Manctopia: Meet the people living and working in the eye of Manchester’s remarkable housing boom.
After watching the first episode I thought it did do a good job. Theres reasonable number of view points from some people living on the streets to a person looking for a multi-million pound 3 bedroom penthouse with great views of the city.
Its of course strange to see where I live in the shots and seeing the backstory of the buildings opposite me in Piccadilly East. Wondering if Ancoats, Angel fields, Ponoma and Salford Quays will make it into future episodes.
Its available on BBC iplayer and BBC two every Tuesday at 9pm
I want to thank all my guests who joined me on the podcast, as a lot of people agreed in principle but never stepped up and joined me. Annette, Ade, Vimla, Erinma and Naomi, you were all wonderful and a breath of fresh air.
Massive thanks to Ethar & David (pretty much my co-hosts) for joining me on every single podcast!
I don’t write this lightly and been writing it over the last week or so. I recognise I’m privileged owning a place in Manchester with a full time job but this needs talking about. I also get it will have an effect on housing prices in Islington Wharf but to be honest I’m so sick and tried of the way residents are being treated. Its clear from the amount of times residents have been lied to, this is most likely going to play out in the media. Even our MP (Lucy Powell) being involved hasn’t had the same effect as media attention. Its clear Waterside places like most companies don’t like media attention, especially when they have phase 4 on the line…
Imagine you live in a lovely flat in the centre of Manchester. Overlooking east Manchester and phases 2 and the new phases 3. great but like all modern flats there are problem. However the problems are not just problems but actually latent defects.
The lovely floor to ceiling glass walls on 2 sides are heating up the flat to such an extend that during the winter months there is no need for heating; but on the other hand during the summer months turning the flat into a oven with temperatures inside +2-5c on the ambient temperature outside. As its a modern flat, you imagine some air-conditioning, nice large windows, etc…
Lets talk about the heat
One window per room with a opening distance of about 7-9cms with the safety locks on and 40cms with locks off. Enough you can jump out, which of course is not recommended at 20 stories high. There is a thing called a Airvac which circulates the air around the flat but its very loud and if you are circulating hot air around its not great. Note as there is only one window per room, the only way you can have a proper draft is opening all the doors and windows.
The heat is painful but to be honest I can tolerant it to a certain extent because I face north east from the the sun rises on my flat and before it gets to midday its already gone. This of course doesn’t make much difference when the ambient temperature is high of course. Which is a general latent defect, as anyone can tell you having walked in Islington Wharf’s corridors which has the hot water pipes running along the celling of each one.
As mentioned I am actually doing well because of the position of my flat. Others including neighbours have to put up with +2-5c on top of mine. For example if its 25c outside, it could be closer to 28c in my flat, while my neighbours could be dealing with closer to 32c in their flat!
I have 4 fans in my flat and always have to take off the safety locks to circulate enough air with all the inner doors open. Having the garden is a thankful refuge from the heat. They offered us aircon units as a kind of acknowledgement of the problem with heat but as you can see previously they were the size of washing machines and suited to industry not a 2 bed room flat. You should hear it going!
The temperature modelling/algorithm (we have many) was made for people not working from home during the day (certainly not built for covid19). It was also setup for a professional different couple with no children. Although Islington Wharf has apartments ranging from 1 bedroom to 4 bedrooms duplex’s! Talk about bad data!
Its also clear the problem lies with the incredible floor to ceiling glass panes. Those apartments without the glass don’t have such a heat problem. We have found the glass seems to be different if replaced from all the shattering we have had (there has been too many, more than average). We have also noted some of the glass as been installed backwards (the kite-mark is different in different flats)
What about the water?
I said I am lucky, and I really mean it. Another latent defect is water ingress. In short there is water leaking from all over the buildings. There was a point recently when there was so much water leaking down the emergency staircase it was leaking into the lobby (wish I took a picture).
Others experience drips of water from there windows and there are many cases when it rains (and it does it Manchester a lot). There is water coming down the walls causing damp and unliveable conditions (aka they have had to put up plastic tarpaulin to separate the living space from the wall and in the end been rehoused.
I personally have seen spots of dry water droplets by the window but never experienced anything like the pictures I have seen from others. Theres a video of a patio with the paving stones pulled up and the rain water just gathering there. As you can imagine, most of the time the water leaks down into levels below.
The building isn’t just leaking, its flooding in parts every time there is rain. Its clear the building wasn’t constructed in a way to handle rain as this has been happening from day one.
The M.E.N. reported how Waterside Places had had to evacuate all the residents in its brand new Islington Wharf Mews developments earlier this year after the homes were found to breach fire safety regulations.
Residents at Islington Wharf, in New Islington, have been engaged in an ongoing battle to get their windows replaced after temperatures repeatedly soared in the summer months. At one stage they had threatened legal action.
