Still no plans for council to buy Sugar Hill estate

Leeds City Council says it will do what it can to support the residents facing eviction from their homes in the Sugar Hill estate in Oulton – but continued to rule out the possibility of buying the houses itself.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 6:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 6:16 am
Chairwoman of the Residents Action Group, Cindy Readman.

It also warned that some tenants may have to move away from the area, as it was “unlikely” suitable nearby accommodation would be found for all households still living on the estate.

It follows the decision by a planning inspector to allow owners Pemberstone to redevelop the site of 70 houses in Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive, on the grounds that they are unsafe and are falling into disrepair.

Tenants – some of whom have lived in the former Coal Board-owned housing for decades – have since been issued with four-month eviction notices by the owners.

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A report, set to go before Leeds City Council’s executive board next week, stated it would look to prioritise the remaining 48 households still living in the area with finding alternative housing via Leeds Housing Options.

But it claimed that many of the tenants’ preferred option – that the council buy up and refurbish the existing houses – would simply be unaffordable.

The report stated: “The council’s first concern has always been to see this community kept together and in the absence of having any ownership in the site has sought to engage with Pemberstone to explore the possibility of this and to obtain information about its activities and programme so that the Council can be as proactive as possible in understanding and mitigating their impacts.”

But it later adds: “The acquisition of the site by the Council, retention of current dwellings and bringing into Housing Leeds stock on affordable rents, together with the very high costs of delivering refurbishment to high sustainability standards in line with other new-build and refurbishment works across the city, means that the Council cannot make an economic case for investment or retention.”

It added that families would be “fully supported” in getting alternative accommodation and that, if needed, an officer would attend tenants’ homes to assess risk of homelessness. This could lead to priority for rehousing.

It warned, however: “Unfortunately it is unlikely to be possible to meet the housing needs of all the community within or close to the existing area due to availability of vacant dwellings in both the private and the social housing sector.”

A planning application was submitted to Leeds City Council in 2019 by Pemberstone to demolish and rebuild the 70 post-war prefabricated homes.

The plans were originally rejected by a Leeds City Council planning committee in October 2019, but were overturned on appeal by a Government planning inspector.

While 11 former miners, on old-style tenancy agreements, must legally be rehoused at Pemberstone’s proposed new development, their neighbours will be forced to leave as they all have shorthold tenancies that require just a month’s notice.

At a full Leeds City Council meeting in September, leader of the Leeds Liberal Democrats group Coun Stewart Golton presented a letter from the Save Our Homes LS26 campaign, which has been fighting against the planned redevelopment.

In the motion, he called on the authority to endorse calls from the campaigners to renegotiate with the housing owners to bring the properties into council ownership and, if unsuccessful, use compulsory purchase powers to buy the properties.

But the council’s ruling Labour group said all avenues had been exhausted, and that a chronic council housing shortage coupled with historically high demand has meant the council had to focus its resources elsewhere.

The new paper will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s Executive Board on Wednesday, October 20.

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