It is now a year since the high rise flats at Queens Park were demolished and the Layton area began to be redeveloped. Shelagh Parkinson reports on how the transformation is developing.
A year on and many of 99 new homes being built in phase two of the £22m transformation of Queens Park are taking shape.
Landlord Blackpool Coastal Housing expects the first properties to be available by November and is already marketing them to prospective tenants.
Meanwhile phase one, also comprising around 99 new homes, is now a thriving new community.
Crowds of people witnessed a moment of history on July 31 last year as Churchill Court, Walter Robinson Court and Elizabeth Court were detonated in order to clear the site.
Many more watched online as the high rises tumbled to the ground in a cloud of dust.
For Beverley Jasper it was a particularly poignant day as she watched the tower which had been her home for 16 years destroyed.
Beverley, 51, had swapped life on the 15th floor of Elizabeth Court for a modern apartment in phase one of the scheme.
I felt gutted seeing the towers come down. It was a great view from my flat in the high rise.
She said: “I lived on the second to top floor of Elizabeth Court, and to be honest, I did enjoy high rise living.
“I had a good neighbour and it was very private and quiet up there.
“But I knew the towers were becoming expensive to maintain, and towards the end there were problems such as the lifts breaking down. That wasn’t great when you live on the 15th floor! I could see the first phase of new homes being built below, and when I was offered chance to move here - it made sense in terms of being able to get to my job.
“At first though I had to get used to ground floor living, such as having a front door which opened out onto a public thoroughfare. I love living here now. My neighbours are all really nice and we all look out for each other.”
But Beverley, who works for Warwick’s Amusements, admits she had mixed feelings on the day of the demolition.
She said: “I was at work when the demolition was happening, so I watched it online.
“I felt gutted seeing the towers come down. It was a great view from my flat in the high rise.
“When I watched the news coverage of the Grenfell Tower fire, my heart really sank because I knew what it was like living so high up.
“We used to have a few fires in the high rises, but they were always contained.”
Beverley moved from a one-bedroom flat in Elizabeth Court to a one bedroomed first floor apartment in the new development.
The first phase was built on the site of the former Ashworth Court and Charles Court tower blocks which were dismantled using cranes.
Contractor Lovell is building the development on behalf of Blackpool Coastal Housing which manages the council’s housing stock.
Coun Christine Wright, cabinet member for Housing, said: “Our residents deserve safe and affordable family homes like the ones we are building in Queens Park and Foxhall village, which are proving popular with the people who are moving in.
“Having a nice home is so important in terms of people’s health and employment outcomes, as well as fostering new communities which care and look after each other.
“As well as the new homes at Queens Park, an improved Layton Rec will also be much better for families and children when it is completed.”
‘Transformation will help improve quality of life’
Coun Gary Coleman represents Brunswick ward which includes Queens Park and has witnessed the transformation of the area.
He said: “Even though the last of the five high rise flats were consigned to history a year ago there still feels a strange emptiness to the skyline.
“I suppose one day we won’t think twice about the new view of Queens Park, but at the moment it still seems odd the tower blocks are not there watching over the town.
“As a councillor for the area I got to meet some wonderful residents, many of whom had lived on the estate for decades.
“There were some great characters, people that would do all they could to help others.
“I used to find it disheartening when the residents of Queens Park were derided simply for living where they did.
“A few years ago it became clear the flats were no longer fit for purpose. The cost of their upkeep was spiralling and the quality of accommodation was not of a standard that should be expected in the modern age.
“It was important for the residents to be involved in and kept informed of the new development. Many took part in consultation events, and a number of their ideas have been incorporated into the creation of the new homes.
“It was quite an occasion a year ago when the blocks came crashing down. You have to commend Forshaw Demolition for the professional manner in which they blew down the buildings.
“I know quite a few folk were surprised at just how precisely the flats fell.
“One of the great things about the new development is how many local people have been involved in the construction.
“I am informed well over half the personnel working on the site are from an FY postcode.
“Blackpool and The Fylde College have had well over a hundred trainees on their ‘Build Up’ programme working on the site and there have been numerous apprenticeships.
“It is fantastic to see the new buildings taking shape. Lovell has been working closely with the council to give residents buildings they can be proud of.
“It hasn’t all been plain sailing of course, there are bound to be disruptions and issues that need attention as a result of such a big development.
“When the re-development is complete I hope all those that live there, both now and in the future, will have pride in their home area.
“The quality of life for generations to come will be so much improved as a result of the development.
“I hope many families will enjoy their new homes and environment, and that children will grow up with happy memories of their childhood at Queens Park.”