Currently the window from which the pane fell in August is still boarded up and Waterside has handed out air conditioning units to the affected apartments.
What about insurance? Let me tell you about insurance!
There is serious thoughts about putting together a court case on this front but raising the money to start the case is a big problem
Where do we go from here?
After 10+ years of fighting with Waterside places about the latent defects, they sued the builders Laing O’Rourke, for some unknown amount of money. Now with some unknown amount of money and a judgement call Waterside places has to fix the residents problem (their term not ours) and Laing O’Rourke will be re-doing the work.
This should be great news but of course they are doing it in the cheapest way possible and ignoring the fact we have been fighting them about these latent defects for 10+ years. They actually feel like the savours not the problem.
However they are doing it in the cheapest way they can… in short
They plan to put a UV film on the outer side of all the windows including mine.
They plan to convert all the windows which open into 2 windows which open. For example my one window pane in the living room will be replaced with two windows one on top of the other which can be independently opened
I can’t get a straight answer out of them about what exactly they will be doing in my flat personally. I’m assuming not much compared to others.
Sounds reasonable right?
Lets add all the things you would expect.
There will be zero compensation!
This will take over 2 years and we will be expected to live in the building/site, no moving out temporally
On top of the previous one, we will be expected to share our key with Laing O’Rourke. No clarification of when and how long for.
Laing O’Rourke will turn our communal garden into their workers yard for 2+ years, meaning no garden access. Waterside places don’t want to use the site for phase 4, which was also used for phase 3 (Islington Wharf locks) because they have planning permission and don’t want anything holding up phase 4. So they are passing their lack of action on the latent defects upon us.
Oh and this all starts in the next couple of months!
With all that would you sign a contact allowing this to happen?
Didn’t think so…
I posed the question of not signing and they (Waterside places) was taken a back like why wouldn’t you sign it? After a while of that awkward silence on the Microsoft Teams conference call (don’t get me started about this), they have no idea what to say. Except there is a clause in our tenancy agreement giving them access in certain circumstances.
As mentioned at the start, this is on going and looking forward, I can only see going public as the way not to be steam rolled into a position which suits them and their budget but will end up massively inconveniencing residents for 2+ years. I’m sure other residents will write their experiences, I’ll be urging them to do it in the public rather than on facebook.
While walking around Manchester I today I was looking at peoples faces and theres a sense of real anger but also that something might actually change?
Although I did have an encounter with some folks I knew as I walked back. They were complaining about lots of people protesting and breaking the social distancing guidelines. I explained I was there too and left saying, when people are faced with a system which is killing you, what would you do? They left in silence.
One of the best signs I saw today was this one…
Your activism must continue after this protest…
This is exactly where I am, right now. Protest is the first step but the next one is how to make sustainable long lasting change. We need to organize and break down the systematic state of racism.
t discovered that after taking into account age, measures of self-reported health and disability and other socio-demographic characteristics, black people were still almost twice as likely as white people to die a Covid-19-related death.
Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males, after other pre-existing factors had been accounted for, and females from those ethnic groups were 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts.
Personally I am taking a lot of sustainable steps to stay safe. I say sustainable because unlike some people who think we are going to revert back to the old normal, I know this isn’t going to happen. Without going into too much depth about PPE, contact tracing and an actual vaccine. If you want that, its worth listening to the Manchester futurists podcast which is going up in the next few days.
I’m washing my hands with liquid soap pretty much all the times, not touching my face (I know its really really hard but not impossible and I have managed it but don’t have long hair and have a deep routed thing about dirty hands) and I’m disinfecting everything I have touched and brought back into the house including my headphones, smartphone, pebble watch, keys, etc… However I am not using alcohol hand sanitizer, unless essential because it makes my hands so bloody dry I hate it!
I’m very conscious I am at higher risk being a black male, having a survived a bleed on the brain, asthmatic and all with high blood pressure. But I am however very fortunate to have a career which means I can work from home while living in a city centre where I can go out and get exercise and food. I’m not socio-economic disadvantaged thats something which I have going for myself. I have been getting Tesco delivery again (maybe once every 4-6 weeks again). Been avoiding the large supermarkets and going to local high street shops, Booths and M&S food market (This is certainly not true of a lot of people!). I do pop into Aldi but am always aware people are much less likely to social distance unfortunately. Especially around the fruit and veg isle.
There was a decision made not to wear a mask, when the one I ordered for the holiday to South Korea and Japan never came (according to Amazon its still on its way – 4 months later). Me and my partner decided we didn’t want to be the westerners not wearing a mask, when we still felt we could go. But for me personally I decided there was more risk in having a mask than not when out and about in Manchester. I expect there will be places in the future where I will have to wear face protection/mask to enter, and thats fine (maybe my mask might actually arrive) but till then taking the mask on and off is just much more risk than not touching my face at all. I’m also very conscious about not coughing, sneezing, etc in and around people.
