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New Islington Marina Failing

Residents plagued by ‘feral children’ and drug dealing

Written by . Published on August 8th 2013.

New Islington Marina Failing

This is one of a pair of articles about the Ancoats/New Islington area of Manchester. They present contrasting faces. This article highlights how problems remain in fringe city centre areas such as Ancoats if, after expensive changes being made, maintenance and care of a project lapses. It highlights the need for proper legacy provision after completion, something, post-redevelopment, that has consistently failed across the country, not just in Manchester.

The other article focuses on how progress and movement in the redevelopment of the Ancoats/New Islington area appears to have resumed after the slump following 2008. It paints a positive picture of money beginning to move back into what potentially can be a fully functioning suburb of the city rather than one characterised by achievement interspersed with wasteland.

THE poster boys for inner city regeneration, Urban Splash, of Boxworks, Albert Mill, Moho, Timber Wharf, 3Towers and Burton Place-fame, in partnership with the City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), moved the first residents in to The New Islington development in Ancoats’ knackered old Cardroom Estate back in 2006.

“People are openly dealing drugs in the Marina, lots of drunk and abusive people about from the morning until night.”

Setting out to become Manchester’s ‘favourite neighbourhood, but better’, seven years on and much of the development still remains a half-demolished, half-developed former council estate with withered metal fencing loosely guarding empty and desolate plains.

One of New Islington's empty spacesOne of New Islington's desolate spaces

A spokesperson for Urban Splash told us: "We are very pleased with our work at New Islington and what it has achieved.

"A mass of developments and improvements have come to fruition at the scheme in recent years; the 142 apartments at CHIPS are now fully occupied and a Nursery is set to open in the building's commercial space; the FabLabs unit in the building also continues to thrive.

"Housing developments at The Guts and Guest Street are complete, the clinic is open and of course the Park and Marina are in use; including the Park Keeper's Hut which is a fantastic asset for people mooring there with a range of amenities for boaters inside.

"More recently we have also seen Royal Mills launched, the Point and Isis developments move on site and construction work on the permanent New Islington Free School building has commenced with the school launching in temporary accommodation in just a few weeks' time.  

"It is testament to what Urban Splash and our partners at the Homes and Communities Agency, Great Places Housing Group and Manchester City Council have achieved and we look forward to making announcements on new developments in due course."

On their website, Urban Splash state: ‘Our ambition was, and still is, to create the best place in Manchester.’

But residents of the £20m marina would beg to differ: “Urban Splash think the Marina where we are is their crowning glory, but for those of us living there it’s become awful”, says a resident who wished to remain unnamed, as did every resident we spoke to, for fears of repercussions.

“There are all sorts of problems with the marina, it was designed without consulting us boaters. It may look lovely but it makes no sense. It’s style over substance.”

Cotton Field ParkCotton Field Park

These comments came during an increased sense of despair down on the Ancoats’ marina where residents feel that they are being completely ignored by Urban Splash amid a deluge of security and anti-social behaviour issues.

These have become so bad that residents have upped boats and moved on to more serene moorings at Castlefield  - one has navigated 20 miles to Northwich.

The more serene CastlefieldThe more serene Castlefield

“People are openly dealing drugs in the marina and there are lots of drunk and abusive people about from the morning until night” continued the resident. “Gangs of lads refusing to leave the park even when the security guard comes down. There’s litter everywhere, windows are getting smashed in, people pissing everywhere, breaking into boats and even squatting.”

Unfortunately, these aren’t isolated incidents. Having spoken with a number of other residents around New Islington’s Marina, these stories were all too familiar.

“I know people that have been having a lot of problems, kids jumping all over the boats, knocking on the windows, throwing stones at the boats and putting through the windows," another resident told u.

“The worst I’ve heard is a gang of lads threatening to burn someone’s boat while they were in it. That’s worrying stuff.”

‘Worrying’ is putting it lightly. Although the security and police presence has been stepped up around the site, the problems don’t seem to be abating. It comes as no shock that the police simply don’t possess the man power to provide a consistent presence in the area, and the solitary warden is struggling to cope.

Inspector Alan Kelly based at Central Park Police Station said: "Officers from the Neighbourhood Policing Team have met and are working alongside residents, local developers, Urban Splash and those who use the area to help tackle anti-social behaviour.

