“In The Ghetto”
Another Guest Author contribution from Stormin’ NORMAN MURPHY, who has winkled out a real gem of a one-liner giveway from the tight-lipped master of transparency.
As many of you have pointed out to me in recent months, our Labour masters in the Clown Hall, despite the constraints of the Covid-19 epidemic, have not been backward in coming forward with grandiose schemes for the Borough. Prominent amongst their more outlandish proposals is their new housing strategy and, of course, the laughable ARGOS re-development, which necessitates the Council borrowing £22 million to build Coventry University a block of 210 student flats in the old town of Scarborough.
However, while these projects and strategies are being pushed forward with great gusto, there are several other significant issues which effect the Borough and its residents which the current leadership seem to have gone very quiet about. Perhaps most prominent amongst the things they are not talking about is the proposed redevelopment of the Futurist site and the leadership’s ongoing, but very secret, negotiations with bosses at Flamingoland.
Could this emphasis on certain projects and silence on others, I wondered, have any sinister connotations for the hard pressed rate-payers of the Borough? As might be imagined, with the current veil of secrecy covering nearly everything emanating from the Clown Hall under our current masters, openness and transparency being none existent under the present leadership, my suspicions were naturally raised.
Nonetheless, although suspicions were raised it was difficult to piece together what, if anything, our Labour masters were up to. Then quite by chance I happened to come across a rather insignificant one-liner in the SCARBOROUGH TOWN CENTRE STRATEGY published in September 2020 and things started to make some sense.
At ITEM 2 of this report it states that it is the intention of Comrade Siddons to “Increase residential living within our town centre by 25% by 2025”. There was no explanation of how this huge rise in the population of the old town might be achieved. Nor was there any indication of where the parimeters of the town centre might be situated. The report just stated, as a cold fact, that the leadership intended to increase the population of the town centre by 25% over the course of the next four years.
Who the leadership had consulted in the town centre to see if this was a good idea or not was not recorded. They did feel that this increase in population would be good for the economy of the area and that it would in some way lead to regeneration of the town centre but figures were, to say the least, thin on the ground.
Their SCARBOROUGH TOWN CENTRE STRATEGY is, in actuality, in regard to giving meaningful information on what an increase in the population of the town centre would actually look like, as might be expected with this administration, a complete waste of time.
Nonetheless, increasing the number of people who live in the town centre is what they intend to do so, having some knowledge of the various wards in the town, and giving the subject of what an increase of 25% might actually mean, I decided to make a few calculations of my own.
As mentioned, exactly where they think the town centre is, is impossible to work out from the report, but I think that we could all agree that this area would cover most, if not all, of Castle ward. A geographical area which currently contains about 4,000 dwellings, housing a population of approximately 9,000 people.
So doing the maths this would indicate that increasing the number of people living in the town centre by 25%, approximately equating to a population increase of about 2,200 people, would require the building of somewhere in the region of 1,000 new dwellings.
Now the first question I asked myself was, where in one of the most densely populated parts of the Borough is there the space and land available to build 1,000 new dwellings?
Well it did not take me long to come up with the answer to this question.
The ARGOS site
As already mentioned, the ARGOS redevelopment proposes a huge block of 210 town centre flats. But, I hear you say, the ARGOS development is going to be allocated to student accommodation for Coventry University so this development will not count.
Well, it would not count if it were actually going to be occupied by students, but everyone with half a brain knows that there is no chance that students or trainee nurses will want to live in this part of the town. There is ample student accommodation already in locations near to both the hospital and the university. Students, if they come at all, will vote with their feet and will source accommodation near where their mates live.
Not that, by the time the ARGOS flats are built (probably around autumn 2023) there will be very many students wanting to come to any university. The foreign students will almost inevitably be looking for university places much closer to their own homes. Coventry University completely understand this and have already opened one new university in Europe and another will be opened in Africa next year.
Our own students are already looking for online degrees and, by 2023, nearly all courses and tutorials will be delivered electronically – saving students a fortune and enabling them to study from the warmth of their own home, where they can park their cars and get their washing done.
The 210 flats in the ARGOS development will, I suspect, quite quickly after they are built, if they are ever built, become what many people thought they were going to be used for in the first place; i.e. social housing, or as this type of accommodation is more commonly known, a HOUSE OF MULTIPLE OCCUPATION (HMO).
So here we have our first batch of 210 dwellings to contribute towards our 1,000 target but, I hear you cry, this still leaves you 800 short. Well, it does – but it won’t for long.
The FUTURIST site
As already mentioned, the Futurist site redevelopment has been very quietly ignored by the current leadership. However, this does not mean that nothing has been going on.
On 16 June 2020, our old friend Richard (the Brighton Bin Man) Bradley delivered to the current leadership a Report, 20/108, code-named “BAY SIDE SOUTH REGENERATION OPPORTUNITY” – the use of the name “Futurist site” has, apparently, been banned by leader SIDDONS, just as the name “Argos” has been left out of the Planning Application for 50-59 Newborough).
Too many bad memories probably, as it will be recalled that it was only when SIDDONS realised that there would be electoral advantage in voting against the demolition that he changed his mind about saving the Futurist. Up until the very last minute, SIDDONS and his Labour troops were in the Tories “pull it down” camp.
Anyway, at (iv) of the BIN MAN’s Report, we discover that he advises the leader to approve:
“the continuation of dialogue with Flamingoland, to present the strategic vision to them and to assess the extent to which their development proposals are able to deliver the Council’s strategic, economic and social value aspirations for the area, without compromising aspects of the overall vision”.
