Devastating news: Inspector backs Pemberstone

Save Our Homes LS26 has been dealt a devastating blow, as news came in on Friday night that Pemberstone’s appeal has been successful and the Inspector has granted the corporation permission to press ahead with development plans. After 3 years of fighting, families on Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close now face eviction and the demolition of their beloved homes.

“The appeal is allowed and planning permission is granted for the demolition of the existing dwellings and the erection of 70 dwellings including associated infrastructure at Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close” Appeal decision, 15 January 2021.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

In our campaign, we have highlighted so many reasons why this estate should not be demolished, with community connectedness, socio-economic vulnerability, and heritage coming top of the list. Neighbours, friends, homes and gardens have come to matter even more to us all in the last year with the pandemic.

In the report outlining his decision, the Inspector doesn’t dispute any of that, noting that “the proposed development would have a damaging impact on the community of existing residents”. Nor does the Inspector disagree with recent surveys showing that there are many families with protected characteristics on the estate. He even demands that a heritage record must be made of our homes and streets before demolition can even begin!

So why, then, were Pemberstone granted the go ahead?

“If no scheme [of structural intervention] for the existing houses is put in place, I anticipate that the dwellings would become unsafe to occupy. In this situation, it is reasonable to expect the Appellant [Pemberstone] would give [an eviction] notice to the existing occupiers… That would dissipate the community on the appeal site”. (p.13)

In short: the managed decline of the houses would give Pemberstone the right to evict eventually anyway.

It’s almost unbelievable that the housing laws in this country can allow landlords to run houses down to an apparently unliveable condition and then give them the right to use that as an excuse for eviction!

These houses are not at their end. Far from it! They need some (long overdue) basic maintenance and a scheme of refurbishment akin to what has been done for other Airey homes elsewhere in the country. But that was never within our power to ask. And now we see that is is apparently not in the Council’s position to force.

This should be noted as foreboding news for long-term tenants everywhere: you have no right to your home, no matter how many years and how many generations of your family have lived there. You are occupiers of an asset that you may stay in on their good grace, until the point they decide you cannot. This problem is bigger than Pemberstone and speaks to the rotten core of Housing Law in the UK.

The fight continues

The Inspector’s decision says that the evictions and demolition must commence within 3 years of the date of the decision. So, that’s something to look forward to at the other side of COVID-19, the end of furlough, and a predicted recession. In the meantime, we can only hope to extend our dialogue with Leeds City Council and any housing associations that might be able to step in and prevent the wholesale loss of 70 affordable tenanted properties and their families. Families who have contributed for decades to the life and soul of the Rothwell/Oulton area.

The Save Our Homes LS26 Residents Association and our supporters will of course continue to fight against eviction and demolition. We’ll update you here and on social media as we learn the implications of the development plans and just how and when our community is scheduled to be evicted. Thanks, as always, for your support and care.

Wishing everyone much strength and good health in these really tough times.

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