From troubled estate to one of the most highly desired council areas in the resort

It was one of the most notorious neighbourhoods in Blackpool, where residents battled daily with crime, vandalism, damp and noise nuisance.

Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 10:48 pm
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn looking around the second phase of Queens Park estate in Blackpool
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn looking around the second phase of Queens Park estate in Blackpool

The five tower blocks at Queens Park in Layton were also crumbling - with the council faced with an £11m repair bill.

But today following a £22m transformation of the estate, every home is occupied and the area is now among one of the most sought after by council tenants.

Redevelopment has seen five tower blocks demolished and replaced with 191 houses and apartments to create a new community.

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Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn looking around the second phase of Queens Park estate in Blackpool

Work has over-run by more than a year - but the buildings have now been formally handed over to Blackpool Council.

There is still some finishing off to do on the roads and the setting out of open space as part of Layton Recreation Ground.

But residents say they are delighted with their new surroundings, and the estate’s first open day is planned for the end of the month to mark the new era.

Mary Murphy was the first person to move into the second phase of development and is now hoping to launch a residents group.

Thetroubled Layton Flats estate inBlackpool - now demolished

She said: “I moved here with my husband because we both wanted to be closer to town for our jobs.

“We love it here and the houses are very nice inside. We don’t have a garden but we have a really nice balcony.

“There is a real pride among people who live here and I run a Facebook group which is helping everyone to get to know each other.

“We have some volunteers who go out litter picking every day and we hope to keep the estate looking nice.

A play area built on the Queens Park estate

“There are a few issues with things which still need finishing off such as the pavements and there has been a bit of bother with a few teenagers who are not from the estate. But you would get that anywhere.

“We’ve got an open day planned for Saturday August 24 when there will be activities for the children and a chance for everyone to say hello to each other.”

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn, who is also a ward councillor for the estate, described the transformation as “amazing”.

He said: “I used to do a surgery on a regular basis in the day centre underneath Walter Robinson Court and many times there would be a queue by the time I arrived.

The demolition of Layton Flats in Blackpool

“The litany of complaints was always the same - damp issues and neighbour nuisance because as a result of the way the flats had been constructed you could hear the people next door all the time.

“One February one lady spent nearly £400 in a month trying to keep her two-bedroom flat warm.

“Now I do a surgery and I’m often sat on my own because the same people in the same geographic location don’t have the same issues.

“These houses are so well built and the estate has won three awards.”

While the tower blocks contained 495 homes, the new estate has 191 properties ranging from one-bedroomed flats to four bedroomed family houses.

Coun Blackburn added: “For all the problems on Queens Park, it had a very strong community.

“There were many people who wanted to stay on the estate, and over 100 people live here now who lived here before.

“But for others the demolition provided opportunities and the home loss payments enabled some people to move back nearer their families.”

The decision was taken eight years ago to redevelop the estate when housing chiefs were faced with spiralling costs of maintaining the tower blocks.

At the same time the area suffered from high turnover rates, with a quarter of tenants regularly moving out which was a reflection of the unpopularity of some of the homes.

In 2011 nearly 14 per cent of the flats had tenants who had breached their tenancy agreements or committed anti-social behaviour, but that figure has now reduced to just over three per cent.

The designs for the new estate were first made public in 2013 and work to dismantle the first two towers, Ashworth Court and Charles Court, began in 2014.

Lovell Developments was chosen as the developer, building the estate in two phases.

Remaining residents were gradually moved out, with the remaining three towers - Walter Robinson Court, Elizabeth Court and Churchill Court - demolished in dramatic fashion using explosives in July 2016.

Huge crowds gathered to watch as the towers were razed to the ground.

Funding for the new homes comes from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, the Decent Housing fund, as well as the council’s own housing revenue account and Blackpool Coastal Housing (BCH).

The second phase had been scheduled for handover in Spring last year, but delays on the project mean it has taken until this summer although tenants had been gradually moving into their new houses as they became ready

BCH runs the new estate as part of its management of all the council’s housing stock, and the investment has already paid off in reducing the average cost of repairs from £429 down to £204 last year.

Turnover now averages at five per cent a year and every property is occupied.

The transformation has been recognised by the Northern Housing awards (winner of the regeneration scheme of the year), the Municipal Journal (highly commended for best social housing initiative) and Planning Awards (nominated for a regeneration award).

The residents open day will be held between 10am and 1pm on Saturday August 24.