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North Prospect to be demolished

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: July 11, 2009

  • NEW HOPE: (above) Shored-up properties in Allenby Road, North Prospect. Below, pictured from left: Cllr Peter Brookshaw, Tina Touhy, Carol Timmis, Clive Turner, Roger Mitchell and Martin Clay at the North Prospect Partnership HQ

  • AERIAL VIEW: A picture of early prefabs taken in 1945

HUNDREDS of homes in North Prospect are to be demolished as part of a brave new world for the crumbling Plymouth estate.

Around 750 council houses and privately-owned properties will be torn down to make way for a massive 10-year development.

Some owners could face compulsory purchase orders if they refuse to move out voluntarily.

About 1,200 new homes will be built in their place, some for rent, some in shared ownership and some for sale on the open market.

The remainder of the 1,366 homes across North Prospect will be refurbished in a £70million programme.

An injection of £44million of government money is kick-starting the regeneration of an estate once described as 'a gem of a garden suburb'.

It is part of a wider project to bring all 15,000 of Plymouth's council properties up to date after they are transferred to a new housing association in the autumn.

"We only found out we'd got the £44million for North Prospect last week and it still has to go through the formal approval process," said Clive Turner, chief executive of the new body Plymouth Community Homes and formerly head of community services at the city council.

Plymouth Community Homes will need to borrow another £26million to pay for the North Prospect work, which will start in 12 to 18 months' time.

Before any demolition begins, residents will be moved out of homes slated to come down into new properties which are now being built around the outskirts of North Prospect.

The northern third of the estate faces a total blitz under plans being spelled out to residents today and over the next two weeks. The existing 526 homes there would be demolished and replaced with 892 properties ranging from flats to four-bedroom houses.

The proposals are the result of a long-running consultation exercise involving the council, Plymouth Community Homes and the North Prospect Partnership which will continue for the next six months.

Mr Turner said the extra homes would be built on land freed up by shrinking the estate's large gardens.

"There are massive back gardens that are far too large for anyone to look after properly," he said. "Some are up to 120 yards long, five times what you'd get in a posh executive estate."

Mr Turner, whose mother grew up in North Prospect, said: "It's an area with a great community spirit and we want to protect that."

The new-look estate will include better community facilities and better roads.

The regeneration will also provide a wider range of homes, including flats to allow young people to remain in their community when they leave home.

Refurbishment is an expensive option. Dealing with just the structural condition of a property's walls would cost about £30,000. Bringing the properties up to the Government's Decent Homes standard, with new kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors and heating, would add significantly to the price.

There are fears among some people who have bought their council houses that they could be hit by negative equity.

Stuart Palmer, the council's assistant director for strategic housing, said: "We'll have a look at whether there are any options to safeguard them under the Government's mortgage protection scheme."

Plymouth Community Homes is also looking at ways of retaining some of the equity in new properties to allow home-owners to upgrade.

The work is needed because many of the buildings have fallen into disrepair.

"Many houses are not structurally sound," Mr Turner said. "The mortar is shot and wall ties are corroded."

The estate has 72 steel-framed Dorlonco buildings which are in very bad condition.

Some residents say they are fearful of what the future might bring.

"We have good-sized rooms and gardens and that's what we want," said one resident, who did not want to be named.

"Before the vote to transfer to Plymouth Community Homes everyone thought they would get their bathrooms and kitchens done within six months, but they'll have to wait two years."

Another, who owns her own home, said: "I'd rather have my house refurbished, because of the size of the rooms.

"I've visited some homes in Devonport and they're like rabbit hutches. I'd have to get rid of my dogs." She added: "This will automatically devalue our properties."

Andy Kerswell, independent councillor for Efford and Lipson, said: "I feel sorry for the whole community. It's going to be a massive shock because I don't believe this is the outcome they have been led to expect.

"A lot of owners in North Prospect are in negative equity and this will cause them problems."

THERE are 1,366 homes in North Prospect, of which 878 are owned by the council and around 488 are privately owned.

This is almost a mirror-image of the position across Plymouth as a whole, where 64 per cent of households are owner-occupied, 21 per cent privately rented and 15 per cent occupied by council tenants.

Around 91 per cent of dwellings in North Prospect are semi-detached family houses.

The density of housing in the area is now around 33 to the hectare. This could rise to between 50 and 70 under the new proposals.

The tallest new buildings will be four storeys.

NORTH Prospect has long struggled with a poor image.

The Prince of Wales cut the first turf on the new Swilly estate in 1919.

Swilly garden suburb was a desirable place to live when it was built in the 1920s and ’30s to provide ‘homes for heroes’ at the end of the First World War, but its fortunes started to wane after the 1950s.

By the 1960s the estate was known as the ‘Cinderella of Plymouth’ because of its poor living conditions.

In 1967 residents complained of dangerous wiring, damp, bare brick walls in the kitchens and a lack of inside toilets.

Swilly Road was renamed North Prospect Road in 1969 during a five-year modernisation programme.

Ten years later, in 1979, the new community association staged its first North Prospect Carnival to counter an image of local children being involved in vandalism.

The name “Swilly” dates back to the mid-17th century, when a grand house of that name stood in the parish of Stoke Damerel.

Plans to transform North Prospect are not new, however.

In 2003 residents launched an action plan aimed at turning one of Plymouth’s most deprived council estates back into a ‘garden suburb’.

Families in North Prospect wanted to shake off the bad image which had dogged the area for decades and stop the estate being perceived as a dumping-ground for problem tenants.

AN EXHIBITION trailer will be at the World On the Green event at Cookworthy Green from 10am to 5.30pm today.

Wednesday, July 22, 10am to noon: drop-in session at Jan Cutting Healthy Living Centre.

Wednesday, July 22, 2pm to 4pm: drop-in session at Halcyon Centre, Dingle Road.

Friday, July 24, 4pm to 6pm: drop-in session at North Prospect Community Centre, Foliot Road.

Call 0800 695 3101 for more information.

What will go where?

NORTH: Major intervention in the area north of Cookworthy and Laurel Roads, to just north of Grassendale Avenue/Floyd Close/Ham Drive, and between Wolseley Road in the west and Woodhey Road in the east.

This area is likely to be levelled and rebuilt, gaining around 366 extra homes.

SOUTH: Minimum intervention in the area bounded by Beacon Park Road, Wolseley Road and North Prospect Road, including Goodwin Crescent.

CENTRAL: The area in between will be subject to ‘targeted intervention’, with some parts demolished and others simply refurbished.

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