Social distancing advice for the lifts at College Bank

Our top priority is the health and safety of residents and employees – and to protect this we’re asking everyone to be patient when using the lifts at College Bank. To maintain social distancing, only one household should enter the lift at a time.
Please be considerate and give priority to those residents who may be less able to stand and wait, and consider using the stairs if you are able to do so. Our lifts and communal areas are cleaned regularly by our team.

More new homes underway at Lower Falinge

CGI of the new homes at Lower FalingeWork is underway on the latest set of brand new homes in Lower Falinge after we secured vital funding and identified a specialist construction partner to deliver these houses and apartments, all for genuinely affordable rent.

Entering into contract with ENGIE, a national regeneration specialist, has enabled us to secure £2.53m in grant funding from Homes England, the Government’s housing agency – part of our long-term investment to improve the quality and mix of homes in Rochdale town centre.

The latest construction work formally started on the site in March 2020 and is a key phase of the new housing to be delivered as part of the high-level master plan developed with residents and local partners in 2017.

This scheme includes 55 new houses and low-rise apartments in the heart of Lower Falinge as well as a new community green space; improving the quality, mix and choice of housing for current and future residents.

The new homes are a mix of 19 two-bedroom houses and three houses with three bedrooms, together with 20 one-bedroom apartments and 13 two-bedroom apartments. All of these will be available at a genuinely affordable rent under the same tenancy conditions as existing RBH homes. Rents will remain fixed in line with the local housing allowance, to ensure the new homes remain truly affordable for all in the long term.

Clare Tostevin, Director of Growth at RBH, said:

“Being able to live in a good quality home has never been more important.  This scheme of 100% affordable homes is all about providing the right mix of good quality homes for local people, offering more choice for the existing community in central Rochdale as well as for future generations. The community worked with us to design these homes to ensure they met local need.

Partnering with ENGIE and Homes England on this scheme is the latest important milestone in delivering the modern homes and amenities which the community told us are so greatly needed in the town centre.”

Jackie Jacobs, Director of Affordable Housing Grants at Homes England, said:

“Despite the current challenges affecting the country, supporting new housing remains our number one priority. We will continue to do business with partners like RBH, who are committed to building vital new homes.”

Ed Carroll, ENGIE Head of Major Projects, said:

“We’re excited to be working with RBH to take forward this much-needed development. As a business, ENGIE is focused on working with partners to improve the environment we live in and we’re delighted to be bringing our construction expertise to this project. These new and modern homes will be a fantastic addition to Rochdale town centre and will complement the area’s wider regeneration.”

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.

Our response to Cllr Meredith’s letter

On Monday 20th April, we received a letter from Cllr Daniel Meredith regarding our plans for the town centre. As this letter is in the public domain, we want to take the opportunity to respond to the points raised in the letter.

We have been working very closely with senior Council officers since 2016 to develop a positive way forward for College Bank and Lower Falinge. We want to ensure that this town centre neighbourhood provides good quality homes that meet the needs of local people, now and in the future.

A key part of this work has been reviewing the investment required for the seven high-rise blocks at College Bank, which are now five decades old. The latest technical cost report shows that over £90m is needed to provide the quality of homes that local people deserve. Neither the Council nor RBH have access to this level of funding.

As a mutual owned by our tenants and employees, and in line with our values, we have consistently been open and honest about the challenges faced in central Rochdale. We will not shirk responsibility for meeting these challenges head on and taking difficult but necessary decisions, right for the long term. However, if Councillor Meredith and his colleagues have a realistic alternative plan to generate the £90m-plus needed to fund the works to all seven blocks at College Bank, we would be willing to facilitate the Council taking on this responsibility.

As part of the local response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have worked closely with the Council and with other local partners to provide support to those who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. We will continue to work together to ensure that those now in temporary accommodation are able to move into a good quality permanent home, with the right services in place to support them, as soon as possible. The fundamental challenges faced in providing the right quality and mix of homes in central Rochdale remain – especially the need to provide new family housing. Both the Council and RBH agree that high-rise flats are just not appropriate for housing families with children.

Despite the current challenges, this month we have progressed the next phase of new homes in Lower Falinge – with 55 high quality new houses and apartments on the way, all to be let at a genuinely affordable rent. The new homes we have built so far in Lower Falinge have received exceptionally positive feedback from our tenants and the wider community. We will continue to deliver the number, type and quality of homes that local people need, in central Rochdale and across the Borough.

Community Together: Spring 2020 Edition

This week, residents will receive their Spring edition of “Community Together” – our newsletter for local residents in College Bank and Lower Falinge. This edition includes:

  • Our commitments to you as part of our Residents’ Deal
  • Your questions answered – commonly asked questions
  • An update on the New Pioneers Programme
  • Keeping safe during the coronavirus outbreak
  • The next phase of new homes in Lower Falinge

Download a PDF copy of Community Together Spring 2020 and look out for a printed copy through your door soon!