Wigan Council to seize homes from defiant residents

Sandalwood Drive
Sandalwood Drive

The council has resorted to the use of drastic measures to ensure the redevelopment of a notorious Wigan street goes ahead.

The local authority gave the green light to the use of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) of property on Sandalwood Drive, Beech Hill.

Marie Bintley

Marie Bintley

It is seeking to remove the last obstacles to a comprehensive transformation of the area, which has in recent times become a magnet for anti-social behaviour and criminality.

But the plans have also become mired in controversy after one former homeowner accused the town hall of causing the problems by buying houses then leaving them empty to fall derelict.

At least one homeowner is still holding out and preventing the town hall getting hold of their property.

The council admits the CPO is being used as all other avenues have failed but today defended its use as helping to bring about a crucial regeneration project.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing, said: “Sandalwood Drive has suffered from a range of issues including a lack of demand in housing with a number of homes standing empty and being subject to vandalism. The future development of the site will not only address the current social problems the area suffers from but completely transform it into a desirable and attractive residential area.

“It will diversify the type of homes in the local area, meeting the needs of older residents for example, providing modern and safe homes. It will also bring wider benefits to the community including jobs and training opportunities.

“We believe this strategy will improve the wider area of Beech Hill ensuring a sustainable, safe community. This decision now gives us the go ahead to acquire a property by CPO. This strategy is used as a last resort and we believe is the only option to bring about regeneration and long-lasting change.”

A document on the council’s website with the decision reveals the town hall suspected a CPO may be needed and made plans for it for some time, with budgets approved back in January.

The decision record also states the town hall considered partial demolition of Sandalwood but it was concluded that crime, anti-social behaviour and street design issues meant full bulldozing was needed to create a sustainable development.

The portfolio holders for housing and regeneration approved acquiring properties, rehousing residents and demolishing the existing homes in February.

But the council’s plans made negative headlines recently when ex-property owner Darren Haywood said the town hall had put him through a three-year ordeal over buying his property and alleged it had bent its own rules about the sort of homes offered to tenants to force the development through.

Mr Haywood also said he had ended up accepting an offer of at least £15,000 less than he should have received for his home and blamed the decline of the street on the local authority’s renovation plans. This was in contrast to the council’s statements that it is merely responding to problems in that part of Beech Hill.

The demolition project is intended to make way for a housing scheme for older people.