Lancashire

Skelmersdale social housing to be renovated

A major investment package to transform social housing in a Lancashire town has been announced.

West Lancashire Council will provide £8m to fund replacement windows and energy efficiency measures in Skelmersdale.

The improvements, agreed in the council's 2012/13 budget, will be part-funded by an 8.07% rent increase.

Councillor Adrian Owens said the aim was "to become one of the best landlords in the country".

More than half of the funds - about £4.1m - will be used to replace the remainder of the single-glazed windows in council properties with double-glazing.

A further £1.5m will go to increasing the energy efficiency of homes by installing central heating in flats which use storage heaters, putting in new boilers and piloting some green energy schemes.

'New housing era'

The money will also see improvements made to communal areas and sheltered housing schemes.

Mr Owens said it amounted to a "new era for housing" and "excellent news for tenants, the wider community and the local economy".

He said the rise in rent, which is as a result of a change to the way council housing is funded by central government, was part of "a bold financial approach to ensure that tenants will benefit as much as possible".

"We carried out a survey of the housing stock to identify what improvements were needed and we discussed the results with tenants in putting together the current year's programme, which tackles some of the most important improvements that they wish to see," he said.

Stock improvement

"Looking further ahead, the stock survey has identified a need for a total of around £55m improvements over the next five years to upgrade homes to the standard that meets tenants' aspirations, and we will be putting together a business plan to tackle this.

"Our aspiration is that West Lancs will become one of the best landlords in the country, while the construction schemes will help create new jobs, including a number of apprenticeships."

The council will also supply £5.5m to renovate the Findon and Firbeck areas of the town.

A council spokesman said an original plan to demolish 180 houses and flats in the areas had been abandoned as it was "no longer viable".

"Instead, the council is determined to revitalise and enhance the area," he said.

He added that residents would be consulted on a new scheme which aimed to improve houses, gardens and the local environment.

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