A Word In Your Ear - August 11, 2016

Roy Edmonds

Roy Edmonds

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I felt rather uneasy to see soaring blocks of new flats rising in central Manchester, when we visited last weekend.

Only the other week those infamous council ones in Layton were finally demolished. They, too, had been built for a homes crisis and, back then, considered highly desirable for their panoramic views and all modern conveniences. Later, they were notorious for crime and misery.

Neglect let them down, along with the residents trapped inside. One of my first front-page stories for this paper, when a reporter back in the late 70s, was of a distraught tenant throwing herself off the roof.

A photographer and I had to climb up many flights of stairs to the top, as the lifts had again broken down. The suicide had clambered out over a safety gantry to make her fatal leap. I remember being chilled and awed at such desperation in a fellow human being.

While relaxing in Manchester on Sunday, I had a leisurely drink in Albert Square overlooking the town hall. It was in that magnificent building that I had earlier trained, during a different career as a quantity surveyor. My few years there were in the housing department.

I worked on some of those early city blocks of flats – first in Hulme then, later on, an ‘overspill site’ at Hattersley, of Moors Murders infamy.

Such dense developments never did work out well in my experience. They weren’t to human scale.

The latest glass tower blocks will probably appeal to young city-slickers, who also prefer being detached from any surrounding communities. Such trendy urban dwellers just want quick access to the latest places; then a distant hideaway to escape and be alone.

Not for them the corner shops, friendly locals and welcome parks that eventually help make a neighbourhood somewhere pleasant to live.

Hopefully, they will eventually learn better. But will the councils, or developers?

* For Roy’s books visit www.royedmonds-blackpool