‘Don’t demolish our homes’ plea

Heavy machinery clears the site earmarked for the �50m Foxhall Village
Heavy machinery clears the site earmarked for the �50m Foxhall Village
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A Blackpool man has blasted town hall chiefs for trying to force himself and other nearby property owners to sell their properties.

Andrew Ratajczak, 55, spoke out yesterday as a public inquiry resumed into Blackpool Council’s bid to buy two buildings on Tyldesley Road and Blundell Street.

The buildings are earmarked for demolition as part of the £50m Foxhall Village scheme, which includes 410 new homes - but must first be bought by Blackpool Council.

The council has agreed deals to buy 33 of the 43 properties in the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) area, which is bordered by Tyldesley Road, Blundell Street, Rigby Road and Princess Street.

It says it is in talks with another eight owners, with only Mr Ratajczak, of Tyldesley Road and Barry Anderton, of Blundell Street, having formally objected.

Mr Ratajczak, who runs a firm called Pro-Clean Cleaning Services, says he moved from Swindon to buy the property with the intention of turning it into holiday lets.

He says he has not yet completed the project but still wants to fulfil his ambition.

“Fourteen years ago there was media coverage saying ‘come and invest in Blackpool, there are grants available’,” said Mr Ratajczak ahead of speaking at the inquiry.

“I bought this for £35,000 but there were catches with the grants and I spent around £50,000 doing it up. When I bought it half the roof was missing and you could remove the bricks at the back by hand.

“I got a letter from the council last summer saying they would be doing a CPO on my property and it’s been a waiting game since then.”

Mr Ratajczak, who lives at the property, said he would not have bought it had he known what would happen.

“I want to stay where I am and be part of the regeneration that’s going on because it was supposed to be a long-term investment to generate cash for my old age,” he added.

“I challenged the council to find me another property on a four-lane road, with wide pavements, a view of Blackpool Tower, and only a short walk to the beach, but of course, they couldn’t.

“I might make a profit by selling, but I could make more over the years if the lettings took off. You could get up to nine flats in there.”

Mr Ratajczak said the council was planning to knock down perfectly good buildings on Tyldesley Road like the former Verona Hotel, which it last year bought under a CPO for £890,000 - even though the building was only converted into 15 apartments less than two years ago.

In his objection letter, Mr Anderton said he could not attend the inquiry due to ill health. He said: “I’ve never had any intention of selling due to my age and health plus the fact I’ve everything I need and want close to hand. I’ve never seen the reason for knocking down perfectly good housing to be replaced by more housing.”

The council declined to comment with the inquiry underway, but its statement of case says consultation showed most people in the area supported the scheme.

It says older property is contributing to the area’s decline and that the plans will help tackle deprivation and boost the local economy.

The statement adds: “The council will describe how the Rigby Road development has been designed to create a distinctive new seaside neighbourhood that will address the imbalance in the housing market and change the reputation of inner Blackpool as a place to live.”

The hearing at Blackpool Town Hall began on January 13 but was adjourned by planning inspector Clive Sproule. It was due to conclude today.

Hollinwood Homes began work on the new homes last February. Blackpool Council received a grant £2.7m from the Government towards the £15m cost of clearing the land for redevelopment, with the rest of the cash coming from the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme aimed at encouraging house building.

l Opinion: Page 10