Campaigners have been given fresh hope Rochdale’s landmark "Seven Sisters" flats could be spared demolition after a landlord confirmed it was reviewing all its major projects.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) – which owns the College Bank high rises – has long been planning to drop four of the tower blocks as part of its "masterplan" to regenerate what it calls the "town centre area".

But that was before the landlord was shamed over the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died at the Royal Oldham Hospital in in December 2020 a direct result of "extensive" black mould in the RBH flat he lived in.

Awaab Ishak (Picture: PA)

Awaab Ishak (Picture: PA)

The scandal led to the sacking of chief executive Gareth Swarbrick, whose interim replacement – Yvonne Arrowsmith – has been tasked with turning the beleaguered mutual around.

Ms Arrowsmith – who is heading up RBH’s "recovery plan" – this week told councillors the organisation was prioritising its existing stock ahead of building any new homes.

And she later confirmed that it was "currently relooking at all of our of key projects" following an enquiry by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The College Bank Support Group has welcomed the intention to look again at the "wasteful and widely opposed demolition plans" for the Seven Sisters.

Seven Sisters flats on College Bank in Rochdale (Picture: Google Maps)

'Seven Sisters' flats on College Bank in Rochdale (Picture: Google Maps)

Chair Mark Slater said: “We are obviously in favour of the intention to provide ‘good quality homes for our current and future tenants’ but we have a strong and focused concern for the current waiting list of over 20,000 people.

“The best way to protect the existing community and restore confidence in RBH, while dealing with the housing crisis in Rochdale is to save the Seven Sisters, preserving hundreds of desperately needed homes for social rent.”

However, Mr Slater described a recent consultation exercise as "simply a rehash of previous consultations" with no clarity or detailed plans about the future options for College Bank.

“We are aware that many tenants and residents weren’t aware of any new consultations,” he added.

Ms Arrowsmith gave an update on the progress of the RBH "recovery plan" at a council scrutiny meeting on Tuesday night.

She acknowledged the recovery programme would not be a "quick fix" and would take between 18 months and two years to complete.

“There are some choices that will need to be made, because clearly we are prioritising the quality of our homes. We only have a certain amount of money and we need to look at if we are doing that, are there other things we are going to have to stop doing?”

RBH coffers were put under further pressure when housing secretary Michael Gove last year withheld £1m funding from RBH until "it can prove it is a responsible landlord".

Ms Arrowsmith told councillors this would put a constraint on housebuilding for the foreseeable future.

“They still want us to build new homes but we can’t do everything for the same amount of money,” she said.

“I think, at the moment, we are not saying we won’t ever develop again, what we are saying is that at the moment we need to get our existing stock right.”

She also stressed that the recent consultation was focused on neighbouring Lower Falinge – also part of the masterplan area – rather than College Bank.

She said: “We made a clear promise to residents in the town centre area that we would continue to update them on the position whenever we have new information to share.

“The focus of the recent consultation was on the next plans for Lower Falinge.

"We also provided an update for residents on the masterplan for the entire College Bank and Lower Falinge town centre area.

“We will continue to update residents as soon as we have information to share. We have recently met with Representatives from the College Bank Support Group and our door is always open to them.”

It comes after he government last year gave the council permission to again open a Housing Revenue Account (HRA) with no "legacy debt" – opening the door to the council again owning and managing its own social housing stock.

Bosses are now awaiting the findings of two reports – one that will explore the possibility bringing the Seven Sisters back under local authority ownership, and a second that will look into building council houses in the borough for the first time in 20 years.