Family offered £8k for moving out on flats’ demolition day

Demolition of the Queenstown flats, Layton.
Demolition of the Queenstown flats, Layton.

A family were given an £8,000 handout in order to leave their home ahead of a huge flats demolition.

The family, who live in Addison Crescent, close to the site of the former tower blocks at Queens Park, Layton, were given the cash by demolition firm Lovell.

In secret documents seen by The Gazette, the pay-out was for “ongoing disturbance” and to vacate their property during the explosive demolition of the three blocks on July 31. While many residents in nearby homes agreed to move out temporarily without fuss, one family complained to the firm about the impact on them with Lovell agreeing to pay the £8,000 to settle the row.

In one letter, the company said: “Further to our recent correspondence regarding the ongoing demolition work at Queens Park, Blackpool, I would confirm that Lovell is prepared to make an ex-gratia payment to you in recognition of the disturbance you have experienced and more particularly in lieu of your confirmed willingness to vacate your home at Addison Crescent throughout the operation of the temporary demolition exclusion zone at Queens Park during the ‘blow-down’ of the three remaining tower blocks.

“Specifically it is hereby agreed that Lovell will pay you the sum of £8,000 in two instalments; £4,000 on receipt of receiving your signed acknowledgement and acceptance of the terms set out in this letter, and the balance of £4,000 to be paid immediately after the event.

“The terms set out in this letter are confidential between ourselves and you undertake to us not to disclose any of these terms to any third party save with our consent or if compelled to do so by any court or authority of competent jurisdiction.

“They also represent a full and final settlement in respect of your ongoing complaints.

“If the above terms are acceptable to you, please sign, date and return to us the enclosed copy of this letter. Upon receipt we will make arrangements to process the first payment to you.”

It is signed by Bruce Lister, Lovell’s regeneration manager who worked on the £22m project. In a second letter, which again uses Mr Lister’s name, Lovell said: “A payment of £8,000 has today been made into your current account, as per your requirements. I now await confirmation that you will comply with the terms of our agreement and also seek reaffirmation that this agreement will remain confidential between us.”

Today, a Lovell spokesman refused to confirm that the payment was made and said: “We won’t be commenting on this, apart from to reiterate that – as the company has previously publicly stated – the earlier postponement of the demolition was entirely because our specialist demolition subcontractors advised that more time was needed to ensure the safe demolition of the blocks.”

Blackpool Council paid a set fee to Lovell to carry out the operation, with the cost of the £8,000 pay-out being met by Lovell and not the town hall.

The family refused to comment when approached by The Gazette.

The July 31 demolition operation was hailed a success on the day with residents only out of their houses for a few hours.

It was the final clearance phase of the scheme which had begun in March 2013 with the removal of the Healey Street maisonettes.

Two other tower blocks Ashworth Court and Charles Court, were taken down gradually to make room for new houses, but it was decided it would be better to blow up the final three.

Residents were asked to evacuate the area at 8.15am and four special support centres were set up where people could get free hot breakfasts and refreshments.

Hundreds did so without serious complaints although some people said that the dust cloud which enveloped spectators downwind had caused alarm.

Lovell called in teams to clean up the dust from the area and clean residents’ windows after the event and said all harmful material had been removed from the towers before the blasts. The demolitions had been originally scheduled for May, but had to be delayed due to more work needing to be done to weaken the structures and to give time for lessons to be learned from a similar demolition in Liverpool at Seaforth which failed to bring the buildings down.

The day after the demolition Mr Lister said: “It was well planned but there’s a great sense of relief that everything appears to have gone 
well.

“It couldn’t have been done if people hadn’t been prepared to move out for a few houses while the work was done – so my thanks to them.”

The rubble from the three flats, twenty-three storey Walter Robinson Court and 16-storey Elizabeth and Churchill Courts, will be used to provide foundations for 99 new homes to be built on the site which should be completed by Spring 2018.

It is the second phase of the development carried out by Lovell. The first phase involved the gradual dismantling of the Ashworth Court and Charles Court tower blocks and the construction of 92 new homes.

The demolition was shown live on the Gazette’s Facebook page and was seen by 2.5 million people around the 
world.