Whalley Range rant pays off

My recent rant in City Life regarding Whalley Range – ‘attractive Victorian suburb’ or ‘lowly inner city in need of development’ has paid off handsomely with my claiming the letter of the week prize. My CD collection is now enhanced by the long overdue additions of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, Lou Reed’s Transformer and Basement Jaxx’s Remedy

Archisnap’s an okay column that goes around picking out buildings and places of interest (did a useful piece on graffiti under Whitworth Street railway arches a while ago) and I’m all for talking Manchester up. But not to the point of pretending everything’s pretty. And driving through Whalley Range almost everyday (as I do), it was clear that City Life had over stepped the mark. Anyway, here’s the letter in full:

Where is the Whalley Range that Phil Griffin talks about in Archisnap (City Life, 524), you know, the ‘attractive Victorian suburb’? Can’t be the same one Morrissey sang about ‘What do we get for our trouble and pain?/Just a rented room in Whalley Range/What do we get for our trouble and pain?/…Whalley Range!/ Into the depths of the criminal world.’ That’s right, Whalley Range’s claim to fame is providing The Smiths with the creative despair great artists apparently require; a suburb with no legal nightlife (built by Mormons, it’s still got no pubs, though it lays claim to the Whalley at Brooks Bar).

I don’t really want to put the place down – I know it’s on the up – and the GMB National College is truly splendid. But the college is an exceptional building in a sea of bedsits (sorry, studio flats). Phil is simply wrong to complain about Whalley Range being developed. There’s a great shortage of affordable homes for single people and couples. The large well-to-do families those great houses were built for left long ago (most with Victoria herself). Its hypocritical to praise the Victorians for embarking on a ‘flight of fancy’ with the college, while condemning present day architects for clearing failed, often dilapidated houses it to make way for much needed homes that better suit the way we live today.

Let’s hope the college stays a college, but at the same time praise the deputy prime minister for bringing in planning laws to break the ultra-conservative nimby-ism that would preserve seedy bedists at a time when modest homes are in short supply and in such demand that they are too often beyond the reach of City Life readers.

2 thoughts on “Whalley Range rant pays off

  1. Hello, just a quicky , I have just read your letter to City Life about Whalley Range. I find that I must disagree with you concerning the demolishen and new builds that are going ahead in this area. I have no problem with derelict buildings being removed and new homes being put up in their place , BUT there are several local landlords who , having seen the value of their properties rise , have deliberately left their properties without maintenance , so that they HAVE to be demolished for safety reasons. They then charge an absolute fortune for the land , forcing development of blocks of flats that cost in excess of £100,000 per flat and you do not even get a garden!

    The new builds in Whalley Range are being aimed at single people or couples with no children and a salary of at least £50,000 per annum. I fail to see how building flats for transient workers , which are too expensive for local people , is going to have any effect on the lack of housing available.

    Personally I am disappointed with the council and their total lack of respect for a place that is supposed to be a conservation area.

    Thank you for your time.


    p.s I live in Whalley Range so I have seen what has been happening.

  2. I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve said, but I think it’s important to try and understand why things are turning out as they are. You imply that developers and landlords are dictating higher property prices. If they had that sort of power, they’d have demanded high prices long ago. Property is only worth what somebody’s prepared to pay for it.

    Whalley Range has had a large private rented sector for many years, so your complaint about transient workers is a bit of a red herring. Whalley Range has always had a significant population of people renting somewhere cheap while they wait for their careers to take off.

    High property prices are a product of high demand, which is a product of demographics. There are a lot more households of just one or two people. Some of that’s older people living longer and some of its younger people starting families later. That means demand for one and two bed flats is growing. As long as that demand grows faster than we can build new homes prices will rise as people continue to outbid each other.

    While it sometimes seems that new flats are popping up everywhere, there are still far more buyers than sellers. So we need to build a great many more before they become affordable.

    A lot of properties have been neglected by their owners, but that’s easy to explain. Until just a few years ago low rents and low property values meant that landlords were unlikely to get a return on any investment. So they didn’t invest. Now Whalley Range has taken off, it’s possible to profit from investing in the area. And the most profitable route is often to replace neglected buildings with new ones.

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