties did not go ahead as promised. But homeowners are still unsure if they will qualify for funding to improve energy efficiency in their properties.

The Grey Mare Lane estate in the shadow of Man City's Etihad StadiumThe Grey Mare Lane estate in the shadow of Man City's Etihad Stadium
The Grey Mare Lane estate in the shadow of Man City's Etihad Stadium

The local authority is also looking at building some of the new homes planned on the estate itself with another housing association set to take on two plots of land earmarked for development. But One Manchester, which has finished retrofitting its own properties, will still be involved in the regeneration scheme. The council insists drawing up a new masterplan – which should be completed by the autumn – will not delay the project. But some residents have lost hope.

Barbara Martin has lived in Cairn Walk since the estate was built around 50 years ago. Her home is due to be demolished but she does not know when.

Worried about where she will be rehoused, the social housing tenant, who is in her eighties, has decided to move to Crewe where her daughter lives. She says some of her neighbours in the terraced rows surrounding her are also moving.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “We’ve all been crying. We’re losing our friendships. But what can you do?”

Others on the estate have also expressed a desire to leave. One woman who has lived here for more than 50 years says the estate was ‘neglected’ before the Etihad Stadium was built, but recent events have ‘divided’ the community.

“I used to feel really good about living here,” she said. “But since all this, it’s just a sh** tip – and it’s right by the stadium where thousands of people come. I’ve lived here since I was five,” she added. “This is the first time I’ve thought I’d like to move.”

Like many of the owner-occupiers who have bought the former council homes of the estate, she asks not to be named. She fears other will not understand why property owners like her deserve to get their homes done up for free.

Gayle Elliott, who has lived in Seabright Walk for 20 years, explains why. “The point is we were promised it and now it’s been taken away."

Two years ago, One Manchester, which manages the social housing on the estate, told residents who have purchased their own properties that they would also have their homes retrofitted too – subject to government funding. After months of discussion, homeowners finally signed the forms authorising the roofing, rendering and insulation work to be carried out – but weeks later they found out the funding was not available and the work would not happen.

“Next thing we knew they were setting up scaffolding everywhere, but not on ours,” Gayle said. “They’ve spent all that money on the area, but they can’t be bothered to put a couple of grand into this – we’re smack bang in the middle.”

To make matters worse, the residents later learnt that the housing association did not even apply for any funding. The organisation said that the government grants and the other options considered would not have covered all the costs. Since then, Manchester council has been looking at how it can help by finding funding to get the job done. But residents say they are still being left ‘in limbo’.

Donna, who lives in Sunbeam Walk, needs more work done to her home but she has been advised not to proceed until the promised retrofit goes ahead.

“It just puts a hold on everything,” she said.

Grey Mare Lane estateGrey Mare Lane estate
Grey Mare Lane estate

On Quarry Walk, a couple who have bought the council house they have called home since the estate was built are worried the price of their property will fall. They believe the whole estate looks ‘really run down’ as a result of all the work.

“It looks terrible,” one of them said. “For people visiting the Etihad, it just gives the wrong impression. It would’ve been better if they didn’t do anything.”

Back on Seabright Walk, one resident says the estate looks ’embarrassing’ with many of the terraces done up, but some still looking old and sticking out. Another owner-occupier living in Digby Walk says the estate looks like a ‘joke’.

Last week, homeowners received a letter from the council explaining that new government funding might be available to pay towards the cost of the energy efficiency work on their properties. However, there is strict eligibility criteria. To qualify for the ECO4 fund, properties must have a low Energy Performance Certificate rating and their household income must be below a certain level. Residents have also been told that they may be able to take an interest-free loan against their property to pay for the work if they cannot get the funding.

But one homeowner says this is not hopeful. “In real life, I don’t think anything is going to happen,” she said. “It’s not taking into consideration that we all have mortgages. Bills are going up. We’re definitely not in a position of doing it.”

A stay-at-home mother, this resident refuses for her road to be identified as she feels unsafe with everyone on the estate now knowing that she owns her property. “It’s like poor and rich,” she said. “That’s not the case, but why would you create an area that’s mixed council and private and then colour it like that.”

Many long-standing residents of the estate bought their properties under the Right To Buy scheme which allows council housing tenants to buy their homes. The scheme, which was first introduced by the Thatcher government in 1980, means housing estates like this one often have a mix of owners and tenants.

Grey Mare Lane estateGrey Mare Lane estate
Grey Mare Lane estate

Built by Manchester council more than five decades ago as part of a programme to replace poor quality Edwardian terraced housing with new council houses and flats, most of the estate is now owned by One Manchester. Initial demolition notices were served on 123 households in January 2020, but it took nearly two years until the plans to replace them were finally approved. According to the 2021 masterplan, 124 maisonettes, flats and houses are due to be demolished to make way for 290 new homes including social housing. But with the masterplan back to the drawing board, many remain boarded up.

One homeowner in Sunbeam Walk says most of her friends on the estate – some of whom still live in the maisonettes – want to stay. “They did all these houses up,” she said, “I don’t know why they didn’t do the maisonettes as well. People were happy with them.”

Busy caring for her elderly mother, this owner-occupier says she has not had time to worry about the work on her property that she was promised. She says she has been waiting around six years to find out about the fate of the estate.

