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'Disastrous' Lancashire Pathfinder scheme slammed

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Leading conservationists have labelled the Pathfinder demolition project in Darwen, east Lancashire, 'a public relations disaster' after continued complaints by residents.

Adam Wilkinson of SAVE Britain's Heritage spoke out after it emerged this week that residents have submitted a 500-name-strong petition outlining their fears to the local council.

The Darwen Residents Action Group has forwarded a litany of serious concerns regarding the treatment of local people at the hands of the Labour-controlled Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

The group claims that politicians have reneged on earlier promises of renovation and exploited the Pathfinder process to pursue their own development agenda.

The residents have produced documentation from last year which shows the local Labour party's commitment to the renovation of housing over demolition.

Yet since then the council has not only confirmed its decision to press on with demolition, centred on Redearth Street - a demolition programme which is currently under way - but has decided to use the land, when free, to build a new city academy.

Darwen resident Natasha Jones said: '[The council] is allowing landlords to sell their homes - which evicts the tenants and runs the area down. This puts homeowners is a difficult position, because it's not nice living in an area which is becoming bricked up.'

She added: 'Homeowners begin to feel intimidated by fire and empty properties being vandalised. If the issue goes to a public inquiry the area will look run down. Before this all happened the area was looking fine.'

Within the housing market renewal area in Darwen, 149 properties have been recommended for demolition, according to the Elevate East Lancashire pathfinder authority. According to its own surveys, of the properties recommended for demolition, 15.4 per cent are vacant and 11.4 per cent have been vacant for more than six months.

by Rob Sharp

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