Modernisation was the key word for Westfield in what might fittingly be described as the ‘modern era’. Beset by financial worries, the Westfield Council had been forced to register as a Housing Association in December 1975 in a bid to gain eligibility for modernisation grants. The subsequent Government funding paid for 14 houses to be modernised at a cost of £112,000, however, this work only scratched the surface.
With the accounts in a desperate state, the new 1980 Rent Act, which included a ‘right-to-buy’ clause, appeared to provide a timely solution to the troubled Westfield committee. Although charitable housing associations were under no obligation to sell freeholds, it was decided that the partial sale of empty housing stock on the village was sensible: it would bring in much-needed funds, stop certain properties from falling into disrepair, and reduce the village housing to a level that could be maintained, managed and successfully tenanted. Twenty two houses were subsequently sold to sitting tenants, but no stipulation could be made that they later be sold-on to ex-service people. The risk was that there was now a genuine long-term potential for the village’s ex-service ethos and identity to be fractured.
The whole issue had been fraught and there were times that the committee genuinely feared that the village might have to be sold off altogether.The decision was taken to reduce day-to-day administrative and maintenances duties and costs by handing over the practical management of the remaining Westfield properties to a larger, professionally-run organisation.
The charity would, however, retain an on-site employee to look after the welfare of its tenants and ensure that their needs as ex-service people were being met. It would also retain the right to uphold the existing requirements of tenancy, ensuring that only ex-service people would be accepted on the village properties that were not now privately owned. It was ultimately decided to enter into partnership with an organisation that was already well-established in the Lancaster area, the Northern Counties Housing Association (NCHA).