But, like many of her neighbours, she says years of investment in the area – starting with the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the creation of the Etihad Campus – has been a ‘good thing’. “It brings a lot of people to the area. We’re just waiting for the new one now,” she said, referring to the Co-Op Live arena.

Set to open next year, the 23,500-capacity arena which is currently under construction on the other side of the stadium is set to be the biggest of its kind in the UK. New developments like this will be taken into account in the revised masterplan for the estate, according to local councillor Irene Robinson.

Mayor Andy Burnham attends the “topping out” ceremony for the Co-op Live arena. Credit: Co-op LiveMayor Andy Burnham attends the “topping out” ceremony for the Co-op Live arena. Credit: Co-op Live
Mayor Andy Burnham attends the “topping out” ceremony for the Co-op Live arena. Credit: Co-op Live

The Labour councillor for Ancoats and Beswick ward says she is ‘excited’ about the new masterplan. “It’s been frustrating trying to resolve these issues with the retrofit,” she said. “It’s caused so many issues in people’s daily lives. [The estate] has been there for a long time. It deserves to have that care and attention. I’m really excited to feed into the masterplan and how it’s developed. I think it’s going to be a really positive move for the estate and for people there. My job as a councillor is to make sure it’s up to scratch and it doesn’t cause disruption.”

Still in its early stages, the new masterplan is expected to cover a wider area and include plans for around 550 new homes – almost double the previous proposal. Housing association Great Places is set to develop two plots of land while the town hall’s own development firm This City would take on another.

However, there is some uncertainty over the future of The Grange community centre, which was due to be demolished to make way for housing. A new hub with a high street was planned as part of the first phase of new development. But local Lib Dem councillor Alan Good, who has seen an initial draft of the revised masterplan, says this part of the previous plan has been removed. He said a community space on the estate is important to many of his constituents.

“After residents have waited years for the regeneration of the Grey Mare Lane estate from the council, it is frustrating to see the plans be sent back to the drawing board yet again,” he said. “The new proposals have also been scaled down, with the council removing the community high street element. They want to develop The Grange but have proposed no alternative community space, unlike the previous masterplan. The plans no longer meet the needs of residents. Manchester Lib Dems will continue to call for a fully-realised estate regeneration that does right by Beswick.”

Manchester council says that community space will be at the heart of the plans. After an initial master-planning exercise the council will speak directly with residents and stakeholders about what they would like to see in the plan.

One Manchester, which had offered to develop plans for the new community hub in partnership with local charity 4CT, will still be part of the regeneration project. However, the organisation is no longer working on the whole estate.

Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell said the council decided to take the lead on the project because the original masterplan was not being delivered upon. “I’ve become really very concerned and disappointed that these plans have failed to fully come to fruition,” she said.

MP Lucy Powell. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesMP Lucy Powell. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
MP Lucy Powell. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

“This is something that’s been in the offing for at least 10 years. It’s a long-standing community on Grey Mare Lane – many people have been there for 30, 40 or even 50 years in some cases. There’s a lot of investment going on in east Manchester which is good with the stadium and the arena bringing in jobs over the last 20 years. It’s right that an estate in the middle of that is invested in too.

“I’ve raised my deep concerns about the leadership and management of that scheme with One Manchester over the last 18 months and I’ve made my view well-known that I feel that the current leadership of One Manchester aren’t up to that task of delivering a big scheme like that and they’ve let residents down in the process and some of the work that’s been carried out has not been carried out to the standard we’d expect. I’m really disappointed that they are not up to the task of delivering on an important scheme in that part of Manchester. I’ll continue to fight for residents to get what was originally promised, which is a whole estate regeneration.”

A One Manchester spokesperson said: “The regeneration plans at Grey Mare Lane have been worked on in partnership with Manchester City Council since the beginning of the project, with a shared aim to create the best possible outcome for all residents. There are understandable frustrations for some residents on the estate and we’re currently working with individuals to support their needs. It’s unfortunate that the appropriate funding was not provided to carry out the original plans, which has led to many of these frustrations.

“From the project outset and through a memorandum of understanding with the council, it was made clear to all parties that our involvement to carry out works over and above those for our customers and on our existing land, was subject to several conditions including appropriate government-backed funding to cover the full costs. This is because we’re not legally able to use our customers’ money to make improvements to privately owned homes due to our objectives as a charitable organisation. Unfortunately, the conditions were not met and so our legal duty and primary focus has been to deliver for our customers and on our land.

“We’ve already successfully completed an extensive retrofit programme for our customers and look forward to continuing our work with MCC and other partners to make improvements for both our customers and the wider estate over the coming months. We will also look to collaborate on further investment proposals with MCC in the future.”

Manchester council’s executive member for housing and development Gavin White said: “The proposals to invest in and regenerate the Grey Mare Lane estate remain a priority for the council and we reassured local people at a meeting last week that the planned works would continue as promised. This includes delivering new homes which will complement the previous investment in this community, including new schools and leisure centre.

“Regenerating our neighbourhoods at the scale and ambition we want in east Manchester was always a challenge – and ever more so in today’s economic climate. Going forward we will deliver the Grey Mare Lane development programme in collaboration with a number of partners, which takes the onus off one organisation to deliver the plans alone.

“If anything, we expect that the scope for the regeneration plans could be wider than the original investment programme and we look forward to going back to the community with updated proposals for consultation later this year.”

The draft proposals for the new regeneration masterplan are expected to be published in the autumn with a new public consultation planned in the winter.