Work is well underway on an exciting project to build 42 new Council homes on Skelmersdale’s Firbeck Estate to meet the requirements of modern families.
Described as “an excellent development for the area,” the estate will provide affordable properties for rent and will include: 14 one bedroom and 12 two bedroom apartments, and 12 two bedroom and 4 three bedroom houses.
Councillor Jenny Patterson, West Lancashire Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Housing and Landlord Services, spoke to Premier Construction magazine about the development.
She said: “The area was in desperate need of regeneration and the original plan by the Council was for the whole area to be redeveloped, new housing to be built to replace the tired and worn out properties where residents would be given new homes with an equity stake in these properties. But it was at the time when the housing market collapsed and the private building industry fell through the floor and there wasn’t much confidence in buying new homes. At that point the Council made a brave decision and said ‘ok we’ll come up with a scheme. It will be different to what was originally planned but we will come up with a scheme to regenerate the area.’”
The new houses have been built on land that was left empty following the demolition of unpopular three-storey flats. Work on this part of the project began in June 2015 with Housing and Regeneration Specialist Keepmoat building the flats and houses to the Council’s requirements. Main architects Arcus provided architectural and employer’s agent services for the development.
The £8 million development, known as the Firbeck Revival, forms part of a wider Skelmdersdale Town Centre regeneration project. Existing council owned properties have also benefited from new kitchens, bathrooms and external works which have transformed the appearance of the estate.
“We have done a small amount of work in terms of landscaping and groundwork,” said Councillor Patterson. “The biggest amount has probably been to the houses that have been retained. We have put external installation on the properties, which has brightened the area up, giving people better homes to heat and keep heated and it looks fantastic. We have put in new roofs, new windows and new doors and for the owner occupiers, we were able to give them a grant so they could do the external work, roofs and insulation and be part of the scheme. I am really pleased to say that 100% of the home owners have used the grant to be part of the scheme.”
Once the build is complete, work will be undertaken on Street Scene Improvements, which will see the road of the estate transformed.
Councillor Patterson added: “The road is quite pitied at the moment and because we were bringing lorries and heavy vehicles on it, we thought lets not do the improvements until the work is completed in the autumn.”
The final properties are due to be completed and handed to the Council by the end of August 2016.
Councillor Patterson concluded: “This is a pilot scheme to see how we could bring this type of regeneration to Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale was developed as a new town in the mid ‘60s and whilst it has had improvement work done over the years, some areas were starting to look a bit tired and we recognised that we needed to have a regeneration scheme of this nature.
“I only became the portfolio holder in May 2015 but it has been brilliant to work with Bob Livermore, West Lancashire Borough Council Director of Housing and Inclusion, who is very experienced in this industry, on the project. The tenants have been fantastic and the finished product is amazing. It really is going to be the cornerstone for the redevelopment of Skelmdersdale Town Centre as a whole.
“The appearance is amazing now and you don’t see any for sale signs in that area. When you drive around the Birch Green area of Skelmersdale and you come across Firbeck, it stands out. It really is a flagship for Skelmersdale and it really is a great project that looks fantastic.”
The Homes and Communities Agency is also working closely with the Council to release an additional 15 hectares (37 acres) of land in 2016 for new housing in the town centre at the nearby Findon site, Birch Green Road; the Former Skelmersdale Sports Centre, Digmoor Road; Delf Clough, Northway, Land at Abbeystead and also at Chequer Lane, Up Holland.