ACCRINGTON was hailed as a pioneering example of redevelopment by Government junior minister Ian McCartney.
Mr McCartney, Pensions Minister, was in town on the day that the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, announced that £500m was to be invested in abandoned and run-down housing areas in the North and the Midlands.
The Communities Plan will involve replacing millions of unfit and abandoned homes, and will affect the whole of the East Lancashire Pathfinder area, set up to tackle the region's housing problems.
In Accrington, 44 out of 188 homes in the Lower Antley area are empty, and the problems there - and the plans to tackle them with the pioneering Project Phoenix regeneration scheme - are being used by the Government as a case study.
Project Phoenix could see the demolition of about 200 terraced houses and the building of new rented housing for families and older residents, as well as a small business centre, a park and a new community health centre.
During his visit to the area, which also included a tour of the Viaduct cinema and bowling complex in the town centre, Mr McCartney met residents at the Walmsley Close Community Centre in Church.
Among them was 75-year-old Edith Holden, who recently moved from her home in Pearl Street, Accrington - part of the Project Phoenix area - to supported accommodation in Bank Street, Church.
Edith said that she had lived in Pearl Street for 16 years, but moved away owing to the problems of dereliction and crime there.
She described her experiences to Mr McCartney and added: "The area where I used to live is just going to pieces, and I noticed the difference when I moved to Bank Street. There's much more of a community here."
Mr McCartney said that the money would help to improve housing, health care, education and jobs, and attract investment from the private sector. The emphasis was on communities working together.
He said: "We're going to see a complete transformation of some communities, bringing people out of the cold and bringing opportunity for the future. It is a holistic approach; it isn't just about the bricks and mortar.
"It is about safer streets, tackling youth crime, and tackling burglaries. There is a long way to go but we have got the right attitude."
Nigel Rix, director of Hyndburn FIRST, the regeneration arm of the council, said: "The Government is using Accrington as an example of what it wants to achieve through the Communities Plan.
"We have been amazed by the level of national media interest in the problems and opportunities for residents living in West Accrington. We look forward to the early release of the new funding so we can move ahead with projects of this kind.''
Councillor Mrs Jean Battle, deputy leader of Hyndburn Council with the portfolio for housing, said: "I am delighted Mr Prescott has confirmed the Govern-ment's commitment to transforming neighbourhoods in and around our East Lancashire towns.
"We are working with residents to bring forward plans to demolish homes in low-demand areas and to create neighbourhoods where communities can thrive at home, at work and at play.''