A GOVERNMENT minister's visit to trouble-torn Woodnook was hailed as an historic day by residents.
Local Government Minister Phil Woolas, the man in charge of housing renewal, saw for himself the problems in an area of Accrington which has been plagued by anti-social behaviour and nuisance neighbours.
Mr Woolas was invited to the borough by Hyndburn MP Greg Pope and spent an afternoon meeting councillors and residents of Woodnook before visiting West Accrington to view improvements under the Elevate scheme.
Speaking in Woodnook, he said: "Greg invited me here with a strong and powerful argument.
"It is very clear that this is a strong community with very clear problems of unemployment, empty homes, low house prices and a transient population.
"These are very real problems and it's clear that we have an obligation to find solutions.
He added: "I would normally expect poor-quality housing to be a problem, with people wanting to move out of an area, but in Woodnook there are good stone-built houses and people want to live here.
"But how do we get residents into employment and get those causing problems to move on or stabilise."
He said solutions being suggested by councillors included a scheme to allow local authorities to register landlords and act against absentee landlords who don't control their tenants.
Other ideas include stopping housing benefit for people who are not good tenants, an idea being pushed by Mr Pope in Parliament and accepted as a possible course of action by the Government this week.
Brenda Radcliffe, 66, chairman of the Woodnook Residents' Community Assoc-iation, said: "I've lived here for 34 years and it used to be known as a nice area.
"But now we have problems with anti-social behaviour and landlords more concerned with getting rent than finding good tenants.
"We need more homeowners who take some pride in their homes. This is an area with a great nursery and school and it's near the town centre.
"I think the minister has listened and taken on the concerns we have raised.''
Alf Green, chairman of Woodnook Forum, added: "This could possibly be the historic day that we have been waiting for, with our problems getting into the right people's ears. We need action today, not tomorrow."
Moving on, Mr Woolas saw how millions of pounds invested in Hyndburn through Elevate is benefiting the people of West Accrington.
He met Max Steinberg, chief executive of Elevate, to discuss how the area is being transformed into a better place to live and work.
Mr Woolas called on grandparents Joan and David Coupe, of Lister Street, Accrington, whose street was given a facelift under the £11M scheme.
Improvements to their home include a new water supply and roof and cosmetic changes including smart new railings and garden landscaping.
Mr Woolas met workers at the India Street neighbourhood management office and his tour also took in the Project Phoenix area where properties are being demolished to make way for a wider choice of houses and a new health centre.