"To tackle the reports of drug dealing, dedicated patrols are visible in the local area which has led to arrests and drugs being seized. This is part of an ongoing operation and is an example of how serious we are taking the concerns of the local community."

One of the barges with smashed windowsOne of the barges with smashed windows

Most residents, however, don't feel like enough is being done, “They’re like feral children running around that place”, says a former resident of the marina who’s since moved on. “Back in the day you’d have just been able to give them a clip around the ear and they wouldn’t have been back. But if you did that now you’d end up in prison. I think it’s a generational thing but you’ve got to be looking at the parents. Where are they?”

The absence of that parental element almost turned fatal a few weeks ago when a six-year-old boy nearly drowned playing in the marina, despite the clear prohibition on swimming.

Luckily, a group of school friends also playing around the marina saw the young boy lying face down in the water and quickly pulled him to safety. A quick thinking bystander performed mouth-to-mouth and saved the boys life.

“His parents weren’t there and the person looking after him was drunk”, said a resident who’d witnessed the incident. “We’ve been warning the police that something bad will happen. There have been kids swimming in and jumping from high walls into very shallow water.

Kids have been jumping from the high wallsKids have been jumping from the high walls

“The marina is designed to look like a beach and there are 'no swimming' signs everywhere but there's no one around in case anything happens. There’s young kids swimming and tearing around the marina on scooters, it’s like Butlins on crack.”

If the ‘feral children’ and anti-social issues weren’t enough to be worrying about, residents have also reported that mail and clothes have been going missing from the communal ‘Boaters Hut’.

This isn’t surprising, supposedly only accessible by residents who possess a British Waterways Key, when I was walking past the door to talk to residents I found it open with resident’s laundry ripe for the picking.

I was told by one resident that you could easily pick up a key for £1.50. Hardly Fort Knox.

The open Boaters HutThe wide open Boaters Hut

“People with keys are just letting other people in,” a resident tells us, “There are unlicensed boats staying for weeks at a time and because anyone with a British Waterways key can get in, we’ve had people sleeping rough in that hut next to all of our post and clothes.

“The annoying thing is that if you’re paying, then you expect some security to go with it.”

An average canal boat in the marina costs between £100-£150 per month for a permanent mooring, with around £70 in Council Tax on top of that. Totalling an annual cost of around £2400 with electricity paid for by a card operated system, although, residents aren’t particularly pleased about this either.

“I’ve never been to a marina that has the plug socket facing the water before. I’m leaning over the water plugging my stuff in at night. Health and safety would have a field day with it. It’s so badly designed,” the former resident told us.

Signs are being ignoredSigns are being ignored

We approached Urban Splash to see what they had to say about the current situation on the marina specifically.

A spokesperson said: "The Marina itself is a great asset for Manchester and we want more people to enjoy it and to use the space. It is a great recreational destination for the local communities and the majority of people use it as a playing area with their children, somewhere to walk their dogs, somewhere to exercise or somewhere to go fishing in.  

"It's a space which is now full of boats and our waiting list for moorings is increasing, visitor boats from the Rochdale and Ashton Canal also regularly pass through and it's somewhere which is becoming more and more frequented.

"To aid the increase in use, we employ a fantastic Park Keeper who works full-time monitoring the area and looking after visitors, residents and people who moor their boats there.   

"There have however been occasional reports of anti social behaviour; this is deeply regrettable. We deplore all anti social behaviour anywhere and are working with our partners and Greater Manchester Police on a series of initiatives to decrease and prevent this. If anybody has any information about anti social behaviour we of course urge them to report it to the police. 

"We would encourage all of your readers to come and make use of a great new asset for the city and see for themselves the work that has been done in making this an exciting new place for Manchester."

Urban Splash developing away in the backgroundUrban Splash developing away in the background

Despite the issues New Islington is clearly a good thing for the city. A great development for the north east area of central Manchester.

As principal developers, Urban Splash have taken what was a particularly poor area of the city and wiped its face clean, well actually wiped its face off... and then given it a clean.

They've injected the area with life, with people, with colour, with buildings, with jobs, with a new health centre and a soon-to-be-opened new school.

But there has been mismanagement here, in the case of the marina, in the controversial decline of Ancoats Dispensary, in the servicing of the CHIPs development. For all of the residents we spoke with, it wasn't so much the marina park itself, aesthetically they were pleased with it (although they felt, as boaters, they should have been consulted more in the design), it was the feeling that once the marina had been finished, they'd simply been abandoned.

