The ‘time warp’ estate near Manchester city centre that’s been ‘left to rot’

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Residents of this estate in Ardwick have had enough of fly tipping and drug dealing and say there is no one they can turn to for help.

Rats, rubbish and ‘regular’ drug-dealing. That’s what residents living on an estate just a mile away from Manchester city centre put up with every single day.

Nestled in between Hyde Road and Stockport Road and stretching from Devonshire Street to Kirkmanshulme Lane, there are hundreds of homes on the Coverdale estate in Ardwick. Most are now owned and managed by One Manchester – but the housing association has been accused of neglecting the estate where the ill-fated concrete fortress dubbed Fort Ardwick once stood.

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Tenants complain of 40-minute waits when reporting issues over the phone and with no physical offices left in the area, some say they no longer know who to turn to for help. Catherine Thomas, who lives in Langport Avenue, says she went months without any hot water while she waited for her boiler to be fixed.

During that time, she had to boil water in pans to wash herself in the morning. In the end, she found out that all that was needed to fix it was a ‘little washer’.

“It was horrible,” she said. “But I just got used to it.”

Catherine says she was offered £500 in compensation this week after the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked One Manchester about the issue. But she is not the only tenant complaining of long delays to get repairs done.

Coverdale Estate resident Catherine Thompson, Langport Avenue, Ardwick. Credit: LDRSCoverdale Estate resident Catherine Thompson, Langport Avenue, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS
Coverdale Estate resident Catherine Thompson, Langport Avenue, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS | LDRS

The local MP and councillors say the amount of casework they receive from One Manchester residents has risen recently. In fact, even a former Ardwick councillor who retired four years ago is getting calls about the social landlord. Mavis Smitheman says she has got to the ‘end of my rope’ with people calling. The 77-year-old, who is now suffering with cancer, says the recent spate of complaints started with concerns over an empty property on the estate.

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The two-bedroom house in South Street was vacated last November – but despite the long waiting list for social housing, it was only occupied in July. In the winter it flooded, then, it was broken into and became a ‘dumping ground’.

“People are queuing for houses and yet they’ve left that lovely two-bed property with a garden,” Mavis said. “This estate has just been left to rot.”

One Manchester says it aims for a ‘quick turnaround’ when homes become available, but where ‘significant work’ is required, it can take longer. In this case, vandalism led to further delays as a forensic investigation took place. But during this period, residents say the property became a hotspot for fly-tipping. One Manchester says fly-tipping has always been a ‘significant issue’.

However, residents say it has been worse recently. “It started getting worse after Covid – over the last 12 months definitely,” according to Elaine Lovesey who runs a local community pantry. “Fly-tipping wasn’t like this before Covid.”

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Chair of the Coverdale and Newbank Community Association, Elaine says the recent rise in rubbish around means the estate is now ‘overrun’ with rats. Linda Moores says volunteers at the pantry like her have dealt with much worse.

“We’re dealing with drug dealers,” she said. “We find people sleeping in the doorway of this building. We’ve even had to move poo from the doorways.”

Coverdale Estate resident Linda Moores, Culford Close, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS.Coverdale Estate resident Linda Moores, Culford Close, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS.
Coverdale Estate resident Linda Moores, Culford Close, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS. | LDRS

GMP says police patrols have increased in the Ardwick area in an effort to tackle drug dealing, violence against women and girls, road traffic offences and anti-social behaviour which are the force’s top priorities in this part of the city. Meanwhile, Manchester council says it is working with One Manchester to combat the issues of fly-tipping and littering around the Coverdale estate.

The local authority has urged residents to continue reporting this issues on the council’s website so that action can be taken. But reporting issues directly to One Manchester has become increasingly difficult, according to Mavis.

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With fewer options to report issues in-person due to the closure of some hubs, residents have to call up. But waiting for ‘at least 40 minutes’ means people who only have a pay as you go phone use up a lot of their credit, Mavis says.

The former councillor says that residents rarely see their housing officers on the estate anymore. Nevertheless, she says that the housing association has taken some action – such as cleaning up the estate – since it was approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service about the issues earlier this month.

Earlier this year, One Manchester more than doubled the number of frontline staff it employs, giving every customer a named neighbourhood officer to contact directly. As well as the main customer service centre, there are five ‘local hubs’ where customers can meet staff face-to-face on a weekly basis.

Former Ardwick councillor Mavis Smitheman. Coverdale & Newback Community Grocer, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS.Former Ardwick councillor Mavis Smitheman. Coverdale & Newback Community Grocer, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS.
Former Ardwick councillor Mavis Smitheman. Coverdale & Newback Community Grocer, Ardwick. Credit: LDRS. | LDRS

Ardwick councillor Amna Abdullatif, who took Mavis’s council seat in 2019, says she and her colleagues do regular walkabouts on the estate. Issues that come up are resolved ‘fairly quickly’ when raised by a local councillor, she says. But the Labour councillor said that complaints about One Manchester have ‘massively’ increased since she was first elected – and some examples have been ‘unacceptable’. “People are feeling neglected and let down,” she said.

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“Most of the time people will try and resolve issues by themselves,” she said, “but when they get nowhere with it, that’s when they’d contact councillors.”

Mavis praises her successor’s efforts to help her constituents with complaints. But she is critical of One Manchester, saying many are still being ‘left to suffer’.

