It was one of Greater Manchester’s most notorious estates. Once described as an “island of deprivation in a sea of influx”, The Racecourse estate in Comes out was considered a no-go zone.
Built amid high optimism in the 1960s, it was supposed to be the finest among the council’s estate programme. But the area soon became neglected, run-down and overtaken by crime. Life on the estate became so dire, even night buses were canceled due to anti-social behaviour.
In March 1997, the estate’s reputation hit an all-time low when shop owner Ian Marshall was murdered inside his own off-licence on West Parade. The 48-year-old was shot in the head while trying to protect his father-in-law from two robbers.
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Then, in the early 2000s, developers pumped millions into improving homes in the area. New kitchens, bathrooms and double-glazing were installed in a bid to upgrade 1,800 homes on the estate.
The attack sent shock waves through the community, prompting residents to tackle the area’s problems. Residents set up an action group – a youth entertainment support committee – aiming to arrange activities to get youngsters off the streets.
Where properties remained vacant, a waiting list started to grow. Extra security was also provided, youth workers and rangers were recruited and, with the help of the police, crime was slashed. In the years that followed, burglary rates reduced by 70 per cent.
The transformation was so successful, the Irwell Valley Housing Association won awards for its work, along with a number of individuals who lived there.
Fast forward to 2022 and residents say the estate has completely changed. While some say it still has its problems – like anywhere else in the country – those living there say it’s generally become a quiet place to live with a great community spirit.
A 56-year-old resident, who has lived on the estate for more than two decades, told the Manchester Evening News the area has “quietened down so much” over the years.
“You don’t have people running about the estate with firearms anymore,” he says, “There used to be a post office that got robbed in the middle of the day. There would be car chases, but there’s none of that anymore.
“It’s quietened down so much. Even then you weren’t in any bother or trouble. Whatever was going on then was going on with them. If you walked past it, you were fine. It’s changed for the better, definitely.
“You’ve got local shops, it’s brilliant. I’ve been here for 22 years; it’s awesome. Look at it – how can you not like it? It’s friendly. Everyone knows everyone. You can’t walk down the road without bumping into someone.”
Cliff Boland, who works as a caretaker for nearby Kempton Court Retirement Apartments, has lived on Racecourse Estate since he was 11-years-old.
“There’s nowhere near as much trouble, aggro or violence as there used to be like everywhere else in Manchester going back to the 80s,” the 60-year-old told the MEN
“When I was younger, it didn’t really matter to me. When you live here you don’t get mugged when you look like a mugger. When The Racecourse estate was built, it was built in a very affluent area. It looked worse than it was because of the contrast.
“It’s going to look like a massive contrast when there are leafy fields here. It was posh Sale when they moved the estate here. So, it will get a bad rep. One friend from Wythenshawe said he was scared to go there. (The problems were) mainly violence, alcohol, theft and burglaries.
“I’ve lived here since I was 11. There’s more of a community feel now and it’s much more multicultural. I think there could be a lot more done for the youth – I’ve noticed there isn’t as much as when I was a kid.
“Estates like this have a fair majority of kids. If they get a bad rep, it’s because they’re bored sh****** and have nothing to do. We’ve lost things in the community like the pubs, there used to be three and now there’s one.”
Neil Doherty has lived on The Racecourse estate for 50 years. While he says the area has improved, there’s “always something going on” in terms of police activity.
“I remember when I was a kid, you could leave your doors open but you can’t do that now,” the 57-year-old says. “I’ve lived here 50 years. To be honest I don’t take that much notice of what goes on.
“There’s always been crime here as far back as I can remember. When I was younger, I didn’t see as much. We have the police helicopter over most nights. There’s always something going on. There are always police chases – the amount of time we hear stolen cars screeching up here.
Another resident, who did not wish to give his name, told the MEN the estate has changed “a lot” over the years – and that’s mostly down to the people who live there now.
“I think it’s a nice place to live,” the 62-year-old added. “I think it’s changed a lot over the years; you have better people living here than before. It’s changed a lot. It’s more developed than before. People have a perception about The Racecourse estate, but I do like it.
“People come here and say it’s a nice spot. People have a bad perception because of the past. “I know crime rates are high but they are everywhere.”
Alfie Gates, 18, has lived on the estate his whole life. While he heard the area used to be “rough”, he thinks the estate is a good place to live.
“It’s not as bad as it used to be. It’s a good place. I’ve lived here all my life,” he says. “There’s a pub own there. You’d think it would be proper rough but it’s a good atmosphere and all that. “It’s not like how it used to be. I heard it used to be proper rough with gun crime.”
Resident Anne Parker described Racecourse estate as a “friendly” place where “everyone knows everyone”. While she says life in the area is a lot quieter now, she does miss the row of shops that no longer exists.
“It’s gone a lot quieter because we had a pub at the end,” the 81-year-old told the MEN “Back then, it caused a lot of problems. We had the shops – I do miss them. It’s a shame because we had a hairdresser, a butcher and a grocer.
“We have Tesco’s but it’s a fair walk. The only thing I do object to is that they don’t maintain the roads very well. I’ve been here 52 years. When I moved here there was nothing. It’s friendly – everyone knows everyone.”
Jackie Michelle, who grew up on the estate, now lives in Carrington. “It’s miles better now,” the 60-year-old says. “I don’t live here anymore. I had friends and family here.”
Cliff Doyle, 58, says while the estate has the occasional issue, everyone who lives there tends to get along. “The back of the estate has always been the rough part,” he added. “Not a lot goes on anymore. You get the odd thing, but that happens on every estate. “In the main part everyone gets along. There have been a few changes over the year; it takes time.”
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