Why Blackpool's council estates are now better places to live

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A hundred years after Britain's first council houses were starting to be built, Blackpool Council is still building homes for its residents.

The second phase of a £22m scheme made up of 200 houses on the site of the former Queen's Park tower blocks is now almost complete, while 81 new homes are due to be built at Mereside following the demolition of worn out flats on Troutbeck Crescent.

New council homes at Queen's Park

New council homes at Queen's Park

But it's not just about the bricks and mortar.

Blackpool Coastal Housing (BCH), which is the arms length management company set up to look after the council's 5,000 strong social housing stock, does much more than collect the rent.

(Although it is very good at that, with 98 per cent of rent collected each year.)

A network of support has been put in place which bosses say has helped to curb anti-social behaviour and reduce turnover of properties.

Council houses being built at Grange Park

Council houses being built at Grange Park

This includes projects such as the Positive Transitions scheme which helps young people leaving care make the move to living in their own homes.

John Donnellon, chief executive of BCH, said in the past many care leavers were evicted due to behaviour issues because they found it difficult to adapt to their newly independent status.

But now there are 30 young people settled into stable council accommodation.

Mr Donnellon said: "We have employed two people to provide support as they transition from where they are, for example in foster care or general council care.

Chief executive of Blackpool Coastal Housing John Donnellon

Chief executive of Blackpool Coastal Housing John Donnellon

"About a year before people are due to leave care we have detailed discussions with them, we find them a property and help them with how they become a tenant.

"This is things like how to sort out their bills, decorating etc. It then becomes their property and once they settle in, we link them up with our services such as employment services.

"Since we have had this scheme running, we have not evicted any of the 30.

"It's the right thing to do, but it also makes sense if you have people who are stable and who are not causing anti-social behaviour.

"These are people who with just a bit of extra support can settle down into stable lives."

Support is also offered to other tenants including supported housing for over-55s with community centres such as the one at Ibbison Court on Central Drive where activities are organised to ensure everyone is involved with the community.

Another link up is with Blackpool and the Fylde College to offer adult literacy classes on Grange Park, while BCH's own staff have voluntarily given up their time to run DIY courses.

It was back in 1919 that the Housing and Town Planning Act, also known as the Addison Act after the then minister of health, created the legislation to provide councils with subsidies to build houses in areas where there was high demand.

It was felt better housing was required particularly for soldiers returning from the First World War, and their families.

Here in Blackpool, it was the late 1940s when large scale new estates were built at Grange Park and Mereside.

Both areas have seen further recent development, with more in the pipeline.

The new homes at Troutbeck Crescent on Mereside will be funded through rental income, while former shops on Chepstow Road on Grange Park were demolished last autumn to provide land for future potential development.

Residents are being consulted about what they would like to see there.

Meanwhile changes to rules about how councils can fund new building could free up additional investment cash.

Mr Donnellon said: "The Government has lifted the cap on borrowing, so we can look at whether we can prudentially borrow against the housing revenue account.

"So I think we will see more council housing built as a result of that, and here in Blackpool there is demand for good quality, stable accommodation."

Mel, a photography student at Blackpool and the Fylde College, has recently moved into her first home on Grange Park with the help of the Positive Transitions scheme.

She said the added support had made a hugely positive impact on her wellbeing.

She said: "I had to grow up at a very young age because I was a full-time carer for my mum, and I have two younger brothers.

"So with bringing them up and with the situation I was in, my mental health was all over the place.

"But since moving here I feel my anxieties and other factors have calmed down because I have got the support I need.

"They (the Positive Transitions team) are amazing in what they do, noticing people are struggling and helping people to get out of that situation."