An update from Gareth Swarbrick

We understand and appreciate the concerns raised in the recent open letter published by the small campaign group. We continue to welcome any constructive discussion about the future of the town centre and its residents.

We have always taken a collaborative approach in developing our plans for College Bank and Lower Falinge, from the hundreds of face-to-face and online conversations conducted with the local community since our consultations began in 2016 to liaising with senior council officials and local Councillors.

These ongoing discussions lead me to believe that we are all, in fact, striving for the same long-term goal. We all want the security of more, affordable homes in central Rochdale suited to a wide range of current and future residents, of the standard that local people and families deserve. We need a mix of homes for older people, couples, single people, and families, for those in the highest levels of need, for key workers and most of all homes that people choose to live and stay in as their long term secure affordable home.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has brought the importance of good quality housing into sharp focus. While we rightly suspended all new home moves for people affected by our proposals before the Government’s instructions, our resolve to increase the number of homes and diversify beyond the limitations of high-rise living has only been strengthened.

RBH’s recent, well-received development of family houses and bungalows in Lower Falinge was the first new housebuilding in our town centre neighbourhoods since the 1960s. Overall demand for our high-rise, ageing flats has reduced over a long period, while demand for family homes continues to rise, and outdoor spaces to enjoy are especially important in the current circumstances.

Since 2016, we have repeatedly reviewed the potential investment required to refurbish our existing high-rise accommodation at College Bank, to deliver decent homes that will stand the test of time. The latest independent, technical report puts the cost of refurbishing all these seven blocks at over £90m, which RBH has no means of raising in the foreseeable future.

We met with senior Councillors last week and stated again that if Rochdale Council can demonstrate a way to undertake the necessary renovation works at College Bank, we would be happy to look at alternative solutions that guarantee the current residents and future generations a good quality home. However, since 2016 the small campaign group has not offered any alternative that can guarantee this.