It was as though Urban Splash had polished off the watery jewel in their New Islington crown and moved on to other projects, leaving residents to fend for themselves amongst the onslaught of 'feral children' and people pissing on their boats.

A peaceful MarinaA peaceful Marina

Of course, there's a much wider question of integration here. Turning the delapidated in to the desirable. Creating new spaces to live and a new community for the deprived while also plonking in wealthier residents.

Yes, Urban Splash have created a good number of brand new social houses and breathed much needed life into the area. But less than a tenth of its new build homes are for social housing purposes.

Forcing shiny new things in amongst dirty old things. Outnumbering old Cardroom Estate residents who've been there for decades with new-comers inevitably leads to tensions.  

In the case of blatant drug-dealing around the marina, it is naive to think that erecting new developments will erase the problem, scare away the dealers. Dealers will deal, whether it's in deprived back street alleys or on shiny new marinas especially if said marina is often unpoliced.

For residents of the marina the negatives are presently outweighing the positives. Their problems are not being tackled correctly and they're being left to pick up the pieces, quite literally in some cases.

Certainly communication between Urban Splash and the residents of the marina needs to improve. As one narrow-boater said: "I've been in that marina for a year and I've never seen or heard from anyone at Urban Splash. The only time they ever get in touch with me is by email newsletter... and even then they're just trying to sell me one of their flats."

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31 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

ALYBOBSAugust 8th 2013.

This marina/water park is a wonderful opportunity for boaters, local residents and visitors to Manchester. I walk around there often (in daylight hours) although I live in the suburbs, I think Manchester is an amazing city. I don't know about all the politics, but the marina needs more support from whoever can provide it, be that urban splash? I very much doubt looking at the dubious decline of the once proud dispensary (gutted). The marina is a fragile asset, it would be fantastic if the city council or an altruistic RICH Mancunian could work out a solution and let this project be a safer oasis and asset to our city !!! fingers and toes crossed

AnonymousAugust 8th 2013.

I remember when they first reopened the canals to boats a few years ago ,they paid a couple of guys to protect the canal traffic ,these guys then paid the local scallys to harass the boaters ,business is business

barrel82August 9th 2013.

you can't polish a turd...

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

I live near the new developmnts and see these bottom feeders all the time. Needed to be said.

MAugust 9th 2013.

Problem is people complained because Urban Splash had been given all these all these grants - grants which were public money - and the marina wasn't been used. They had to open it. But the area's not close to being finished yet and security was always going to be a problem for the first residents moving in. By opening up this visually interesting area before there's enough people living in it you're creating a beacon for anti-social behaviour. The fantastic Tutti Frutti scheme which, unfortunately never came to fruition, would no doubt have suffered the same problems with the local kids due to the stalling economy. Urban Splash probably felt they needed the marina to entice buyers. With the benefit of hindsight, looking at the developments which have actually happened and their location within the New Islington site, they probably didn't. It has it's own dedicated tram stop though, which is a massive plus. But the developments need to work from the outside of the site in, not creating island developments floating around (pun alert!) and exposed to anti-social in the middle. Close it off and alarm it with audible trespass warnings. The same ones they have around some schools and car showrooms. Stop the permanent moorings and save costs spent on security for a gardener to maintain it. Open the marina periodically for a day or weekends at a time for schools or events. Let the barges in during this time, then shut it again and switch on the alarms until which time that the area is developed enough for it to remain open permanently. Leave it the way it is and it'll get a reputation and nobody will want to live there. Then it'll never get finished.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

Feral kids running wild attacking canal boat residents & holidaymakers on a marina? Where's this, about a mile from our supposedly "booming" city centre? Does this happen in London and other major European cities, or is it just a Manchester thing?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

It happens in any city, a mile from the city is where it's most likely to happen, known as the inner city.

Don AllwrightAugust 9th 2013.

