New £8.4m council homes to keep memory of Scalextric inventor alive

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A NEW £8.4m Leigh Park housing development named after the creator of Scalextric will help 'keep his memory alive', his family have said.

Relatives of local inventor Fred Francis yesterday welcomed the first household to Fred Francis Close in Leigh Park, located less than 300 metres from the original Scalextric factory.

Built by Portsmouth City Council the site boasts 30 houses and eight flats, as well as a playground.

Fred's widow, Diane Francis, visited the site to meet the first tenants - the Rapson family. The 73-year-old said: 'We feel very proud of Fred. He was a very clever man but modest. I am sure he would be pleased with what's here.

'The family are lovely and we wish them lots of happiness in their new home.'

Her daughter Julia Hazell, 39, added: 'Obviously this is very emotional for us as dad passed away quite a long time ago, about 20 years ago, but his memory is kept alive here.

'When we've been here before it was just a field. To see is now is really amazing.'

Although families will not be moving in until April, Lisa and Ian Rapson attended the opening with daughter Danielle to see their new home, which has been specially adapted to be wheelchair accessible.

Lisa, 39, said moving into a house would give her family a new lease of life. 'We as a family are overwhelmed and so grateful for our new home,' she said.

'This will give my daughter and husband the quality of life they deserve. Danielle will now be able to get out of her wheelchair and play on the floor in the front room.

'We want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.'

Danielle, 13, suffers genetic disorders that result in seizures and cerebellar ataxia, which limits mobility.

Ian, 43, who also has cerebellar ataxia, added: 'We have been counting down the days since we knew we were moving here, which was back in 2017.'

For Portsmouth council's housing boss, Councillor Darren Sanders, the homes were 'magnificent.'

'This development will be truly life changing for the residents,' he said.

'It is absolutely magnificent. The homes look great. Everybody is commenting on how spacious they are.

'It is wonderful to see homes people can afford. And of course we want to build more of these in the city.'

The Fred Francis Close project started in autumn 2017.  30 houses will be allocated to households from the Portsmouth housing waiting list and the eight flats will be allocated to households nominated by Havant Borough Council.