Whats happening is no joke and clearly points to the horrible inequality. I’m very fortunate to be born in a country which (at least currently) has a national health care system.
But there are clear problems/differences and the people with the power to change the fate of millions are doing little about it! Some would say it could be to the benefit to certain governments even?
One of the things I have been doing while in lockdown from the Covid-19 virus, is learning new tricks on the Diabolo. I’m lucky enough to have a nice large shared garden and green spaces around me. So in between working, walking, etc. I’ve been getting better at the Diabolo.
I have been staying at home for the last 3-4 weeks but every 3-4 days I go shopping for fresh food. It also makes good exercise walking around. and decided as its my birthday soon, to get a very nice steak from the Northern Quarter butchers.
On the way back I had a wonder through the northern quarter and take some pictures of the usually busy streets in Manchester. Of course I’m not the first to do this… but with my social distancing of over 2 meters from others. I shot some quick pictures on my walk back.
The public messages instead of adverts were interesting too because frankly advertising has falling through the floor. Nice culture jamming works.
Recently I hosted a person from mainland China in my Airbnb. Its certainly not the first time and unlikely the last. They were nice, quiet and respectful of the rules.
But I was talking to a few people and they asked me if I had thought about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? I laughed it off but honestly I did think for a bit before accepting the booking. The thinking wasn’t long especially because I wasn’t happy to ask the question and somewhat discriminate on the grounds of nationality (this is also against Airbnb’s policy)
Talking to others, they felt I wasn’t taking it seriously. Although I will say more people die of the flu and TB than COVID-19! The frenzy in the press is getting insane.
So I had another look at the policy and noticed a addition for the Coronavirus outbreak
Looking deeper into the new policy I found this part…
For reservations with guests travelling from mainland China to destinations outside of mainland China
The extenuating circumstances policy applies to any reservations booked on or before 1 February 2020, with check-in date of 1 April 2020 or earlier. This applies for guests travelling from mainland China with reservations outside of mainland China, or hosts outside of mainland China with guests travelling from mainland China.
Other scenarios that require documentation
Regardless of reservation date, the extenuating circumstances policy applies to reservations of all global hosts or guests who must change or cancel travel:
In order to comply with disease control restrictions implemented by relevant governmental or health authorities;
In order to perform medical or disease control duties in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak;
As a result of flight or ground transport cancellations initiated by an airline or ground transport provider due to the COVID-19 outbreak;
In the event that they are diagnosed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19 by a medical or health authority.
We ask that all community members be mindful of respect, inclusion, and our nondiscrimination policy when interacting with other members of our community.
So I think I did the right thing. Its not right to discriminate on the location. My guest was fine! However for those worried, you know what I’ll be doing if anything negative happens to my health (ha!)
After reading the massive long piece I was quite shocked at how elaborate the scam was. I won’t spoil it but its bad then it gets worst still.
Here’s a few choice quotes…
On Airbnb, it turns out, scams aren’t just the preserve of lone chancers. As the short-term rental goldrush gathers pace, Airbnb empires are being rapidly scaled and monetised, with professional operators creating scores of fake accounts, fake listings and fake reviews to run rings around Airbnb, local law enforcement and the guests who place their trust in the platform. Reviews from guests paint a grim picture of people who have been tricked into staying in accommodation with blocked drains, broken fixtures and fittings, filthy floors, dirty bed linen – or, in some cases, accommodation that they simply did not book.
All of these accounts are essentially one person, or at least one company. And yet they have all passed Airbnb’s account verification and safety processes, with most supplying government identification, selfies, email addresses and phone numbers. Two of these accounts, though, are more closely connected than the rest: Leon and Robert Lusso Management. And that’s because they both used to be called Christian.
I noticed from my experience as a host (super host even), lots of guests don’t do the research. Don’t get me wrong, the scams are elaborate but few read the reviews and ask the right questions of the host.
According to Inside Airbnb, a service that scrapes Airbnb to shine a light on the platform’s impact on cities around the world, there are an estimated 36,964 listings on Airbnb in London that are listed by a host with at least one other listing. While Airbnb presents itself as a sharing economy company, the business of hosting is becoming increasingly systemised and professionalised, with critics arguing that businesses are able to make huge sums of money at the expense of local residents who are unable to access properties locked away by the short-term rental gold rush.
