We’ve bought the former Brickcroft Social Club site

We’ve taken another step towards delivering more much needed homes in Rochdale town centre by acquiring the site of the former Brickcroft Social Club on High Street.

The club announced in May 2021 that it would be closing permanently rather than re-opening as the pandemic restrictions eased, and we have now moved to make sure that the site is used for new high-quality housing rather than remaining derelict. The acquisition has been supported by funding from Rochdale Borough Council’s successful Towns Fund bid, announced last year.

Visit the main RBH website to read the full story.

Asbestos removal at Abbeydale, Exbury, and Yarwell blocks

This morning (Monday 7th February) we have started the process of asbestos removal from the Abbeydale, Exbury, and Yarwell blocks at Lower Falinge. This work is being carried out by a fully licensed contractor, ARD Industrial Services Ltd.

This is internal work which will not cause any disturbance to nearby residents. We wrote to residents in neighbouring blocks last week to keep them informed of the activity, as contractors will be visible on site as they enter and exit the blocks.

In line with the promises we have made to keep residents informed, we will make sure that nearby residents receive ample notice of any external works carried out to these three blocks.

An update for College Bank residents: January 2022

In line with our promise to keep residents informed first, this week we have written to everyone in College Bank to share the latest information with them.

This letter confirms our intention to proceed with refurbishment of the Underwood block – we have committed £12m in our upcoming budgets to carry out this refurbishment. We are looking forward to working together with College Bank residents to work up the detail of the refurbishment plans. This is an extensive refurbishment and residents will need to move while the works are carried out – we are sharing this information a year in advance to enable us to work with residents on their temporary moves. We hope to be able to accommodate residents within Mardyke and Holland Rise.

Our plans for College Bank – BBC Manchester

This morning, our plans for College Bank were featured on BBC Manchester’s breakfast show. Below is a copy of the short statement we provided ahead of the broadcast.

We want to make sure that current College Bank residents and future generations have the quality and type of homes they need and deserve in central Rochdale.

Many College Bank residents supported the proposals which RBH developed with the community in 2017, and over 80% of residents have already moved in the first phase of rehousing. However, we know that such a major change can be very difficult, especially for long standing residents. That is why as well as a financial package we have put in place dedicated, personalised support – ensuring we help each resident with every aspect of their move.

The cost of refurbishing all seven blocks at College Bank is over £90m – this figure was confirmed last year by an independent report commissioned by the Council itself.  We do not have access to this level of investment, but we have been clear that if the Council does and wants to invest the money needed then that is an option. We made this offer 22 months ago and it still stands. To date the Council has not come forward with any plan or proposal.

A letter to Rochdale Councillors about the future of College Bank

On Wednesday 15th December 2021, Rochdale Council will consider a motion about the future of the flats at College Bank. Our Chief Executive, Gareth Swarbrick, has today written to all Rochdale Councillors ahead of the meeting. In line with our commitment to sharing information with local residents, we are sharing a copy of this letter below.

 

An update from the RBH Chief Executive

Dear Councillors,

I want to take this opportunity to write to you ahead of the forthcoming Council meeting motion on College Bank.

First, I want to remind you of the offer RBH made to Councillors when a previous motion was tabled in March 2020. If the Council believes that it can properly fund the investment required to provide good quality and safe homes in College Bank, we will happily agree to the Council taking on responsibility for the seven blocks. This offer, first made some twenty-one months ago, still stands.

Our current estimates of the cost of refurbishing all seven blocks at College Bank is over £90m – a figure confirmed by an independent report commissioned by the Council and shared with senior Councillors last year. To put this in its proper context this is equivalent to ten years of RBH’s annual investment programme for our 12,000 homes across the borough.

Any decision to spend over £90 million at College Bank would necessitate RBH stopping all planned investment in kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors, heating systems, and new roofs in all our other homes located in the wards you represent right across the borough for a decade. This is something RBH is simply not prepared to countenance.

Until such time as the Council shares with RBH a credible, worked-up plan for College Bank then we will continue to take forward the current proposals for the future of the blocks. This includes continuing to rehouse tenants and residents and finalising plans for the estimated £12 million plus refurbishment of the first of the retained blocks, due to commence in 2023.

You may also remember that in 2020 RBH identified building safety issues relating to works carried out by the Council to the blocks in 1998. An expert report commissioned by RBH has confirmed that these works did not meet the required legal standard at the time they were carried out. This contradicts legal warranties provided by the Council to RBH as part of the 2012 stock transfer, and as such the Council will be liable for the costs incurred by RBH both in remedying the defective work and in mitigating the associated risks until remedial works are undertaken. RBH will be formally writing to the Council regarding this in the New Year.

The motion that has been submitted to the Council meeting refers to current rehousing register figures. I know that there is pressure on rehousing, but flats across the borough continue to have relatively high turnover. This means that those in genuine need of a flat are likely to be offered a home that meets their needs. In contrast, the impact of the Right to Buy on the amount of family housing available, together with very low turnover, means that many families with children on the waiting list are unlikely to ever be able to access a social rented home that meets their needs. This is especially true for larger families or those with disabled children. We need to work together to address this and to ensure that the quality and mix of homes meets our highest, true housing need.

From the outset, we have worked hard to balance the challenges associated with the huge investment requirements of the blocks, associated with their age, design and construction method, and tenant and resident views on options for the future. Therefore, following consultation at the earliest possible stage, we pursued the option of retaining and investing in three of the seven blocks whilst demolishing four others. To put it bluntly – any decision taken purely on financial or value for money terms would not involve any retention of blocks.

In taking forward our plans RBH is making a huge financial commitment to improving the quality of homes on offer in the town centre area. We have sought to work closely with the community at every stage and have put in place dedicated professional support for every resident who needs it. We’ve also guaranteed that every resident who wants to stay in the town centre area will be able to do so – and we’re delivering on that promise.

We are a mutual housing society, owned by our tenant and employee members. Our member owners all live or work (and in many cases, both) within the borough of Rochdale. Our elected Representative Body, the majority of whom are RBH tenants, set the direction for our society and provide oversight for all our plans – including our town centre regeneration proposals.

It is very disappointing that at a time when residents need as much certainty as possible Councillors Ali and Meredith have chosen to table this motion which does not add anything to the previous motion of March 2020. Until there is a viable, detailed plan from the Council, the only impact of this motion will be to raise false hopes amongst residents about the Council’s ability to change the position regarding the future of the blocks. This is deeply unfair to residents.

Both myself and our Director of Growth Clare Tostevin are available to speak to any elected member who would like to ask further questions – please reply to this email and we will arrange a mutually convenient time.

Kindest regards,

Gareth Swarbrick – RBH Chief Executive

A community update for residents in Lower Falinge

There is a lot going on in Lower Falinge and in line with our commitment to keep the community updated, we want to share this news with you. Together with Rochdale Borough Council, we have been successful in securing an extra £1.49m in grant funding. This will enable us to deliver additional improvements within Lower Falinge, and to bring forward some of the work we had already planned!

We’ve circulated a community update to all residents, and you can also download a copy of the update via the link below.