'˜They are destroying a community' say Oulton homes protesters

Residents of a former mining community in Leeds have claimed talks they hoped would save their homes were little more than a 'tick box exercise'.

Tuesday, 16th October 2018, 6:41 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th October 2018, 12:28 pm
Protesters in Oulton during the summer.

Private investment company Pemberstone, which owns a small housing estate of 1950s-built Airey pre-cast concrete homes in Oulton, has submitted a planning application to demolish 70 semi-detached houses on Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close and build a mix of detached and semi-detached houses.

A group, made up of residents and local councillors, were granted a meeting with Pemberstone on Monday afternoon to discuss their concerns.

But, following the meeting, the group claimed they had not been given the assurances from the company they had been seeking.

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Coun Karen Bruce (Lab) said: “It was a tick box exercise – which is what we feared.

“I wanted concrete guarantees that they would rehouse people. People who have lived there for many years – they brought their children up here.”

Coun Bruce added the current tenants only have to be given two months’ notice before having the leave their properties. She said the plans to rebuild on the site are expected to go before the council’s plans panel in November.

The company claims the houses are becoming too expensive to maintain and that newer houses need to be built. But Coun Bruce believes not enough is being done for the area’s residents.

She added: “They could do the houses up. They could still make money if they refurbished the houses.

“I am angry – they are destroying a community. It’s not just pulling down houses – it’s pulling down a community.

“It’s that community support that has built up that is important to me, but not to Pemberstone.

“This is affecting people’s health and relationships are suffering – these are the knock-on effects.”

A protest march against the plans, organised by the National Union of Mineworkers, took place earlier this summer.

One of those marching was Cindy Readman, whose husband John is a former miner at Rothwell Colliery. They have lived on the estate for 13 years and worry that they will not be able to remain in the area.

Following the meeting on Monday, Mrs Readman said: “They say they are going to do it in phases, and that (tenants) would be looked after – but they could not say how.

“We believe this is a heritage site and they have to think about the community.

“But this is such a complicated issue, and the law is weighted massively in favour of developers, not us.”

A spokesman for Pemberstone said: “The meeting was a genuine attempt to listen and respond to residents’ concerns. The planning application aims to provide a framework for the future of the estate.

“Pemberstone has owned, managed and maintained these houses for 17 years. However, these are precast concrete properties which are nearing the end of their life and becoming more difficult to maintain. There will come a point where they will no longer be lettable so we need to consider how best to continue to provide decent homes in the longer term.

“Any new build process will be phased over a period of up to 15 years. We have always assured residents that we have no intention of undertaking a wholesale demolition and redevelopment in a single phase.

“In the event of any re-development all tenancy agreements will be honoured. Residents with regulated tenancies will be offered appropriate replacement homes within the estate. The plans also include 11 ‘affordable homes’ which will be operated by a housing association, and we have opened dialogue with housing associations about the possibility of them taking the site forward as a whole.”