So what, if anything, can be done about it? To date, attempts to adequately regulate and police Airbnb listings have been spasmodic at best, leading to a patchwork of confusing, siloed approaches. In December 2019, more concerted regulation efforts were dealt a blow when the European Court of Justice ruled that Airbnb was an “information society service”, not a real estate agency. Such rulings mean that cities must continue to act alone – with mixed success.
Really interesting to look at inside Airbnb as a host in Manchester. But its clear councils can’t keep up with the Airbnb (gravy) train and the scammers know this too well. Could Airbnb do more stop this? Yes a bit but honestly…
Got to hand it to the heartbreak theatre experience. Myself and my partner planned to experience their outdoor theatre play of Romeo & Juliet in Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens, Didsbury but the Manchester weather is never sympathetic to outdoor events, so we watched it in a church hall instead.
Regardless it was great to see and very enjoyable, certainly deserved a note on my blog. Really fun and great to see improve working well for this talented group.
There was a feedback paper form but with no pen to fill it in, it seemed like a better idea to blog it instead.
As you likely guessed from previous posts, I’m not a dog person at all. I’ve been bitten too many times and are generally nervous around them. But I get there are people who love their dog like its their family members (ok I do find that odd).
But I find dogs in cafes questionable.
I have seen dogs on seats, chairs and table tops. Witnessed and left as they have barked the place down, attacked each other, seen them walking around loose with no lead. Its seriously not a place where I feel comfortable and I’m sure others feel the same; even the dog lovers.
This is why I was impressed to see Ezra & Gil’s #Ezrapetiquette (even if it looks like Ez-rape?).
Ensure your dog is housetrained.
Your dog is well behaved & can sit, stay & come on command.
Your dog is kept on a lead at all times.
Make sure your dog doesn’t disturb other customers.
Your dog is kept on a floor & away from food.
Your dog is not anxious & uncomfortable around people.
Pack waste bags incase of any accidents,
Dog Lovers – please ensure you ask owners permission before petting their dogs.
This might seem very obvious, but like many conferences include a code of conduct. Some people need a little reminder and theres got to be a clear expression of whats accepted and not. Dogs on tables and chairs wouldn’t be accepted if I was writing one.
Under the Act, it’s illegal for a dog to be ‘out of control’ or to bite or attack someone. The legislation also makes it an offence if a person is worried or afraid (the term is ‘reasonable apprehension’) that a dog may bite them. So it’s important to ensure that your dog is kept under control at all times and in all places.
Something to remind dog owners of as I head for the door next time.
We (BBC R&D) helped NESTA to explore what the general public think about the internet. It was during a bitterly cold day but me, Rhia and Vicky took to the streets of Manchester to ask the public in a series of vox-pox interviews.
The results surprised me, as it was clear most were concerned and have serious but diverse reasons. Some gave short and some in-depth detailed experiences. The video only scratches the surface.
In March 2019, the World Wide Web turned thirty, and October will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the internet itself. These anniversaries offer us an important opportunity to reflect on the internet’s history, but also a chance to ponder its future.
Massive thanks to the people of Manchester who answered our questions even with the weather at close to zero degrees!
My parents asked me what I want to do for my birthday late last year. They were thinking I could do a big party in Bristol. But I suggested why not have three of them instead?
Each party/bash representing a section of my life so far.
Of course my parents thought it was too much, but I was certain it was a good idea and I could do it.
Happy to say I was right. I had planned to put in sometime at the theme parks of England (Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Blackpool) but due to half-term decided I’d better not because I would end up in queues (Love the European theme parks for this). Plus I decided I could fit everything around work (or work around everything). I won’t lie, I would have been absolutely exhausted if I did!
So it happened and I was blown away by the friends and family who attended but also helped make the whole thing happen. Couldn’t have done it all without them! Thanks to everyone who came, gave their time, cards (I got so many cards I had to shift them around the flat) and even gifts. Also thanks for all the people who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it for different reasons.
Thank you to everyone again! 40 started with a bang, look out for 50 – ha!
Soon I will turn 40. Most people fear or can’t imagine ever getting to 40 but I’m much less worried about that. I kind of feel young and although there are noticeable changes like grey hair in my facial hair, creaky knees and a noticeable lack of excess energy.
Regardless I’m still playing Volleyball regularly and trying a few other things including trying Basketball again (that was hard work!). My eye sight is incredible and off the charts for my age, I have been told.
Well my vision is off the charts for my age according to optical express… 😁
The only strange thing for me is being at the BBC for coming up to 15 years! I joined just after my birthday. I still feel quite young even with all the younger people I work with.
The 40th is usually a big one and as usual I decided to do something different for it. I decided to do 3 party’s, each one representing the three different cities/eras of my life so far.
I had planned to fit theme park trips to Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and Blackpool pleasure beach too. But frankly it was too much and with the Easter holidays it meant the parks would likely be packed with kids also trying to get on the rides.