Families on Leeds estate built for coal miners told to leave homes ahead of demolition

People living on a Leeds estate built for a coal mining community almost 70 years ago have been told to leave as a developer presses ahead with controversial plans to demolish their homes.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 1:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th August 2021, 1:44 pm

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Investment company Pemberstone, which owns the estate, says there are 70 houses with significant structural damage and it will replace them with new builds, after the planning application was approved on appeal.

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Chairwoman of the Residents Action Group, Cindy Readman.

But residents living in the run-down pre-fabricated properties, which were built by the National Coal Board in the 1950s, do not want to leave and they are urging Leeds City Council or a housing association to buy the homes and refurbish them.

Pemberstone is legally required to rehouse 11 former miners, who are on old-style protected tenancy agreements, but the other households are on shorthold tenancies which can be brought to an end with a month’s notice.

Cindy Readman, chair of the Save Our Homes LS26 campaign group, has been told to leave her family home after 16 years.

She said: “Nobody wants to leave here. It’s a lovely close-knit community and we look after each other.

Residents Cindy Readman (right) and Mavis Abbey pictured in January 2020.

"Our aim all along has been to make sure this community is kept together and we do not get turfed out of the houses we’ve lived in for years. Some of the residents on this estate have lived here for 50, 60 years. Even if they are promised a new house, they don’t want that.”

Leeds City Council refused to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of the estate in October 2019, after concerns were raised about the impact on the community, but the Planning Inspectorate overturned that decision in January 2021.

Inspector Richard Clegg said it is not commercially viable to refurbish the “deteriorating” homes and replacing them with high-quality modern homes is “the most realistic response”.

However, he also pointed out that the project will “dissipate” a “strong community”.

He added: “Due to the demand for social housing in Rothwell and the higher cost of market housing in the area compared with that on the appeal site, it is likely that many households who would be displaced would have to seek alternative accommodation away from the local area.”

A Pemberstone spokesman said: "For the tenants who have to move, we have given them a four months’ notice period and have offered an ex-gratia payment equivalent to up to six months’ rent to help with relocation costs.

“In the meantime, these properties will need to have monthly checks to ensure there are no immediate dangers.

“All of the other properties on the estate are also expected to continue to deteriorate and, whilst their tenants are currently unaffected, it is likely that further properties will need to be vacated in the near future. We will continue to monitor the position carefully.”

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council said: "I’d like to thank residents of the Sugar Hill estate residents for the meeting last week, and we remain committed as a council to trying to find a solution that keeps the community together and gives them a certain future.

"This issue brings home again the significant challenges that we as a city and a council face due to the housing crisis."

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