Coronation Street homes sell for pounds 200

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THEY ARE the most familiar northern terraced homes in Britain but they are being sold at auction for as little as pounds 200.

The slate roofs of Reservoir Street in Salford are instantly recognisable because they accompany the credits of the ITV soap opera Coronation Street three nights a week. But what the show does not reveal is the urban nightmare lying beneath them: virtually worthless private properties which are abandoned, some gutted by arsonists, all but 10 in a street of 40 boarded up by chipboard and rusting corrugated iron.

The cheapest in the street, believed to be number 14, went for pounds 200, according to the local Barlow and White estate agents. The manager, Paul Bretell, said he has been offered another house for pounds 900 but refused it. "It was just not worth the hassle," he said.

Like many residents, Ronald Brown is prepared to move just two streets away to be rid of the ghostly terrace preyed upon by burglars. Yesterday, he was moving from 20 Reservoir Street to 63 Alder Street, which is remarkably brighter. "It's quieter here," the pensioner said. Estate agents confirmed it only takes a few positive tenants to create an oasis of respectability which can bring locals in from the next street.

Properties like these in north Manchester - and others in Newcastle's West End - were labelled "unlettable and unsaleable" by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Chartered Institute of Housing, which in a report yesterday highlighted the continued North-to-South drift which is generating huge pressure on housing in the South-east while vacancy levels in the North remain high.

Salford City Council has been powerless to do much about Reservoir Street because the homes are not council-owned. The number of empty properties in that district now totals 2,500 because young families consider the old terraces too cramped and landlords often have little to do with the places. Privately, the council also admits that many families only move in because they have been asked to leave other properties. They will be on their way again within six weeks.

Hope rests with the council's bid for pounds 25m of Single Regeneration Budget cash which will enable the compulsory purchase of streets like Reservoir. The terraces may be bulldozed or redeveloped.

In Newcastle - where 1,500 council properties stand empty and 3,000 have been demolished since 1998 - a regeneration scheme running into hundreds of millions of pounds was launched last week.

Richard Best, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, admitted northern property would remain at the mercy of market forces, whatever was spent on improvements.