Just two compulsory purchase orders are holding up a £50m redevelopment of central Blackpool.
Former guest houses on Tyldesley Road, Rigby Road and Blundell Street are being pulled down in preparation for the construction of a new housing development named Foxhall Village – but the scheme has stalled for three years as council chiefs battle to complete the last legalities.
That development, by Hollinwood Homes in conjunction with Blackpool Council, is costing £50m and will see 400 houses built between Central Drive and the Promenade, either side of Rigby Road.
Some sections of the scheme have already been completed, with the first residents moving in last year.
But one Blackpool publican says he is fed up with trading in a demolition zone.
Hamish Howitt, who runs the Happy Scots bar in Rigby Road, feels the area around his pub has been ‘abandoned’.
And council bosses say they have sympathy with him as they battle to complete two compulsory purchase orders which will allow the whole area to be redeveloped.
But Mr Howitt says the site closest to the Promenade has been left derelict for three summer seasons, insisting he cannot financially handle a fourth.
Mr Howitt said: “It’s been like this for three seasons now.
“There are derelict buildings, they are falling down.
“The glass is smashed, people are getting inside.
“There are used needles close to the fence.
“The boarding they put up to screen the land they’ve cleared is falling apart.
“In town they spend £20,000 on decorating the hoarding at the Yates site.
“We get nothing.”
Blackpool Council says it is equally frustrated over the lack of progress at Tyldesley Road and Blundell Street.
The authority has been trying to purchase two remaining properties for several years.
The owners of both properties have fought against compulsory purchase orders and legal efforts continue.
Coun Christine Wright, Cabinet Member for Housing at Blackpool Council, said: “I completely agree that these properties are an eyesore and it’s really frustrating to us that we haven’t been able to clear the site yet.
“The properties within the site are subject to a compulsory purchase order and, consequently, not all of the buildings are in the council’s possession yet.
“The legal process, which has been out of our hands, has been more protracted than we would have hoped but is now drawing to a conclusion.
“Work is expected to start next year to clear the remaining properties and prepare for the next phase of the housing development, which will help to improve the look of that area significantly.”
In the meantime assurances have been given that Blackpool Council is working hard to prevent anti-social behaviour at other properties, which cannot be pulled down until the purchases are complete.
Coun Wright said: “The site is monitored with an on-site security guard to protect it from further anti-social behaviour.
“I do have sympathy for the local residents and businesses who have to look at these properties every day but hope that they can bear with us with the legal process takes place, as the end result will be much better.”
Mr Howitt is worried that lives are at risk as long as the land remains uncleared.
“It’s not safe,” he said.
“It this was the town centre they wouldn’t be letting this happen.
“I’ve put up with this for three seasons.
“Who is going to come into an area like this?
“If this goes into a fourth season I don’t know how we will cope.
“They have a night watchman living on site 24 hours a day.
“How much is that costing?”
Mr Howitt last year accused Blackpool Council of causing ‘blight’ to his premises – a view rejected by the local authority.
And he is concerned by more than just the slow progress on clearing and developing the later stages of the Foxhall Village scheme.
He said: “You walk people around and they are shocked.
“There’s rubbish being dumped everywhere.
“It’s happening all the time.
“I’ve had it in my fire escape alley and every time I’m paying for it to be cleared.
“There are squatters in some of the old hotels, you can see where they’ve smashed in doors.
“We’re just being left to decline.
“I can understand them wanting a vibrant town centre, but it can’t be at our expense.”
One resident of Tyldesley Road, who asked not to be named, told The Gazette: “It is horrendous at the moment. There’s a sense the work is going to happen, but until it does we feel abandoned. It looks war-torn and it’s attracting the sort of people you don’t want to bump into at night.
“I just hope they get it sorted soon.”