The estate has been bought by investors and is slowly being re-developed into swish urban flats. The first block is complete, and the flats are all sold. People live here, side by side with the silent, battered hulks of the other blocks. It must be a strange feeling to look out of your window onto all this decay. Would it be better or worse to look out over hundreds of shiny new flats, full of people who can afford to live in them?
|Park Hill flats, Sheffield. Left - derelict flats. Right - the renovated block|
Surprisingly, there is nothing to stop you from walking into the derelict estate, and even climbing the stairs up to the 'streets in the sky' (the original architect's vision of the high-rise corridors that provide access to the individual flats). I climbed up, and up, until I reached a barred gate. While I was up inside the block, rain began to pour down in a heavy shower, typical of Sheffield weather. It passed within a few minutes, and the sun came back out.
|These walkways were designed to be wide enough for a milk float|
The grounds are untended. Grass grows high and sprouts out between the paving slabs. Benches are battered but intact. Bins have no bin-liners, no rubbish. An empty play-area looks like it would have been fun to use, once.
There is one remaining feature of the old Park Hill - the Grace Owen Nursery School. The classrooms and playground are still operating, crowded in by the huge, empty tenements.
I left Park Hill feeling uplifted and grateful to have seen it in its halfway state, before its old nature is erased completely. If the developers' plans run smoothly, the whole place will be shiny, gentrified and rainbow-panelled in a few years' time, and its period of restful decline will be over. My affection for Park Hill and my interest in its story are not universally shared - many Sheffield residents loathe the blocks and would gladly have seen them demolished (as they might have been if it weren't for their Grade 2 listed status). But I hope it will be a success. I'll be back to see how the story unfolds.