Michelle’s dream realised – thanks to £4.6m scheme

A hairdresser who always dreamed of running her own business has picked up the keys to her first salon – thanks to a £4.6m scheme to regenerate a North Liverpool community.

Mum-of-three Michelle Boileau and teenage daughter Lauren will be working together and are the first tenants to move into a new row of shops in Landford Avenue, Norris Green.

The retail development, which will also include a convenience store, chippie and café, is the result of more than £4.6million being spent in the Sparrow Hall area on the shops and 62 new homes.

Cobalt Housing and the Neighbourhood Services Company (NSC) are behind the project which is transforming land left derelict following the demolition of ex-Ministry of Defence homes in 2004.

And Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson was in Sparrow Hall  to hand the shop keys to Michelle, aged 43, and Lauren, aged 18.

He said: “Norris Green is being reborn after decades of neglect and is rapidly becoming an area where people want to live. It is great to see that new homes and businesses are being delivered and I would like to thank Cobalt Housing and NSC for their work on this scheme.

“Every part of the city deserves a thriving local community and the massive improvements we have seen in Norris Green in recent years are another piece in the jigsaw.”

The unisex salon is a dream come true for ex-cook Michelle, who was unemployed until Cobalt Housing supported her to set up a mobile hairdressing business two years ago.

“I’m frightened but really excited about the salon,” said Michelle, who lives in Sparrow Hall and is a Cobalt tenant.

“I know all my neighbours are behind me and my family have been really supportive. It’s a new adventure and I’m really looking forward to it.

“Cobalt helped me so much to get my mobile hairdressing off the ground and without them I wouldn’t have got where I’ve got now. They provided funding for my first lot of equipment and have been unbelievable.”

Social business NSC has invested around £750,000 in the shops and says they will bring much-needed improvements to Sparrow Hall.

Director Phil Knibb said: “Our work is about regeneration and empowering people and there haven’t been any shops in this area for about six years now. It’s being completely transformed and we wanted to create something that improved the neighbourhood.

“We’re over the moon for Michelle and her daughter and we wish them all the best with their new business.”

Local CouncillorBarry Kushner: “We could not have done this without NSC. The new shops and the other investment in the area, shows the commitment the Council and our partners have to the residents of Sparrow Hall, and a response to calls for community facilities and amenities.”

Meanwhile, Cobalt is investing more than £3.9million in 62 new homes next to the shops on Landford Avenue.

All the two-bedroom houses and one-bedroom flats have been snapped up and the first tenants are set to move in during December.

Building work is due to be finished in January and the completion will see the number of homes provided by the housing association across Norris Green, Fazakerley and Croxteth now top 6,000.

Cobalt Housing managing director Alan Rogers said: “Over the past 10 years we’ve had to demolish several hundred sub-standard houses and it’s fantastic that we can replace them with modern homes like these.

“The investment we’ve made underlines Cobalt’s confidence in Sparrow Hall and Norris Green and we’ve had a huge amount of interest in the new properties.

“Getting to the point where we’re now providing 6,000 homes is a real milestone for us and we hope to build even more properties that meet the needs of the community.”

Cobalt supported Michelle with a grant for hairdressing equipment from its Employment and Training Fund back in 2012 and has helped her to promote her mobile business.

The housing association – part of Symphony Housing Group – is also running ‘Works For Me’, a project which aims to help tenants find work, access training and become self-employed.

The initiative is being delivered across Symphony, which also includes Liverpool Housing Trust (LHT) and Wirral-based Beechwood Ballantyne Community Housing Association (BBCHA) in Merseyside.

To find out more about ‘Works For Me’ or homes for rent in Norris Green, Croxteth and Fazakerley, visit www.cobalthousing.org.uk or call 0330 303 2222.