“THIS is a chance of a lifetime.”
That was the message from Blackpool residents after five dream plans to replace the neglected high-rise tower blocks on the Queens Park estate in Layton were unveiled to the public.
Around £30m is being poured into the ambitious housing development, which is set to transform Blackpool’s skyline and bring the dilapidated estate into the 21st century.
Residents welcomed the designs which were displayed this week at Blackpool Boys and Girls Club on Laycock Gate.
Gwen King, chairman of Queens Park Residents Association, said: “It’s a chance of a life-time and we’ve only got one opportunity to get it right.
“It’s going to make the estate fit for the 21st century.
“It’s long over-due. High-rise living had its day but people want to be lower down and have a garden, that would be lovely.
“It is important to keep the community atmosphere we have got here. We want to get a village feel.”
The council aims to build 230 properties – 50 of which will be put up for sale and the remainder available to rent – to replace the 504 properties currently on the estate.
The scheme also includes plans to improve community facilities including the Blackpool Boys and Girls Club.
It is hoped building work will begin next spring with the first homes expected to be ready by March 2014 and phase one of the development completed by 2015.
Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for housing on Blackpool Council, said: “We want Queens Park to be the place where everyone wants to live.
“I would be more than happy to live there myself.
“Some people are a bit nervous about it but that’s why we are here with these designs. We want to stop any fears and make the transition as easy as possible for people.
“By the end of the building project, Queens Park is going to be an amazing place to live.”
Some of the developers have suggested building on a large section of recreational ground at the back of the estate, while others hope to move the green space into the centre of the scheme and create a wetlands area at the bottom of the field where there are drainage problems.
Two-storey buildings which could be used as flats or houses have been incorporated into the designs while one developer has suggested introducing three-storey blocks of flats.
Village squares, new community and sports facilities, private gardens and home zones to stop drivers using the estate as a rat run also feature in some of the designs.
And residents were pleased with the suggestions from the developers.
Mrs King added: “The response has been really positive. They are beautiful designs. It’ll be a massive change for people from high-rise level.
“Some people are worried about building on the field. I think people want as much green space on the estate as possible. That would be wonderful.”
Gary Morgan, 51, of Churchill Court, added: “I’ve been on the estate eight years and I love it – everyone is so friendly. Most people want to stay because it’s in a good location.
“They have got rid of all the idiots so it’s become a community.
“At the moment, in the flats, there is no outdoor space of our own. Everyone needs their outdoor space, somewhere to escape to.
“I like the idea of each flat having a balcony or garden.”
Following the consultation, planning officers will pick the final two designs and issue a final brief to the developers, which will reflect comments from the public.
The final two design submissions are then expected to be in within eight weeks.
Steve Matthews, head of strategic housing and planning for Blackpool Council, said: “It’s about creating a really good quality estate where people want to live.
“We have engaged with the Queens Park residents.
“We are really pleased with the quality of the submissions, the developers have really grasped what we are trying to do.”
The total scheme will cost £30m, including the cost of preparing the site and compensating uprooted residents.
Some funding is already in place including a £3m Government grant and £6.5m from the Decent Homes Fund.
Additional money will be borrowed and repaid from rents.