Ancoats was promised much with the New Islington development. 1,400 homes, shops and restaurants. The highest standards in energy efficiency and building standards. A viable area that will not require further subsidy to sustain it.
However, it didn’t quite turn out like that. Over the last few months it’s become clear that the building standards were substandard. We’ve seen the bridge from Bengal Street to Cotton Field Park be sealed up. This was despite it being described as “robust yet elegant” in the Ancoats Annual Review. Not so robust after all. A competition to name it was being run. We’re guessing that’s as closed as the bridge right now.
The redevelopment of Old Mill Street was described as a “chic European style thoroughfare”. But the bricks forming the street have had to be torn up – at council tax payer expense. Far too much of the New Islington “regeneration” has been style over substance.
Some years on since the start of the New Islington project, it’s vital that we get answers about how money was spent, and how these major mistakes happened. Did we get the best out of the £18.5 million that English Partnerships reported putting in, as part of the Millennium Community scheme? Certainly, good things have been done in the area, but New Islington and Ancoats is far from being free from needing further subsidy when action needs to be taken to deal with the problems caused.
We must learn the lessons of the Millennium Community project. Residents must be properly involved, not just part of a PR exercise. Development needs to be properly robust, not just for a nice website or press release.