Battle to save Blackpool homes from drive-through coffee shop threat

Residents face a desperate battle to save their homes after petrol station bosses revealed plans to demolish a mobile home park.

Monday, 30th January 2017, 8:14 am
Updated Monday, 30th January 2017, 2:16 pm
Residents at Windmill Caravan Park fear they could lose their homes following a planning application for a drive-thru by the nearby petrol station.  Pictured L-R are Ralph Carter, Steven Roy Gratrix and Terry Duran from the Windmill Park Residents Association.
Residents at Windmill Caravan Park fear they could lose their homes following a planning application for a drive-thru by the nearby petrol station. Pictured L-R are Ralph Carter, Steven Roy Gratrix and Terry Duran from the Windmill Park Residents Association.

People living on the Windmill Caravan Park on Preston New Road in Blackpool were shocked to discover proposals to bulldoze the site to make way for a drive-through coffee shop.

Now they are calling on councillors to throw out the plans.

One resident said he was angry at the prospect of losing his home just so someone could “pull up for a cup of coffee.”

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Rontec has applied for planning permission to redevelop the land at the back of its garage which operates under the Esso banner.

It owns the land although residents own the 12 mobile homes on the site, but covenants are in place to restrict future development.

A third party leases the land to the individual caravan owners and is currently in dispute with Rontec over the lease.

Rontec’s application says it wants to build a single storey building with parking for 26 cars “following demolition of existing residential caravan park”.

Residents say they only found out about the proposals when they were notified by the council.

Steven Gratrix, 61, said: “I’ve lived here for 18 years and we have a good community here.

“Most of the residents are elderly and if they were to bulldoze the site we don’t have the money to go anywhere else.”

Mr Gratrix, who is the son of former Blackpool footballing legend Roy Gratix, added: “I can’t see that for the sake of people being able to pull up for a cup of coffee we should face losing our homes.

“To live here and find out plans have gone in to demolish your home without even a letter from the developer is soul destroying.

“I think homes are more important than a coffee shop.”

Terry Duncan, 72, has lived in his home for four years and invested thousands of pounds.

He said: “I came here for a stable place to live and this has come as a terrible wrench.

“I have got to the state where if I have to come off here, life isn’t worth living.

“Where do I go? I have a daughter, but she lives in London.”

Another resident Ralph Carter, 80, has lived there more than 20 years.

He said: “At my age the thought of upping sticks and moving elsewhere is daunting. I don’t know where I would go.”

A spokesman for Rontec said: “Although the lease for the Windmill Caravan Park expired at the end of January 2016, legal proceedings are ongoing between Rontec and the organisation to whom the land was let.

“It is this organisation, not Rontec, that has sublet parcels of land to individual caravan owners and it is to this organisation that the caravan owners should direct any complaints.

“Rontec has fully complied with all its legal obligations.”

The caravan park is believed to have been on the land since the 1940s.

Land Registry documents show it was sold by farmer John Kirkham in 1989 to Elf Properties, which operated Total Garages and was later taken over by Rontec.

In 2015 Rontec applied for planning permission to build a shop on the existing garage site but it was refused by Blackpool Council on traffic safety grounds.

The site is surrounded by land on Whyndyke Farm earmarked for 1,400 new homes, a school and community facilities which will involve major changes to the carriageway on Preston New Road.

Mr Gratrix said residents would object to the application.

Documents accompanying the planning application say the proposed development would “improve the existing facilities” at the service station, and the proposed layout is “considered to offer the most efficient and convenient format in terms of site configuration, to accommodate the drive-thru coffee shop and customer parking provision.”

The application will be considered by both Fylde and Blackpool councils because the site is within Fylde’s boundaries, but access is within Blackpool’s jurisdiction.