No go zone gets a new lease of life from homes

New era: Former Chair and now treasurer of North East Ashton Residents Association, Bill Thompson
New era: Former Chair and now treasurer of North East Ashton Residents Association, Bill Thompson
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A street once considered a “no-go area” of Preston has been given a new lease of life.

The Community Gateway Association has opened 15 new homes on land on Howarth Road in Ashton, which once housed a block of flats such a target for fires and drug dealers the local fire service spent £90,000 every year attending them.

It demolished the flats just months after taking control of hundreds of homes across Preston five years ago and has now delivered on the promise to build new homes on them.

Today, association chief executive Diane Bellinger said the problems in the area had “caused havoc” for local people.

She said: “Howarth Road has been one of the schemes we have targeted ever since we started because the community made it clear it was a priority for them. The big thing they wanted us to do was get rid of the flats which, even though they were boarded up, were causing havoc for the people who lived there. We demolished them at the earliest opportunity and our intention has always been to return high-quality new homes to the area and that is what we have done.”

North East Ashton Residents Association treasurer Bill Thompson, 73, who lives on Clovelly Avenue backing onto the troubled area, said fire brigades visited the flats at least two times a week.

Just before the demolition, only seven of the 40 flats were occupied. Mr Thompson said: “It was the residents which asked Gateway to bring the flats down, they were so neglected and the vandalism and problems they caused were unbelievable. We worked with the architects to make sure it fitted into the rest of the street, we didn’t just want new homes which looked out of place.

Preston Guild mayor Carl Crompton, who represents the area on Lancashire County Council, said the transformation of the area was “fantastic.”

He said: “I remember when we used to deliver leaflets around there, it was a real no-go area, it was a ghetto, to be honest.”

Council leader Peter Rankin, the ward councillor for the area, said the new homes also helped the “terrible problem” the city was suffering with people waiting for homes.