Lonely luxury for gated few

Photo Neil Cross. Martin and Christine Wade, residents of Middleton retirement village
Photo Neil Cross. Martin and Christine Wade, residents of Middleton retirement village
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It was supposed to be the largest retirement haven of its kind in the UK where hundreds of elderly people would live in peace and harmony.

But for residents of Middleton Towers Retirement Village, things haven’t quite gone as hoped.

Original plans for 650 homes on the site have not materialised. Instead, only around 50 people are living at the former Pontins holiday camp and many are unsure about its future.

Just 35 bungalows and 20 apartments were built after original developers Coast Development (NW) Limited went into administration.

Due to the struggle to attract new residents, administrators Moorfields have tried to get planning restrictions relaxed so they can market the village to families and younger couples as well as over 55s.

Although Lancaster City Council turned this request down earlier this month, some residents still fear their peaceful life could be shattered.

Martin Wade, 68, and his wife Christine, 69, moved to the village from Halifax, seeking the mutual support offered by a large gated community.

“We don’t regret coming here because we have a beautiful bungalow,” said Mr Wade. “But if it’s opened up to all ages, we might do.”

Mrs Wade said: “We personally don’t like children, and the thought of them screaming and yelling around the place isn’t what we want. It’s lovely and quiet here. We just need people to come and look at the site and realise how beautiful it is.”

Mike Machin, 75, who also lives at the village, also says he loves living at Middleton Towers, but views matters slightly differently.

“We’ve got leisure facilities here, like a gym and swimming pool, and they are not viable if they are just for over 55s because there’s only a small number here,” he said.

“(Management) felt that if they could get the planning restriction removed, they could keep those facilities open.

“If they don’t open it up to everyone, it will never fulfil its original intention.

“But there is still a demand for retirement developments, as shown by the Elms.

“We’ve been told they will remarket the site and a decision could be made by Christmas.”

The residents also have other concerns. “I don’t believe the place has been marketed properly,” said Mr Wade. “And we haven’t had our windows cleaned.”

Mrs Wade said: “We’re supposed to get a lot of things but most of them don’t get done. Some people have leaking roofs, which haven’t been mended and tiles missing. There’s one man who does the whole site who does his best but there’s only enough hours in the day.

“The gym is open to the public and they drive up here like bats out of hell. It’s a 10mph zone.

“I think it’s terrible that outsiders can come in and treat it as their own.”

Mr Machin said: “Some people think it’s a bit out in the wild without a bus service. The buses only run to Morecambe and Lancaster twice a day. I’m quite happy using my own car, but we are in negotiations with Stagecoach.”

The Visitor put a number of questions about the residents’ concerns to Savills, the management company which runs the village day-to-day.

John Hussey from Savills said: “I have spoken with the joint administrators of the site who are making no comment at this time.”