The BBC Salford hype continues with shadow chancellor Alistair Darling describing MediaCity as ‘one of the most important and influential projects in the north west.’ The project is set to create 15,000 jobs (well, kind of), apartments have been built and tramlines rerouted, and five BBC departments are set to be moving north. This last point has caused a little friction with many questioning whether affluent media professionals with family and roots in London will actually want to live a city known for deprivation and crime.
This started the predictable north-south debate, culminating in an Evening News editorial that showed the paper at its most pompous and deranged:
Some of the din surrounding the BBC’s move to MediaCityUK in Salford has reminded us that, in the minds of some, the north-south divide is more of a chasm.
Certain national newspapers have sneeringly invited us to compare London’s millionaire town houses and haute cuisine with Salford’s terraces and fish suppers.
It’s still grim up north, the subtext goes, and why on earth would the BBC’s finest want to live there?
Far from the lazy newspaper impression of a grey, cobbled wilderness, those people will find an impressive docklands media village close to a city centre which, like London, has world-class theatres, concert halls and restaurants, a familiar array of retail names, a more affordable standard of living, decent state schools – not always guaranteed in parts of London – and easy access to some of the most beautiful countryside.
The paper also carried an interview with BBC North director Peter Salmon, who assures the MEN‘s readership that as many as half the BBC people approached to move north will definitely do so, and that he himself will buy a house in the region as soon as his kids’ education is sorted out. Or something.
I don’t blame media professionals for wanting to stay in London with its members’ clubs and fee paying schools. There are loads of amazing places in Salford. I lived on the Crescent for two years, I loved the King’s Arms and Marx’s local and Islington Mill. Salford Quays, however, is a pointless and depressing waste of bricks and mortar and glass. The waterline is dominated by A roads, chain stores and glossy RSL head offices isolated from the residents who live in their tenancies. It’s good to live by the water, but there are no pubs, no atmosphere to the place, clusters of Lego chalets by the wharf. The architecture seems designed to make you feel insignificant and unwelcome.
Back in early August the Quays featured in the Guardian‘s ‘Let’s Move To’ column:
What’s going for it? Not a lot in my book. Not my kind of town. I like the shell of the place – those doughty Victorian civic buildings, that sense of purpose, the whole Morrissey/Smiths thing, people walking around rather than gliding through in Audis. But these days, Central Salford’s all people-less streets, loft apartments and mochafrappelatteccinos. Still, what do I know? People seem to like it. Why else would it be ballooning with apartment towers in anticipation of the BBC’s arrival next year at the gruesomely named MediaCityUK (slogan: ‘We’re so busy and futuristic, we’ve no time for spaces between words!’), an Alphaville of steel, glass, lobbies and ‘hubs’. The future! Ain’t it grand? Well, not as grand as the old town hall or the railway viaducts. Call me old-fashioned.
The case against Don’t get me started. Oh, OK: cool and passionless. Where’s a decent bookshop/hardware shop/tearoom when you need one? Seriously needs some glue, too, to join the urban dots.
Hang out at… The regeneration dudes want you to hang out with a flat white on the quayside. My advice? Cross the Irwell to the city centre.
Where to buy The old civic buildings in central Salford, such as the old courthouse on Encombe Street and the Royal Hospital conversion. On the Quays, the aforementioned apartment towers, with names such as Sovereign Point, Imperial Point, yadda yadda. Then, in between, streets and streets of 60s/70s houses.
The piece also quotes a streetview from Laura Parkes: ‘Soulless: no centre, no local pub or school, no community feel. Just a postbox, a Tesco Express and an expensive deli.’
This is what you get when you build places for people to work and spend money rather than places for people to live. I can’t help thinking that the developers will regret ploughing all the cash, ideas and manpower into MediaCity rather than using these resources to improve Salford in general.