Operation exposes squalid damp homes

Council officers have shut down a building in Blackpool because it was so unsafe. Below: council officer, police and fire crews check up on properties on Dickson Road.
Council officers have shut down a building in Blackpool because it was so unsafe. Below: council officer, police and fire crews check up on properties on Dickson Road.
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The shocking living conditions of some of Blackpool’s most vulnerable residents were
today exposed as part of an operation to tackle unfit properties across the resort.

A team of police, firefighters and council officers found a man paying £110 a week to live in a tiny room infested with damp during a series of checks on privately rented properties in the resort’s Claremont ward.

Blackpool Council officers visit properties as part of a selective licensing operation in Claremont, supported by police and the fire service. L-R: Housing enforcement manager Alex Bracken, Sgt Kirsty Whyatt, PC Matt Hornby, planning enforcement officer Jason Bramwell and watch manager Jon Ogden.

Blackpool Council officers visit properties as part of a selective licensing operation in Claremont, supported by police and the fire service. L-R: Housing enforcement manager Alex Bracken, Sgt Kirsty Whyatt, PC Matt Hornby, planning enforcement officer Jason Bramwell and watch manager Jon Ogden.

Half of the properties visited were not up to scratch, officers say.

They also visited a hotel boss who complained of squatters in the garden and guests who refused to leave during a special operation held this week.

On a previous occasion, council officers found one property in South Beach that was so unsafe they had to shut it down immediately.

Blackpool Council’s housing enforcement manager Alex Bracken said: “It was an horrific property.

Pictures of a property in Claremont that was so unsafe it has been closed down by council officers.

Pictures of a property in Claremont that was so unsafe it has been closed down by council officers.

“There were six people living there on a permanent 
basis and a lot of people coming and going, using it as a drugs den.

“It was dangerous – if the property was left open and 
no action taken somebody would have been seriously injured.

“They were absolutely horrific condition as risk of structural collapse – there was no running water or power.”

The Gazette accompanied officers on a visit to a home on Dickson Road, where a man was living in uninhabitable conditions caused by 
extreme damp.

Council officers ordered the landlord to make immediate arrangements to improve the conditions.

Around 700 properties have so far been visited in Claremont and landlords have been ordered to make 
improvements to more than 300 of them or face being closed down.

Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council cabinet member for public safety and enforcement, said: “We simply have to improve standards in private rented accommodation in Blackpool.

“This helps to safeguard both tenants and landlords and prevent a negative knock on effect on the surrounding communities that rundown properties can create.

“This has worked extremely well in South Beach and has led to a drop in anti-social 
behaviour and crime.

“We hope to have the same effect in Claremont and we’ve already identified a range of issues that we’ve been able to solve.”

The team has been visiting every privately rented property in the ward in a bid to help provide support to vulnerable tenants and reduce anti-social behaviour.

Council officers, supported by the emergency services, enter the properties to talk to landlords and residents.

Trained support workers offer help to those who need it, while enforcement action over the standards of properties is taken where necessary.

Blackpool Council said it only closes properties when they pose a direct risk to tenants or the public.

However, it said such cases are rare and where possible the council gives landlords time to address any problems.

Following a visit to a property on Dickson Road, where the owners take in the most vulnerable residents, Kevin Egan, a council support worker, arranged to visit monthly to help tenants access council support services.

He told The Gazette: “We want to keep people living in the area.

“There is nothing we don’t support people with because we don’t want them to move.”

Nesta Taylor, who runs the hostel, which provides residents with warm meals, said: “I have been trying to help these people for a long time and I appreciate this help.

“When someone comes in, they have got issues with their family – it has broken down.

“What we do is we speak to them and make them feel like a family.

There are people in here who don’t even know each other but it is like a second family for them.”

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