Hope moving in to Dead End Street

AMID THE once proud and industrious terraces of Manchester, chipboard has become a depressing symbol of decay and hostility.

Chipboard lashed across smashed living room windows, chipboard battened across front doors, chipboard to keep the rain out where roof slates were once laid. That is all there is left for rows of pre-1920s redbrick terraces, structurally still attractive, but not worth the effort for landlords who just abandon the houses they can not sell or fill with tenants.

The chipboard is creeping up almost unnoticed on Blakey Street, a 40- house dead end in Longsight, two miles from the centre of Manchester - one of the cities to pilot government plans to buy "unsellable" empty homes and arrest the inner-city blight they breed.

Someone in number nine has made an effort with yellow venetian blinds and a newly painted door, but the house has suddenly become an island. Two terraces to its left and one to its right are empty and barricaded, though the chipboard has not kept an arsonist from number seven, which was set on fire a night or so ago.

Number nine's latest tenant, who has been resident for just a few weeks, is uneasy about speaking out. "I'm not saying too much, but it's not good to see them empty," he murmurs. In streets such as this one, many tenants flit from house to house looking for a marginally better, or cheaper, property to rent.

Wayne Ruddock, 23, has stuck it out at number 34 for three years. He is sceptical about the ability of government solutions to effect change in a poor suburb. "Trouble will happen whatever you do," he says. "The boards keep going up and people move on."

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