£1.9m West End homes triumph

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A stop-start plan to renovate houses in the West End of Morecambe made famous by a TV programme is back on the agenda.

The £1.9m scheme to improve empty homes in the West End, including Albert Road houses used in the hit BBC1 programme ‘Turn Back Time’, could be announced on Wednesday.

But David Morris, MP for Morecambe, has launched a scathing attack on Lancaster City Council over their handling of the Chatsworth Gardens project, accusing them of ‘a plot’ to abandon the scheme. Andrew Dobson, the city council’s head of regeneration and policy, said he was “bemused” by Mr Morris’ attack, describing the scheme’s revival as a “major coup”.

The council had bought multi-occupancy houses on Chatsworth Road, Albert Road and Westminster Road, intending to convert them to quality family homes.

But plans were scrapped in 2009 when the preferred builders pulled out.

This left 76 houses in the West End standing empty.

Earlier this year, the council successfully bid for £1.9m to bring empty homes in the district back into use.

Mr Dobson said they always intended to spend this on Chatsworth Gardens.

“Some of the blocks will be refurbished and sold, while others will be demolished to make way for new homes, hopefully in around five years’ time,” said Mr Dobson.

The project was in jeopardy two months ago when Mark Cullinan, chief executive of the council, wrote to Mr Morris.

Mr Cullinan said a requirement for match funding was “debilitating” and there was “a very real prospect that the council will have to send the money already allocated back to the Government.”

Since then, the council has found the match funding required to access the £1.9m.

But Mr Morris said: “The council should be ashamed of their plot to take this grant away from Morecambe.

“The leadership wanted me to come and listen to excuses but that would’ve been a slap in the face to my constituents.

“It looks like pressure has forced this U-turn.”

Councillor Janice Hanson, Labour deputy leader of the council, said: “This could not be further from the truth.

“We have worked so hard to find money for Chatsworth Gardens.

“The bid for the Government money was one of the best ever.

“Mr Morris hasn’t helped us in any way at all.”

The city council will meet on Wednesday, November 14 to begin talks on the revived scheme.

Steve Swithin, a resident of Albert Road, will also present a petition asking for the money to be spent in the West End.

The Chatsworth Gardens project aims to attract families and long-term residents to live and work in and near the town and reverse the negative perception of Morecambe’s West End as a place to live.