Morecambe couple tell of living hell near council’s housing dream

Alan and Lesley Cain.
Alan and Lesley Cain.
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Amputee Alan Cain and his wife Lesley feel like prisoners in their own home.

The Cains live opposite crumbling houses earmarked for a West End housing regeneration plan which finally looks set to begin, 10 years after it was first mooted.

But news of a March 2015 start date for the £5.5m Chatsworth Gardens scheme cuts no ice with Alan and Lesley, who say it’s too little, too late.

Alan said: “I’m embarrassed to tell people where I live, it’s the street where houses are falling down.

“All you can do at the end of the day is shut your front door, pull down the blinds and lock yourself in. When it’s wet, it’s disgusting, it’s awful, it’s horrible to live here. We could do with moving but we can’t afford to. I feel like a prisoner in this house.”

Developers PlaceFirst this week shook hands on a deal with Lancaster City Council to start work after years of delays and problems, including when original developers Places For People pulled out after the recession bit.

The Manchester firm will revamp 48 houses on Albert Road, Chatsworth Road and Westminster Road which have stood empty and derelict for years.

But David Morris MP called for Lancaster City Council to offer a council tax rebate to nearby residents, calling the saga “a debacle”, while town councillor Steven Ogden believes they should also issue a formal apology.

“This scheme really has destroyed people’s lives,” said Mr Ogden.

“The council has let these buildings go to rack and ruin. It’s caused so much stress and anxiety.”

Coun Janice Hanson, deputy leader of Lancaster City Council and West End councillor, said: “Amidst the chaos caused by the recession many Government funded regeneration projects across the country were abandoned, but the city council has been steadfast in its desire to progress the scheme, despite the original developer, Places for People, pulling out.

“I realise that residents in the area have been frustrated by the delays and the disrepair that some of these houses have fallen into, and I share their frustration.

“Where damage has occurred to the buildings through break-ins and vandalism we have acted, but repairs have been safety related rather than restorative because of the need to work within tight budgets.”

A spokesman for Lancaster City Council said no council tax rebate would be offered to residents as this would be “unlawful”.

PlaceFirst has appointed Stockport-based Rowlinson Construction to build 97 new homes for rent; a mix of two, three, and four bedroomed maisonettes, houses, and apartments.

The first phase of 51 homes is due to be completed by August 2016.

David Smith-Milne, managing director of PlaceFirst, said: “These large and impressive properties present a unique opportunity to reinvent the Victorian guesthouse and breathe new life into the West End of Morecambe.”

PlaceFirst said the scheme will target lower-income families but potential tenants will need to provide references and pass credit checks, and sign a neighbourhood agreement to reward good behaviour.