“I’ve had enough of One Manchester,” she said. “Why are they allowed to build all these properties and they can’t look after this estate? It’s as if it’s in a time warp. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

Earlier this month, the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed that One Manchester would no longer be redeveloping all of the Grey Mare Lane estate in Beswick. The housing association has now completed the retrofit work planned on its own properties, making these homes more energy efficient. But work on privately owned properties that was promised as part of the ‘whole estate regeneration’ did not happen, leaving the area looking like a ‘jigsaw puzzle’. Manchester council has now stepped in to save the scheme.

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The local authority is 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. Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell said One Manchester was ‘not up to the task’ of the full regeneration scheme.

Asked about the issues at the Coverdale estate, she said: “I’ve become increasingly concerned about the running of One Manchester and this has been noticeable with cases I’ve had and some of the bigger issues in the city. Their part in that has fallen short of what I’d expect. I’ve raised these concerns with One Manchester now on a number of occasions.

“It’s got to the point where there are other concerns about how effectively it’s being run, people being let down, whether complaints are being dealt with properly and whether their core functions are being delivered properly. And it’s meant they’ve had to scale back some of their partnership in Grey Mare Lane.”

Empty property in South Street, Ardwick. Credit: Linda Moores.Empty property in South Street, Ardwick. Credit: Linda Moores.
Empty property in South Street, Ardwick. Credit: Linda Moores. | Linda Moores

One Manchester said the ‘understandable frustrations’ for some residents on the Grey Mare Lane estate are a result of funding becoming unavailable. The organisation said it is looking forward to continue working with the council.

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Responding to the issues at the Coverdale estate and their concerns about neglect, CEO Nicole Kershaw said: “Although we strive to get things right, we recognise that mistakes can happen. Where there’s been a service failure on the Coverdale estate, we’ve apologised to our customers and are working with them to put it right. Whilst we own most of the homes on the estate, we don’t own all the land, so we work in partnership with [Manchester council], the police and other stakeholders to address wider issues. We also meet regularly with councillors and conduct neighbourhood walkabouts with them to address concerns.

“In the past year, we’ve cleared over 2,000 fly-tipping incidents including 113 in Ardwick. We also provide a free pest control service for our customers via the council. Our board and leadership team are clear that our core purpose is to provide good quality homes and services to meet our customers’ needs. That’s why over the next three years, we’re investing more than £97m in repairs and maintenance to improve our customers’ homes.

“Our customers’ satisfaction has increased over the past three years but we want to keep improving services by listening to their views. Last year, customers told us they wanted to see more of us in their neighbourhoods. As a result, we increased our neighbourhood officers from 10 to 24, who are currently visiting every customer and can be contacted directly. We’ve also introduced weekly drop-ins at five local hubs so people can report issues, receive support and get advice in person.

“Over the summer, we’re consulting about our repairs and maintenance service. Customers are welcome to attend one of our 40 local events or give their views online, so we can continue to further improve our services. Full details of all events can be found on our website.”

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A Manchester council spokesperson said: “We understand the frustrations of residents when illegal fly-tipping and dumping takes place in their local communities and near where they live. There is never an excuse for fly-tipping, it is an unacceptable crime which blights our neighbourhoods and we will not tolerate it.

“We are aware of issues of fly-tipping and littering in and around the Coverdale estate. Our Neighbourhood Team, in partnership with the Neighbourhood Compliance Team, have investigated fly-tipping in the area and we are working with housing provider One Manchester to combat the issue. We would like to ask residents to continue providing us with information or evidence regarding fly-tipping and dumping in the area via our website, so that we can take action.”

Empty property in South Street, Ardwick. Credit: Linda Moores.Empty property in South Street, Ardwick. Credit: Linda Moores.
Empty property in South Street, Ardwick. Credit: Linda Moores. | Linda Moores.

Chief Inspector Chris Boyd from GMP’s City of Manchester division said he and his team hold regular meetings with local councillors and residents where concerns about anti-social behaviour, vehicle crime, and drug dealing are discussed. The police force says these are opportunities for the community to share concerns and let police and partners know what they wanted from them.

He said: “We’re committed to working with partners, the local authorities, and charities to tackle the issues raised and make Ardwick an area that people feel safe and are proud to live in. It was important for us to have these meetings so we can hear first-hand what our communities’ concerns are, and over the coming weeks we will continue to tackle these issues and hopefully see a real, sustainable change.

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“Firstly, we have increased patrols in the Ardwick and Rusholme area, which I hope residents have noticed, and have felt comfortable enough to approach the team with any concerns or information they have. We have also recruited a number of new PCs into our Neighbourhood team, who you will hopefully meet as they patrol the area. They will be focussing on high visibility patrols, working with the community to build resilience, and sharing crime prevention tips.

“We also understand the devastating impact drugs have on our communities, and that remains a top priority for the team. Whilst the work we are doing to tackle this issue can’t always be seen, please be assured that we are working in the background, building significant intelligence around drugs supply and we will be driving this forward in the upcoming months. But we cannot do this without your help. We need members of the local community to report crimes and tell the police and the local council about areas where they feel are unsafe so that we can act on this information.

“As always, I would ask that if anyone is concerned about criminal activity in their area, please contact GMP via gmp.police.uk or 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.”

The public can also report crimes or information anonymously and receive advice through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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