[NB: “Social value” is Council-speak for revenue from residential rate-payers]
The BIN MAN continues:
5.8 Present position in relation to Flamingoland
5.8.1 “The Council remains committed to negotiations with Flamingoland in relation to the site. Flamingoland have been kept informed of the work being undertaken by the Council since February to clarify the Council’s strategic objectives”.
5.8.2 “The conclusion of the strategic visioning work will now enable productive negotiations with Flamingoland to continue, in order that their development proposals can be assessed against the Council’s strategic vision”.
So what is the vision? Well we know what leader SIDDONS vision is; 1,000 more dwellings in the town centre by 2025, which of course, includes the old town and the Futurist site. However, I hear you ask, don’t Flamingoland want the Futurist site to put fun fair rides on it? Well, no actually; it seems that rides are the last thing they want to put on the site: no money in rides – flats are the money spinner.
Although Flamingoland said they wanted to put various rides on the Futurist site when the documents which they gave to all Councillors in 2018, myself included, were eventually opened, it soon became obvious that they were more interested in building flats than rides.
The Flamingoland proposal was, in fact, for multiple blocks of flats stretching all the way up from the sea front right up to the King Street car park. Moreover, they also wanted about a third of St Nicholas gardens to build even more flats. Although it was difficult to establish exactly how many flats they were proposing to build my estimate was about 700.
This gives us a running total of about 900 dwellings – still 100 short of SIDDONS’ 1,000 target but getting there.
The Town Hall site
As will be recalled, it has long been Council policy to sell off the old 1960s part of the Town Hall complex of buildings in the hope, and expectation no doubt, that they will be demolished and the site ‘tastefully’ redeveloped. Who will ultimately develop this site is of course unknown to me, only the privileged few, I should imagine, will be in on this secret. However, it is strongly rumoured that it will be offered to Flamingoland and of course this makes sense when viewed in relation to their plans for the lower development.
Should this arrangement be the case then it would allow for the building of some 100 very attractive, and very valuable, flats and houses overlooking the magnificent South Bay. This of course would, very nicely, complete SIDDONS’ overall total of 1,000 dwellings in the town centre.
So there you have it. Bob’s your uncle Fanny’s your aunt, and by 2025 1,000 new dwellings are constructed in the town centre.
All sounds very nice, doesn’t it?
Well, it does sound nice, however, I suspect that the reality of living in SIDDONS’ utopia will be anything but a utopian existence. Should the ARGOS development become an HMO then, unfortunately, the residents who already reside in this part of the town centre might not think it so nice.
According to Office for National Statistics data, in the Borough of Scarborough:
“there were 45 drug-related deaths between 2017 and 2019, at a rate of 16.1 per 100,000 people – among the highest in England”.
The old town is a well-established haunt of County Lines drugs gangs.
A further report highlights:
“as well as experiencing high levels of overall deprivation, Castle ward (town centre) also has high levels of children in poverty, and high levels of older people in deprivation”.
Indeed, the report goes on to say that:
“Castle ward and the surrounding areas in Scarborough have some of the highest levels of deprivation within North Yorkshire”.
Castle ward, sadly, already has many problems and it is difficult to see how the imposition of another HMO on the area will improve the situation.
So what of the 700 flats on the former Futurist site? My guess is that these flats, crammed together as they will be in order to maximise profits, will soon become a kind of modern day Ghetto. The lure of cheap accommodation, and a seaside location, will, in all probability, be an irresistible magnate for the type of criminal gangs who already plague the old town.
Crime in the old town might well spiral out of control; and it is not difficult to see that our police, already stretched, will be overwhelmed – leading to these areas becoming no-go zones. The social amenities in the old town, schools, doctors and dentists, already inadequate to deal with the current population, will either move out or be unable to cope with demand.
There will, of course, be some winners. The quality housing at the rear of the Town Hall and on King Street is naturally shielded from the ARGOS development so an HMO will have no impact on these residents’ quality of life. Steps will also no doubt be taken to insulated these properties from the probable unrest in the lower reaches of the development. These quality dwellings will – surprise, surprise! – soon find themselves owned, at amazingly reasonable prices, by the great and the good of the Borough.
Under SIDDONS’ proposals, Scarborough’s historic old town will be like the old knob hill, with the wealthy residents living in splendour at the top of the hill and the great unwashed and poor living in fear and squalor at the bottom.
Far from bringing regeneration to the town centre the addition of 1,000 additional dwellings will, in my view, almost certainly have tragic consequences. And will, in all probability, make life unbearable for existing and future Castle ward residents.
The leader’s vision is, however, doubly tragic. For not only will it NOT deliver any of his hoped for improvements to the town centre, if allowed to develop in the way I suspect he wants it to, it will throw away a golden opportunity not only for the old town, but for the wider Borough.
As I see it, the three redevelopment sites now available in the old town, the King Street/Town Hall buildings, the Futurist site and the ARGOS site, if utilised for the benefit of the residents of the old town, rather than for the benefit of developers, failing local politicians and Council officers, could regenerate the whole area.
My view is that with the availability of cheap money, the availability of three very valuable and strategically well-placed sites, and a clear vision to improve the lives and living conditions of those who already reside in the old town, the Council has the golden opportunity to take the first steps towards building a really “Better Borough”.
However, my guess is that if Comrade SIDDONS and Bin Man BRADLEY, realise their vision of increasing the population of the town centre by 25% the “Better Borough” will, as everything else they have attempted, turnout to be (as Craig Revel Horwood would say) A DISASTER, DARLING.