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Safe as houses, locals are told; Chief's pledge to residents worried that their homes may come down.

Byline: By PETER YOUNG Political Editor

A DEMOLITION threat which caused an outcry looks likely to be lifted following protests by residents.

It follows the intervention of city council leader John Shipley who stepped in to allay fears among people in Cowgate, Newcastle.

Residents swung into action after they learned their homes could be pulled down as part of regeneration plans.

Officials are consulting about options to revitalise Cowgate, Blakelaw, Kenton Bar and Kenton, but people in the Ponteland Road area were shocked when they learned their homes could be demolished.

They launched an immediate campaign to save their homes including a 400-name protest petition and individual letters to Coun Shipley.

Coun Shipley has now met the residents and told them the authority has no plans to pull down good quality housing.

The threat to Ponteland Road was spotted by lifelong Cowgate resident Les Jacques, 59, when he went to an exhibition about the proposals in July.

Mr Jacques, who has been in the same council house in Ponteland Road for nearly 30 years and has spent thousands on improvements, was examining the plans and saw a line had been drawn around the houses.

Following the meeting, Mr Jacques said: "Coun Shipley said they would not pull down good, solid council homes. As long as Coun Shipley is a man of his word, we are satisfied.

He gave us the answer we want.

"I would like to thank all the residents involved. They rose to the occasion and did a great job. They made the council understand they were not going to stand idly by and let it pull down their homes."

Coun Shipley said: "There is no wish whatsoever to knock down good homes. However, consultation means you must offer people all possible options.

"I think there has been a lot of confusion but the council has no intention of knocking down good homes. I have given that guarantee to the community.

I have talked to local people and to local councillors and it would be an absurd thing to do."

Coun Shipley said there may be some selective demolition of rundown properties, in line with what local people want, but not good quality homes on Ponteland Road.

Residents were supported by local councillors including Coun Stephen Lambert who said he'd spoken to Coun Shipley. "He told me he agreed there was no case for destroying perfectly good council housing.

"We just hope the council will stick to this. If it's true, it will reassure hundreds of people on the estate. We feel a lot of unnecessary anxiety has been caused to residents as a result of this uncertainty." A council spokesman said: "As a direct result of specific requests from the community in Cowgate, some limited demolition of long-term unoccupied and derelict property is planned."

Properties earmarked for demolition are 107, 109, 111, 113 and 115 Fouracres Road, and 54A-68A Whitethorn Crescent.

CAPTION(S):

STAYING PUT: Les and Ellen Jacques, of Ponteland Rosd, Cowgate, have lived in their council home for nearly 30 years and have spent thousands on it PICTURE:LEANNE HOLCROFT
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 20, 2007
Words:515
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