'We've been left to live in a wasteland'
FAMILIES are calling for more funding to revive their 'wasteland' neighbourhood – after homes in their street were being sold off for £1.
Residents in Cobridge are sceptical about Stoke-on-Trent City Council's plans for 35 empty homes in the area.
The authority is selling the council-owned properties for £1 each, with buyers able to access £30,000 loans to fund refurbishment work.
Council leaders hope the project will trigger wider regeneration in the area, which was once earmarked for demolition.
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But residents say funding should also be made available to improve occupied homes and public spaces. They claim houses were allowed to deteriorate due to the uncertainty over their future.
The council has been hosting a series of drop-in sessions to allow residents to have their say on how their neighbourhood can be improved.
Leanne Washington, who attended yesterday's event, welcomed the empty homes plans, but said more money was needed. The 26-year-old, of Denby Street, said: "It is a good idea that they're trying to do something about the empty homes. It's just sad that they've let things get to this point. Because the council has left these homes empty, other people haven't spent any money on their homes because they thought everything was going to get knocked down.
"We need money spent on the green spaces here as well."
Waterloo Road resident Jayne Horton believes the council is to blame for Cobridge's current problems.
She said: "In the first place the council said that all the houses were going to be knocked down. So they bought them all up and left them empty, and some of them were beautiful homes. Because of that we were left living in a wasteland.
"Not so long ago I was told we'd be able to get grants to improve our homes, but that hasn't happened. But there should be some financial help available for occupied homes, as well as the empty ones."
Zainul Pirmohamed, senior empty homes officer at the council, accepted that residents in Cobridge had every reason to be sceptical about the plans. But she said the council was committed to restoring confidence in the area. She said: "I understand why residents feel the way they do. They were told these homes would be demolished, but then the Government cut the funding. Since then the area has been blighted.I had a very good conversation with a landlord earlier. He said that if the council invested in its empty homes, he would be prepared to do the same for his properties."
Ms Pirmohamed said the council was looking for local banks and building societies to provide funding for further refurbishment work.
The £1 homes offer will only be available to people who live or work in Stoke-on-Trent, and who do not already own a property.
The city council will pay the £30,000 loan money directly to contractors, with officers carrying out checks before, during and after the work. Officers hope residents will help monitor properties and the work being carried out.