The fight to save our homes has been long and hard

Wordsworth Drive resident Hazell Field shares her reflections on a tough two years of campaigning and how the situation has worsened with Covid-19.

We have campaigned hard, been to many meetings, we have fundraised, tweeted and emailed. On October 3rd 2019, Leeds council sat down to decide whether to approve the planning application that our landlord Pemberstone had put in to demolish our homes (70 in total) and build new executive type houses to sell for profit, leaving the residents in our community homeless. Leeds Council reviewed the information and made a decision- they turned it down. We were overjoyed. We knew that Pemberstone had the opportunity to appeal, but as the weeks went on we were hoping that they could see that keeping our community together was the better option. Unfortunately on the very last day before the deadline, Pemberstone decided to put in an appeal.

Our world has come crashing down again.

Not only because of the battle that now lay ahead, but because we are dealing with this in the middle of the coronavirus. There are now a lot of anxious people in our community. The worries and stresses about how to make it through Covid-19 are building in addition to concerns for our homes. The committee for our campaign group are now working virtually to try and get our campaign up and running again, and to contact all the people that have been so useful and nice in the past.

But we’re worried about the toll this double crisis is having on people’s abilities to support us. I’m not sure at present how our fund raising is going to work, as a lot of it was raised through tombolas and collections at fairs — that is why we have now done a Just Giving page. Also the unions have been giving donations via cheques to start the fund raising, which we have been so grateful for. We only have a few weeks to raise this money and that is stressful by itself as in this current situation, money is not plentiful in people’s pockets.

Along with the whole country, we have had to adapt. We have learnt how to do zoom calls for meetings! We are of course unable to have residents’ meetings in a local hall so we now do newsletters and we are in the process of putting posters up in gardens and windows to show people of our plight. A couple of newspapers have done recent stories about us to remind people we are still fighting this.

We do feel that this is social cleansing in this area. We are the only affordable rents in area, the rest of the properties around here are bigger, certainly more valuable and attract people with money. That is also the problem, as there will be no affordable rents in area, we will face moving a long way away from here to find something affordable, in areas we have no connections with, not near schools, work or family and friends. Our lives will change immensely and all because we rent from a private landlord that just wants to make money and does not care that 70 families have nowhere to go. We look around our homes and realise yet again that we could lose them. Everything we have put into these homes will be gone. Our memories, our designs everything could go to make a company profit.

The prospect of facing temporary accommodation is frightening: putting our belongings into storage, getting rid of things we are no longer allowed to keep due to having no home, losing our gardens and all the plants, bushes trees we have nurtured in our happy times here. We have put in our love, hardwork and money into these homes, to make them feel homely and to think that a bulldozer could take it all away is heart-breaking. I am not even sure Leeds council have enough temporary accommodation for us— the parameter of miles away we could be put (away from friends, family, work and schools) is frightening. Living in areas that we have no involvement in, to be separated from the community we have built here over the years is too much to bear. We must fight this. We must win.

We have instructed a barrister to act on our behalf for this appeal but now another problem starts. We have to raise £25,000 to pay for this. We are constantly putting on twitter our just giving page to try and get donations in: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/save-our-homes?utm_id=60&utm_term=6BqmRVeW5 We are hoping people’s generosity will help us reach our target to help us save our homes. At least if we reach our target then that is one less thing to have to worry about.

Watch this space – the insecurity will continue of that I am sure, our feelings will get darker, our fight will get stronger and our spirit cannot afford to be broken.

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