It seems the development sequence is wrong. had the surrounding housing been completed (stopped by the recession) then at least there would more natural surveillance and footfall. In the early days it would be prudent to have more management/security till the development matures. Water is a magnet for youngsters; I fear it will continue to be a problem till it's completed and established.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

As a resident of Vantage Quay on Piccadilly Basin nearby, this is also too familiar here too. There is blatant drug dealing and male prostitution on Tariff Street (on the bridge next to Pure Gym and the multi-story car park - day and night, and the police and councillors just turn a blind eye. The canal area from Piccadilly to New Islington is a no- go area at night, with muggers and scally teenagers running riot. There has been many, many death down this part of the canal, many not published by the police or media - would be worth ManCon investigating - a lot are put down as accidental , and assaults at night are unreported as the area is used as a gay cruising area at night, and people are too often than not too embarrassed to report it. Come on councillors, CityCo and the police (and Town Centre Securities - land owner of Piccadilly basin) - pull your fingers out

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

The police did use to make an effort of clearing the rent boys whenever I called but they don't seem so proactive these days. Might be worth reporting incidents on the 101 phone line so they are at least aware. The main issue while the weather has been nice is the wasters sitting on the grass for hours on end being a general nuisance. A few weeks back I saw people snorting drugs off of a bin at 10am on a friday morning! Nice

AnonymousAugust 14th 2013.

This is worrying, how do you know about these murders? Someone I know was followed by a really wierd guy recently.

AnonymousAugust 9th 2013.

So it's barge brothels in Castlefield, vandalised barges in Ancoats and all sorts of nasty goings-on in & around Piccadilly Basin? And nobody has even mentioned Salford Quays yet!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 14th 2013.

Do you have more details on barge brothels in Castlefield? Is this true?

David Michael EvansAugust 12th 2013.

Sounds awful... why isn't there zero tolerance and also establish a proper security regime for this area? Whats the point of regenerating an area, spending all that money, if it is allowed to be wrecked by chavs...might as well have not bothered in the first place!

Tracey LangfordAugust 14th 2013.

I feel better qualified to comment on this than most as I live at Islington Wharf and overlook the Marina.I quite often have a stroll around there with my usband in the evening.I have not encountered feral children or drug dealers.I did however notice rubbish in the water trapped by the boats and was surprised that this hadnt been netted by the boat owners in the marina, One could be forgiven for thinking that this article was slanted heavily in favour of Royal mills the article reads like once past there you are walking into a ghetto area.Dissapointed in the lack of balance here.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 16th 2013.

Looks to me like all the quotes came from residents of the marina there Tracey. I feel qualified to say that they live in the marina, you do not

AnonymousMay 18th 2014.

Smells to me too. Come down to Earth. Such snobbery gets you nowhere. You are unable to have conversations with people or what? No dealers at marina at all, some guy on a boat was selling fake pouches of tobaccobut they did not put that in the article nor does it mention some of the lonesome boat owners who bring lsdies of the night back, I have found umpteen discarded Johnnies around the Marina right near the boats, deplorable behaviour.

Poster BoyAugust 14th 2013.

Wither Ancoats. New Islington, New Labour, new slum clearance and new experiments in socio engineering. The result of the false prophets of urban reductionism believing their own hype and imposing their pseudo moral relativism on others...

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 14th 2013.

Pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, revisionist nonsense there Poster Boy. The Cardroom Estate as was was unsafe, unhealthy and unpopular and unlike other Council estates I doubt it could have been revived through refurbishment alone. The problem was not the principle of redevelopment but the delivery model that relied almost exclusively on private developers - developers who did not have the business model to maintain momentum through a downturn, despite the enormous sums of public money thrown at the project.

Poster BoyAugust 15th 2013.

Anonymous. You are agreeing with my comments, even though you do not understand them.

AnonymousAugust 15th 2013.

He got the pseudo-intellectual bit right, mind.

AnonymousAugust 15th 2013.

A valiant attempt at saving face there PB. Do you even understand what you wrote yourself?

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2014.

PB, please can you explain to us mere mortals what you mean? I sort of understand you. But not entirely. Thank you.

Ancoats Canal ProjectAugust 22nd 2013.

It’s not all bad – far from it. Here are recent pictures of loads of people from all over Ancoats and the city centre having a great day on the canoes, at the circus classes and tucking into Robert Owen Brown’s roast pig at the Ancoats Canal Festival, New Islington Marina. Organised by the volunteer Ancoats Canal Group – all free and all had a great time! ancoatscanal.wordpress.com/…/…

Ancoats Canal ProjectAugust 22nd 2013.

