On Tuesday, when I wrote about Bridlington's regeneration scheme hitting the rocks, I said I would post an update when East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) decided on its promised "full and frank response". Well, we are still waiting. Despite knowing for a week that Tesco had decided to pull out of the scheme, and with an estimated £25 million spent, the council is still searching for what to do and say. This tells you more than whatever spin they eventually come up with. The failure to sign-up Tesco before basing their entire plans on them moving has dealt a serious and potentially fatal blow to those plans and confirms that Plan B does not and never did exist.
I spent some time in Bridlington yesterday to take a look for myself why the scheme is so unpopular with many local people and to look at the social costs of the decisions made by bungling bureaucrats, councillors and consultants.
There are fourteen houses on Springfield Avenue, and currently eleven of them have been bought by the council, boarded up, and are currently standing empty. The remaining three homes are due to be compulsory purchased from owners who do not want to move. The council could have simply secured the option to buy those properties as and when they needed them.
Instead (as you can see in the photograph) the council has blighted their neighbourhood. Now the scheme appears to be collapsing, what's going to happen to this street?
The situation is even worse in the ironically named Palace Avenue. I don't how many empty houses there are, although it wouldn't surprise me if the street is completely empty. Remember, the council now owns these properties. If private landlords left their properties in this state of repair, what would the council have to say about it?
Just like Springfield Avenue, the council could have retained an option to buy. This mess did not have to happen. There are more streets like this too. Many other homes and businesses have been bought and are currently standing empty.
If the current regeneration plans do fail, which seems increasingly more likely the longer the council remains silent, those residents who are still living in the affected areas will probably serve blight notices, even if the council does not wish to buy them. If the blight notices are accepted, homeowners will be eligible to receive the same amount as they would have done under a Compulsory Purchase Order. The council will then be the proud owners of empty streets!
The buildings brought in anticipation of imminent demolition appear not to have been maintained. The taxpayer now faces the massive cost of repair. They cannot be left to decline to a dangerous condition and demolition without development in sight would leave Bridlington looking like a post-war bomb site.
The unnecessary cost to taxpayers already runs into the millions. The liability and ongoing costs may soon start to spiral out of control, but as you can see, there is also a social cost. Neighbourhoods have been blighted; families have (more or less) been forced out of their homes under the pretence they were helping regenerate the town they call home. Those responsible for this mess must be held to account.