Morecambe housing scheme moves a step closer

Councillor Janice Hanson.
Councillor Janice Hanson.

A new developer has been found for a housing scheme which aims to give the West End a new lease of life.

PlaceFirst Ltd was the only building firm to come forward with a plan for the much-maligned Chatsworth Gardens project.

The Manchester company wants to convert 47 council-owned terraced houses on Albert Road, Chatsworth Road, Regent Road, Balmoral Road and Westminster Road into 92 newly-refurbished homes.

The firm aims to finish the build by August 2016. Lancaster City Council will use £1.9m of Government cash to part-fund the project, money which must be spent by September 2014. Councillor Janice Hanson, deputy leader of the council, has recommended the council signs a development contract with PlaceFirst to get the scheme moving.

The council cabinet will discuss her recommendations at a meeting on November 5. Public consultation with nearby residents and homeowners will take place afterwards.

But contrary to initial plans, the finished homes may only be available for rent.

A council report warns that selling enough of the properties outright may prove difficult in the West End due to the current housing market.

It also says the success of the scheme is dependent on PlaceFirst finding a housing management company to act as landlord.

PlaceFirst is due to ask for planning permission for the first phase of the project next month.

The firm was formed in 2009 and is currently investing £6m in a new private rental housing scheme at Woodnook, Accrington.

The report describes PlaceFirst’s financial model as ‘innovative’ but also ‘untested’.

The Chatsworth Gardens scheme hit a roadblock in 2009 when original developer Places For People pulled out. Council bosses blamed the recession, stating the scheme was “no longer viable in the form it was originally envisaged”.

The Government-run Homes and Communities Agency had given the council £7.8m to buy up properties so that the buildings could be demolished to make way for smaller, modern homes.