Article compiled by Rob Smith, Lisa Swift, Jennifer McKiernan and Rohan Francis
“No-one will be worse off as a result of the Masterplan”, that was the promise the Council made to the residents of Burngreave. Now eighteen months on, the promise is shown to be an empty one, as homeowners battle with Council valuers and face increasing debt, while families face being split up.
Forced into debt
The Aziz family live in all four houses on Brotherton Street. Their close proximity to each other means they can look after each other’s children and their elderly mother who lives on the street. Fahid owns her house outright and what she has been offered will not buy her a new house anywhere, and she will be forced into debt.
“I want to work to live, not to pay off debt.”
Her sister, who lives next door said:
“We’ve been promised all sorts.That we could move back here when it’s rebuilt, but that’s not true.My mum was promised a bungalow on Catherine Road, but it was allocated to someone else before we could even apply.
“We’ve been to meetings, but it’s pointless, they don’t listen. And not once have they provided an interpreter. If they want to regenerate the area, why don’t they sort out that park on Catherine Street?”
Fahid told us, “We’re not moving, why should we? We feel safe here together, we’ve lived in Burngreave all our lives and in these houses for ten years, why should we go? We can’t look at cheap houses in Parson Cross, that’s for sure, because we’re black, they won’t accept us.”
Need to stay local
Mr Nafiz Abdul Ghafoor is a tenant on Catherine Road and he explained that he was aware of the demolition plans, but he was waiting for his landlord to come to an agreement with the Council, before he would be rehoused.
“I do not object to moving as long as I’m rehoused close to the mosque.” Mr Ghafoor is the holy Imam of the Saddiq Mosque on Burngreave Road. He has to be there five times a day, so living in close proximity is a major priority for him and many others.
‘It’s not Sharia’
On Skinnerthorpe Road it’s been months of wrangling and disagreement. Residents’ own independent surveyors argue that the three-bedroomed houses are worth more than the Council offers.
Shafeeq Ulhaq and Maryam Bibi were offered £57,500 in April, £68,000 in August and now £70,000 for their home on Skinnerthorpe. The Council claim to assess the value of a property to reflect market forces, but £70,000 won’t buy a house anywhere in Burngreave or Fir Vale.
“I don’t want the money, let them find me a house instead because I can’t find one at that price.”
The Council know residents will not be able to buy a new house, so they are offering Relocation Loans, but Mr Ulhaq told the Messenger they are not Sharia compliant. This means they don’t meet Islamic laws. The Islamic Bank of Britain have told the Council they must amend three aspects for the loan to be Sharia compliant, but they are only willing to amend one.
“Its partially okay, but it’s like asking a vegetarian to eat a meal with a little bit of meat. If the loan is not Sharia compliant there is no way we can afford another property.”
Mr Ulhaq’s wife, Maryam, said: “We want the Council to fulfil their promise that they will provide a Shariacompliant loan. If not we want a house for a house of a similar size.
“Sometimes we drive past houses in Upwell, and they are in much worse condition than ours. I don’t know why they chose our road for demolition. People have paid off their mortgages and now they want us to go into debt again. I’m not going to sit here and take it, I’m going to make a noise.We will get a house for a house.”
Mr Mohamed Younis told us he thought it was sad that the whole street was being demolished.
“If they offer me a house for a house, that is okay. I have a disabled child and find things very difficult. Yes, we do want to stay in this area to be honest. I own my house here and they have offered me Council property where I would have to pay rent. I don’t want this, what I want is a house. I have paid for mine already and what they are doing means I lose out.”
Syed Yousef Shah explained they were waiting for a private valuation and he is not happy with the City Council valuers or their offer.
“I bought this three-bedroom house two years ago and they have valued it at £53,000,” said Mr Shah.“Now at that price how am I going to buy anywhere else?”
Mr Mohamed Azzam lives with his wife and two young children. Like many of the others we spoke to, English was his second language, only this man was a tenant rather than an owner-occupier. He’d been to the homeless section of the City Council, they had refused to consider Mr Azzam as an emergency. “You know, I will go anywhere to live, even a one-bedroom flat, as long we have somewhere,” he added.
This was a glimpse of the anxiety and confusion on the street. More than twothirds of residents on Skinnerthorpe are of Pakistani origin, the Messenger spoke to the Pakistan Advice Centre who have been helping some of the residents affected. They explained that letters are not translated and rumours about what residents are entitled to and what will happen, had left many confused.
The Council told the Messenger:
“The process of negotiation does take a long time but this is not because Sheffield City Council wants to get the lowest valuation possible. Our valuers value to reflect market forces, not to try to save the Council money.
“The Council offers owner-occupiers access to a Relocation Appreciation Loan, to help bridge the gap between the value of the current home and the cost of the new home.This only has to be paid if the new house is sold.
“Sheffield City Council encourages families to stay together.Arches new-build properties, which are for rent on the Earldom Close site, have been ‘ring-fenced’ for residents affected by demolition.”
The maximum Council offer the Messenger is aware of is £70,000 for a three-bedroom house on Skinnerthorpe. In the Sheffield Telegraph Property Guide (27th October), the Messenger found only six homes in Sheffield of £70,000 or under, all of them were two bedroom and none of them were in Burngreave. We searched further, on several reliable websites, looking at the S3, S4 and S5 properties, we found twelve houses. All of them were two bedroom, eight of these were in Parson Cross, none were in Burngreave.
We couldn’t find many houses for sale in Burngreave at all, the cheapest we found was £85,000, the next £95,000. Owner occupiers are going to find it difficult to stay in Burngreave, and at the prices on offer impossible to stay out of debt.
But residents do not have to accept what is happening. Nellie Ramsey would not leave the home she owned in the ‘wavy roof’ houses on Woodside. The Council offered her £30,000 four years ago, this could not buy another house anywhere. The Council changed their decision to knock it down and Nellie still lives in that house.
The Council has made a promise, no-one will be worse off, they need to stick to it or the demolition must stop.
Advice & Information
You can get housing advice from Pitsmoor CAB on 0114 275 5376.
Pakistan Advice Centre can give advice on housing, debt and help with translation on 0114 261 9130.
If you want to talk to your councillor, contact the Area Co-ordinator on 0114 276 9134.
The East Regen Team are holding a meeting for the residents of Catherine Street triangle on 14th November — for information contact 0114 261 7216.
For information about properties on the Earldom site contact Arches on 0114 228 8133.