But no golden touch (apart from top executive salaries). 2009- another year and another £2,000,000 of Rochdale Development (sic) budget spent with little change to show for it.
Today's presentation at the Tesco-funded Link4Life Middleton Arena lasted a whole 2 hours. Short and sweet - unlike the lukewarm coffee served with the nibbles. Perhaps the RDA bigwigs knew that RAW were in da house. Some of the comments made by Messers Hudson and Ellis hinted that they were a tad RAW at "negative" comments about Rochdale's "exciting" regeneration plans.
During difficult economic times when council workers face savage job and wage cuts, it was comforting to know that the RDA had invested wisely in a glossy show presented by a BBC "celebrity" - politics correspondent Jim Hancock.
The climax of today's conference was "exciting" jobs news for the muddy, empty fields of Kingsway business park. For weeks the RDA spin machine had been in overdrive with rumours of "excellent" news. Talk of "international" investment of scores of "quality careers".
When finally announced there was a feeling of embarressed underwhelm, like getting socks for a Christmas present. When the details were quickly analysed, was a giggle heard at the back of the room? One hack had calculated the full extent of the RDA jobs coup- a small site employing 50 was to close in Castleton and move to Kingsway. A projected 16 future jobs are in the pipeline.
16 jobs for a £350,000,000 "field of dreams" that was supposed to create up to 10,000 high quality careers? At this rate, the gilded tarmac on the £10,000,000 kilometre long road to nowhere will never wear out.
The promises and hype of earlier RDA annual conferences now sound very hollow. Shattered dreams and broken promises.
Rochdale deserves more than deluded vain spin mismanaged by grossly overpaid, yet woefully underperforming, senior executive officers.
Away from the glossy brochures and smooth corporate patter, there is a bitter reality that local people know only too well - the RDA has failed our town. The Rochdale Development Agency is not fit for purpose, but don't take our opinion for it, take a gander at the RAW slideshow of Rochdale projects that have been touched by RDA "magic":
Lets take a whistlestop magic carpet ride around Rochdale... perhaps Mr Hancock could investigate this ongoing scandal as part of his day job?
Away from Middleton town centre, sold down the river for a Link4Life leisure complex deal to obtain a smaller swimming baths in return for a "Tescopoly" that could damage independent traders. Civic silver disposed off. Has it been value for money?
Over to Castleton. The closed gates of the 100 year old Whipp and Bourne factory- now rubble.
Were hundreds of quality engineering jobs destroyed in a botched planning deal? Weren't the manufacturing jobs supposed to be secured with RDA helping to "facilitate" the Babcock Group factory move to new Kingway presmises? In return for the old site getting lucrative planning permission for an "exciting" mixed use urban village? What happened? The jobs left town and we are left with a pile of rubble where a powerhouse of our industrial economy once was.
Then just down the road in Castleton village to the massive Woolworths offices and distribution centre.
Now empty. Critics say that the RDA took its eye off the ball by putting all its eggs into the Kingsway vanity project. Now all we have to show for over £30,000,000 of "seedcorn" investment is little more than a bad, eggy smell. Rochdale is full of empty retail, office and warehouse space. We need more, expensive tin sheds just off Junction 21a like a second arsehole.
Don't we pay far over the odds for the archoles we already have?
a random assortment of highly paid senior executives
Whilst the RDA and the c.£2,000,000 Rochdale Council media unit spin defensive soundbites for Cllr Sharif (Regeneration portfolio holder), take a look at Kingsway for yourself.
Kingsway- a new landscape for business- indeed - empty muddy fields.An abandoned construction yard where the luxury hotel was supposed to be?
About 100 jobs delivered in the first 10 years- 9900 to go?
To experience the multi-million pound tarmac muppetdom, navigate the crazy new road junctions- Sudden, Townhead and Queensway. Enjoy the "exciting" prospect of added danger and time to your journey.
Over in Littleborough is the former Akzo chemical site. Apparently "no major contamination" according to the RDA? Did they tell a local councillor that all Akzo ever made there was "just a bit of washing up liquid"? Past frothy RDA "Renaissance Masterplans" earmarked this site for an "urban village" with a promised hotel and swimming pool. The only swimmers now are ducks on the nearby canal - next to where the mystery chemical drums were buried and forgotten about in the 1960's.
Today's RDA "Masterplan" reality is a rubble-strewn wasteland.
Following that theme is Rochdale's former main hospital site- Birch Hill.
Sold off to propertydevelopers for another "urban village". The future of our town's hospital provision was transfered to landlocked Rochdale Infirmary. Sheer genius - as there were no real chances of expansion. Was the downgraded fate of Rochdale's A&E, Maternity and expanded hospital provision destroyed by RDA meddling?
On the topic of doomed housing projects touched by the RDA magic, lets pass the Halifax Rd bungalows of very old and vulnerble Rochdalians threatened with the demolition ball. Those plans are currently in limbo- or are they?
Tangible destruction can be seen nearby- the poppy fields and bombsites of Wardleworth were perfectly serviceable houses stood just a few months ago.
Under "Pathfinder", has Rochdale demolished more homes that it has actually built in their place?
How about the cash black hole that is Dale Mill? Another rubble strewn joke that Roger Ellsi and John Hudson weres desperate to keep quiet. Is it to have more millions thrown at it?
Kirkholt - Solid post war council houses demolished? Recently refurbished flats torn down?
Take the muddy rubble that once was home to the very old and vulnerable folk of the Guinness Trust homes off Milnrow Road.
Was this destruction planned to allow speculation of "executive apartments" next to the proposed new Metrolink line? The £200,000,000 tram line that will destroy a rail route? Celebrated by a grinning Paul Rowen MP (who also happens to be Chairman of the Parliamentary Light Rail Group?)
Then there is the rubble opposite Paul Rowen's offices at 142a/144 Drake Street - a flattened retail park...
Then the c.£2,000,000 spent by Rochdale Council for "speculative" office development at Lock 50? Empty for months so finally occupied by the RDA themselves?
Or the empty shops, offices and "bombsites" down Drake Street and throughout Rochdale Town centre?
Rubble prepared for a £15,000,000 "Transport Interchange" to move the bus station a mere 15 yards?
But there is of course the "exciting" £200-500,000,000 regeneration plans for a small area of the town centre (currently mostly owned by RMBC and GMPTE?). Plans so exciting that only ONE developer is in the running? A competition of just one? Secret plans to change the regeneration process so that the Impact Partnership £60,000,000 PFI civic office project can still go ahead? Is this a case of "jobs for the boys" whilst hundreds of vulnerable, mostly female, council workers face the boot?
So there we have it. Facts and photos about areas "touched" by the magic of the Rochdale Development (sic) Agency.
We love our town. We hate how its soul has been ripped apart. We hate how vain mismanagement and failure is destroying Rochdale. We detest the spin, the lies, the threats and the corporate bullying that allows property speculators to flourish and senior, unelected executives profit from obscene salaries and pension perks.
How much more will the citizens of Rochdale stand?
Rochdale deserves much better than this.