Hoteliers’ fury over slums takeover

Hoteliers held a public meeting at the Stanley Road Working Mens Club in Blackpool

Hoteliers held a public meeting at the Stanley Road Working Mens Club in Blackpool

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ANGRY hoteliers have called on town bosses to prevent Blackpool from being taken over by slum homes.

Hundreds gathered to vent their anger at the tide of anti-social behaviour which they claim is overwhelming the resort’s holiday areas.

Drug dealing, violence, drunkenness and properties allowed to fall into disrepair are blighting the visitor economy, a packed public meeting was told.

Traders from across the town said the problems were exacerbated by the growing number of former guesthouses being used as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

There are now 3,000 HMOs spread across the town.

Hoteliers and traders told yesterday’s meeting at Stanley Working Men’s Club their livelihoods were under threat because of the problems.

Colin Johnson, of The Memphis Hotel on Palatine Road, said: “We have squatters on our street. They are on drugs and living in properties in a degrading state.

“People drive round looking for hotels to stay in and they say they’re not booking in here when they can see what’s across the road. It’s like Beirut.

“There are lots of properties like this in Blackpool, why aren’t we getting rid of them?”

Phil Dunne, chairman of the Gateway Area Forum, which covers Talbot ward, said: “We had a property near our place for a year where there was serious drug dealing going on.

“It is now boarded up and peace eventually returned – but it took a year.”

Hoteliers said the problems were not restricted to central Blackpool.

Len Booth, of Tyldesley Road, South Shore, said: “I have been reporting drug dealing for the last six years. It’s still continuing on a daily basis.”

Mick Grewcock, of Burbage Lodge and Queens Mansions holiday apartments in Bispham, said: “We have invested £500,000 in our property only for our guests to have to look out on a disgusting property behind.

“Unless we stop this rot soon, HMOs will be taking the whole town over.”

The owner of the Mayfield Hotel on Holmfield Road, said problems were also spreading to North Shore.

He said: “When I first came here five years ago, it was a lovely place to be.

“But it’s spread even to leafy North Shore now. I sit watching the same people deal outside the front of my hotel.”

Drunken behaviour in Vance Street and a guest being the victim of a “happy slapping” attack were among other instances of anti-social behaviour raised at the meeting.

Council chiefs admitted there was a “lucrative market” for landlords who are renting cheap accommodation out to troublesome tenants from other parts of the country.

They say new measures to control landlords and prevent the wholesale conversion of failing hotels to HMOs were being implemented.

The council said it was also now working with other local authorities to halt the influx of people through agencies such as the Probation Service.

John Donnellon, assistant director for housing, planning and transportation at Blackpool Council, said the council was using its powers to tackle the problems.

But he warned: “We are fighting a very fierce market which produces a really strong revenue for people who run HMOs.

“If you are a social worker trying to place a problem youngster, one of the driving factors will be where you can find accommodation and the problem is, in Blackpool, you can find accommodation.

“So we have to try to change the market.

“You have to charge a rent that precludes some of these people from being dumped in Blackpool as a last resort.”

He said the council was trying to tackle the issue on a number of fronts – more controls over landlords, changing the housing market profile to provide more family homes, rigorous enforcement action, planning controls and by changing housing allowance rules at government level.

The council’s new selective licensing scheme means property landlords must meet stringent standards or face fines of up to £20,000.

It is hoped that by forcing investment in accommodation, landlords will have to charge higher rents to recoup their money thus forcing up the quality of both the property and the type of tenants.

Yesterday’s meeting was hosted by the Central Holiday Area Pressure Group, which represents streets including Charnley Road, Reads Avenue, Hull Road, Vance Road and Coronation Street.

Police said they were tackling anti-social behaviour.

Chief Inspector Sue Cawley, of Blackpool Police, said: “We want to support you in policing your community and your town adequately and effectively.

“We want to remove the anti-social behaviour and offenders blighting the communities you live in.

“There is no turning a blind eye or walking away.”

The police said arrests were being made to tackle drug dealing.

John Clarke, of Metcalfe’s Estate Agency, said landlords who wanted to provide family accommodation were being thwarted by the council.

He said; “I looked at nine holiday flats I wanted to convert to three flats but I was told under the new guidelines, the only thing I could convert nine flats to was a house.”