In fact if you are at a loose end this Sunday we are having a clean-up event on the Rochdale canal around Great Ancoats st. Duck house improvements, gardening, tow path repair, litter pick, and hopefully some painting of the bridge tunnel – all welcome. Starts 10.30 for morning session and afternoon at 1ish …. Plus lunch is free so if you just want to come to see what we do pop along for a sandwich. More details here: ancoatscanal.wordpress.com/…/…

Eugene Spain)January 2nd 2014.

Fully agree with David Evans,All this is very very basic stuff. Of course when ANY inner city area is renovated or re-planned, ongoing security measures have got to be implemented and budgeted for in the initial costings of any scheme.Do you buy a new car then NEVER care for it? Do you buy a new house then let it become derelict,money has to be bugeted or charged for within a service scheme in order for it to become the IMPROVED area that was planned in the first place. It is just not on for any builder to do the new buiding work then scarper and abrogate all responsibility for the continued success of any scheme.A relative of mine lived in Toronto many years ago,and everyone can see what a huge success Toronto has become,burgeoning economy,burgeoning population etc etc.When a person buys a business property,an amount of money is deposited with the City.If that business goes bump,the deposited money is used to demolish the building,so as not to cause a derelict property,which becomes an eyesore,and encourages the area to keep it's status. Wake up Manchester,I was born and bred in Ancoats,it has always been lets say a little rough and ready,but things should be changing, an area next door to Central Manchester should be absolutely booming. We end up otherwise like Hulme,anybody remember the Hulme flats being built.What a fantastic innovation in our city.It was hailed a new bohemian place for artist and painters and poets and DRUG users and pushers and gangs that terrorised all the area.Well that is what you get with crackpot ideas.Simple good sense with future plans that budgets for the area to stay in the state it was originally planned for,otherwise just building new slums that perpetuate the ingrained ideas of Ancoats.

SteveJanuary 11th 2014.

Its built next to a council estate what do you expect, dangling luxury under the noses of less fortunate people is just asking for trouble. And you will find most big time drug dealers normally live in these posh apartments so maybe you need to be looking closer to home and know who your neighbours are. A lot of these flats are a rip off especially the part ownerships schemes where you have to pay a mortgage and rent. My friend used to live in the chips building and had to pay over £1100 on part ownership. He had to let one of the rooms out to afford the rent part alone. Urban splash were just too greedy and it backfired resulting half of the flats empty. There is no market in buying flats its dead money, people want to buy houses. Sure Ancoats is great renting for business professionals and the like who need a short term solution but in the long run its not a place where yiu would retire into your twilight years.

DavidJanuary 13th 2014.

Why don't people wake up to the real problem and the real solution.This city has a complacent,incompetent one party dominated council who have no idea how to keep the streets clean or to ensure safety of regenerated areas.With them it's always the government fault and endless parroting of the Labour Party agenda about austerity. The solution and it's the only solution is to get them out.To get political change in this city,to get competent,charismatic leadership running things.New York is the best example of how dynamic leadership can achieve anything.They transformed one of worlds most dangerous major cities into one of the most safe.

AnonymousMay 18th 2014.

This story is one-sided rooty tooty upper class drivel and gee whizz were we not children once? Seems like some are still acting like children-'Butlins on Crack'? Cheeky or what? You take any city, village or town and couple that with some How's Ya Father and low and behold, you will have some kids running around-being just that-kids. Like previous one, it is next to estate, but have you conversed with them and not just stared and treated them like third world citizens? snobbery does exist still to this day, just like your asbo behaviour. It takes two to boogie so try to have a convo, the kids maybe might fancy having such a barge one day-Have you asked them? You are coming into their area, they see boats and the like, they are young and with being young, one is inquisitive. Hope it is not too down market for you, Ancoats has been caused by the MCC like most areas. Just come down a level and bring Cameron's Etonian Mess down here, he cannot pronounce Stalybridge correctly, totally aloof and delusional-not down with the peeps are you Camo'?

AnonymousJuly 23rd 2014.

I live in one of the apartment blocks overlooking this marina and in the summer holidays it can be a really horrible place. Masses of kids, teenagers and adults drinking and shouting and being generally anti-social, driving around on dirt bikes, lighting fires. Dogs fighting and killing the birds that live in the canals. Such a shame because it means the other residents of the area can’t enjoy the area, can’t imagine how it must be for the people living on boats down there.

1 Response: Reply To This...
David BlakeJuly 23rd 2014.

Please email editorial@theconfidentials.co.uk FAO David Blake - we're looking to follow up on this piece from last year.

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