Demolition plan for iconic flats

Queens Park, flats, Layton, Blackpool.
Queens Park, flats, Layton, Blackpool.
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BLACKPOOL’S skyline could change for ever with proposals to demolish its high rise estate.

Town hall chiefs are considering calling in the bulldozers because the cost of maintaining the unpopular blocks could leave council tax-payers with an £11m bill.

Residents of Queens Park in Layton will be consulted this month about the future of the tower blocks which are desperately in need of repair. The council already has £4m from its Decent Homes programme to spend on the estate but is considering whether the best way forward would instead be to knock the five towers down and start again.

Steve Matthews, head of housing at Blackpool Council, told The Gazette: “Queens Park is unpopular, the turnover of tenants is very high and it is very expensive to maintain.

“We are going to the residents to gauge their opinion of the estate and to find out whether their feelings would be for a partial or comprehensive redevelopment.

“We can bring all the homes up to the decent homes standard using the £4m funding we have but that won’t change the character of the estate.

“Or we could clear the lot and come back with a whole range of new houses and apartments so people who wanted to stay in the area could.

“Queens Park will cost taxpayers £11m over the next 30 years on top of the rent we get in because of the high cost of maintenance.”

Housing experts have warned the spiralling cost of maintaining the blocks will be entirely on the shoulders of taxpayers from next April as changes in funding arrangements mean local authorities will no longer get Government cash to help meet the costs of preserving their housing stock.

Bosses say the estate has too many one-bedroomed flats, for which there is little demand, and there is a high turnover of tenants.

Residents will be asked to consider options which range from leaving the estate as it is but giving it a £4m upgrade using the Decent Homes funding to demolishing all five tower blocks plus the low level accommodation on surrounding streets.

The latter option would see new social housing built using the Decent Homes funding plus the savings made on maintenance and by accessing government grants.

Other options include partial demolition which could see only the tallest tower block – Walter Robinson Court, which contains most one-bedroom accommodation – plus some of the street level accommodation bulldozed.

Any redevelopment would be phased over a number of years.

But the Queens Park Residents Association said residents were happy on the estate.

Chairman Gwen King said: “We welcome the council having a consultation with the residents as long as it is transparent, honest and true.

“Walter Robinson Court is always full and there are some long term tenants who have lived there since it was built. The residents like living here because it’s handy for local amenities, transport links and the like. We have a good community and people like the security of being council tenants.”

A consultation day will be held on the estate on Wednesday June 15.

Charles Court, Ashworth Court, Elizabeth Court and Churchill Court were built in the 1960s, and Walter Robinson Court opened in 1972.

In total there are 504 properties on the estate including 130 one-bedroom flats in Walter Robinson Court and 64 one and two-bedroom flats in each of the other four blocks.