Stabbings, drug dealing and petty crime have left elderly residents in a once-quiet Blackpool estate too afraid to leave their homes.
A spate of violence and a suspected fatal drug overdose have prompted people living around Sevenoaks Drive, in Anchorsholme, to say: “Enough is enough.”
They have blamed a change in policy that has seen an influx of people with drug problems and a history of anti-social behaviour being moved into the social housing.
A public meeting called to discuss the problem heard how recent incidents included two stabbings and one resident who was allegedly found storing petrol bombs.
And last week, the body of a 40-year-old man was discovered. The man, understood to be the victim of one of the stabbings in December – is thought to have died from a drug overdose.
Lancashire Police confirmed a body had been found at Brisbane Place on January 21. The death is being treated as “non-suspicious”, a force spokesman said.
More than 25 people from the estate attended a drop-in session arranged by Anchorsholme councillors Tony Williams and Paul Galley to share their concerns.
The majority of the estate are single bedroom apartments occupied by those who need sheltered accommodation and possibly ground floor access. They are run by Blackpool Coastal
Housing (BCH), which looks after the council’s stock of 5,500 homes.
Caroline Baldwin, 53, lives on Brisbane Place and watched the body of the suspected drug overdose victim being taken away.
She said: “The old people are going to be absolutely petrified over a drugs death on their doorstep. A lot of people are now going in and locking their doors behind them which you never had to do.
“It is council policy on whoever they house above sheltered accommodation that they do not have a drugs history and clearly BCH have failed to notice the history of some of these people.
“When is enough enough? We shouldn’t have to live our lives in fear.”
Doreen Wrightman, 66, who has lived on Melbourne Avenue for 35 years, said:“It has always been a nice little estate with no problems. That seems to have gone out of the window now.
“I have never known it like this for as long as I have lived here. We see police cars all the time now.
“I have seen drug deals taking place when I have been coming out of my house. I just think how long before someone gets murdered or killed?”
Coun Williams explained how his mother lived on the estate until her death and he described it as a “most peaceful and friendly place to live.”
He added: “Up until recently nearly all tenants were over the age of 70 and the area has long been established as a retirement estate.”
He said the problems stemmed from a change in policy that had seen a shift towards a “more inclusive collective of tenants”.
He told the meeting: “What they are doing is putting people, which we have seen to be quite dangerous, into a vulnerable community. A lot of these people are not fulfilling the criteria of the housing in this area, especially the age of some of them.
“It used to be a decent place to live and the residents feel they have lost that now.”
He called on BCH chief executive John Donnellon to come and listen to residents’ concerns.
Meanwhile Mr Donnellon confirmed in an email, seen by The Gazette, to Couns Williams and Galley that one of the stabbings last month was believed to have been linked to a “drug debt”.
Speaking after the meeting, Cliff Walwyn, 65, who has lived on Brisbane Place for 20 years said the area has got “worse and worse”.
He said his partner’s car had been “smashed up” and complained about mess on the estate.
“In my opinion people are living in their homes frightened to go out,” he added.
“It’s never been like this before. These people should have been vetted properly in a vulnerable area like this and someone is not doing their job correctly.”
Bob, 77, and Joyce Denby, 74, have lived on Melbourne Court for 28 years, and are thinking of moving away from the area.
Bob said: “This used to be an area everyone wanted to come and live and now it’s terrible. We hate living here and we are looking to move.”
Coun Galley said: “My concerns are for the vulnerable residents in this area. There is a lot of crime happening and nothing is being resolved.
“Also if they fix this problem, who will they replace the tenants with? The police, who have been brilliant throughout, have been equally frustrated with the problem.
“BCH say the figures for anti-social behaviour in this area are low, whereas the police say they are high.
“What the residents are trying to get across is that they want their community back.”
Housing chief: Appropriate action taken
John Donnellon, chief executive of Blackpool Coastal Housing said they had taken appropriate action.
He said: “ I know any anti-social behaviour can be distressing and impact on the quality of life of local residents. We have taken appropriate action as a result of the two recent incidents in the area and investigate all reports that are made to us.
“I do understand that a high-profile incident can raise concern and as a result we have organised a drop-in event in February where tenants can speak to myself and staff on a one to one basis. These incidents could not have been anticipated and are not a result of our lettings policy. The properties in question are not sheltered housing.
“I understand that local residents are concerned and BCH takes reports of ASB and criminal behaviour seriously but these incidents are not typical of the area or the local community. Tenants moving in to BCH properties sign up to an agreement that makes clear the standards of behaviour we expect and what action BCH will take if they do not meet that standard. New tenants are only given an introductory tenancy for 12 months to ensure they meet the required standards of behaviour, if they do not meet that standard the tenancy can be ended without seeking court action.
“It is our job to ensure that people do not breach their tenancy agreement or impact on the lives of those around them.
“Where on occasion they do breach their tenancy we have a track record of taking action to deal with the problem.”
Mr Donellon has pledged to meet with residents at Sevenoaks Community Centre on February 28 from 4pm to 6pm.
Catalogue of incidents
February 17, 2017 - Callum Holden, 22, of Brisbane Place, Anchorsholme, pleaded guilty to theft after stealing alcohol from McColls on Anchorsholme Lane East.
March 2, 2017 - A 20-year-old woman was reportedly raped in an alley just off Sevenoaks Drive.
June 24, 2018 - Vandalism spree - damaged caused to nearby Anchorsholme Methodist Church and One Stop on Eastpines Drive.
November 13, 2018 - John Rainey, 37, of Brisbane Place pleaded guilty to shoplifting and
causing damage. The court heard how Rainey turned to theft to repay a debt owed to a drug dealer.
December 12, 2018- A man in his 30s was found with a stab wound to his leg in Brisbane Place, believed to be a targeted attack.
January 21 - Body of a 40-year-old man found at a property on Brisbane Place and believed to have died from a drug overdose.