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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Stephen Topping

Iconic Seven Sisters towers could be SAVED from demolition

Housing bosses in Rochdale now want to save the town's landmark 'Seven Sisters' towers from the bulldozers. Plans to knock down four of the College Bank towers were first floated by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) in 2017.

Many residents have since left their homes on the estate, with the threat of demolition hanging over the towers. But in the fallout from the death of Awaab Ishak, there has been change at the top of RBH. The social landlord's intentions have shifted.

RBH confirmed a review of the College Bank project earlier this year. Now, interim chief executive Yvonne Arrowsmith has admitted that saving the towers would mean 'not increasing the housing crisis' in Rochdale, signalling a new direction ahead of plans being confirmed in the coming months.

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She told the Manchester Evening News: "We have been trying to find a way of not demolishing the blocks. We've been working with the council, with the mayors, with the MPs and councillors to say it would be great if we could find a green solution - a sustainable solution for those towers going forward.

"There is more money needed, we can't do it on our own, but I think everyone is committed to finding a solution - so we are hopeful. We've paused everything that was going on down there to say look, we're not gonna be demolishing, we're not gonna be moving everyone out because of demolition.

Yvonne Arrowsmith, interim chief executive at RBH (Manchester Evening News)

"We are trying to find a solution that means we don't have to demolish, so that's gonna be part of the work that we have bene doing. It is reaching that point where we are hopeful now that we've found a solution, we just need to find the money to get it done.

"But I think that would be a really positive thing for Rochdale, because what it does is saves 400 homes, so if we can do it that means that we're not increasing the housing crisis. Because if we demolish 400 homes that's a big chunk of Rochdale's social housing."

Ms Arrowsmith spoke to the M.E.N. ahead of consultation with College Bank tenants this afternoon (June 28). The housing association previously wanted to demolish the Mitchell Hey, Dunkirk Rise, Tentercroft and Town Mill Brow blocks to make way for 120 new homes.

While the landlord's intentions have now changed, final plans are yet to be confirmed. A substantial amount of money will be needed to refurbish the current blocks. "We're hoping that we will have managed to find the funding over the next few months," Ms Arrowsmith added,

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"And if we can, then at least we can say we've tried absolutely everything and that is what we're doing at the moment. But there is a real positive feeling from the mayors, MPs and councillors that if we can do this, then this is a really good thing to do."

The planned loss of the Seven Sisters had been met with huge opposition in Rochdale from residents, campaigners and councillors. RBH's new approach comes at a time the housing association has shifted its focus away from new developments, onto improving its existing properties, following the Awaab Ishak tragedy.

Mark Slater, chair of the Rochdale branch of Greater Manchester Tenants Union, said: "Yvonne has made a strategic decision to stop growth and look at refurbishing existing stock. As a social housing campaigner in Rochdale, I think that's a fantastic decision to make.

"But that's added to the reputation [of RBH]. If they can come back and say 'we've decided we're not only going to save, but refurbish the four blocks', they stand a chance of really making a name for themselves in terms of registered housing providers nationally - that they have done this in the face of really adverse conditions."

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