Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Delay and decay on Prescot Road Fairfield

I had a meeting on Tuesday with two different home owners on Prescot Road, their supportive families and neighbours, and Tom McGuire, the Executive Director of Community 7.

The two ladies, one of whom's house we met in, are in dire straits.

They each own a home in a long row of mainly boarded-up houses.

Four years ago when Kensington Regeneration was set up and local people were asked what they wanted, one of their wishes was to see this row sorted out. Some have been empty for years, one local resident recalls a friend being refused a mortgage on a house in this row 15 years ago because of dodgy foundations.

Others are in fairly reasonable condition, a few are still being occupied privately.

They were an eyesore and local people wanted them smartening up and sorting out.

Consequently, the council asked the local Housing Association that by now owned lots of them, to try and empty and then board up all the houses that they had in their ownership, pending a decision on some kind of development.

That sounds reasonable, clearing the way for action, until you realise it has been going on for four years.

Empty houses in public ownership waiting for the council to come up with a plan.

Empty houses with leaking roofs, choked up gutters, damp problems, broken roof tiles, which are slowly infecting the privately owned occupied houses next door.

The resident whose house we were in has experienced terrible damp for four years now because of faults in the neighbouring houses but the public landlords have not wanted to spend a lot of money patching up their houses while there was such uncertainty about the future of the block. They have also lost 4 years rent on some of their houses. If I was C7 I would be tempted to sue the council.

Her neighbour would dearly love a new bathroom, but is it worth it she asks? What if she puts the bathroom in and then someone makes her move?

If I was a home-owner in the row, I would already have sued the council.

So, what is the LibDem solution to this?

Councillor Doran was forced to act by local residents and by the Friends of Newsham Park just about a year ago. He chairs a working group made up of the three local Councillors (him, me and Cllr Marbrow) and for some reason that I dont understand, Councillor Radford who might have represented those people in the past - I am assuming that end of the ward must have been in Tuebrook ward before the 2004 boundary changes - but doesnt any more. Then there is a member of the Neighbourhood Management Team from the Council, Tom from C7, representatives from some of the other housing assocations who own large villa property in the adjacent Prescot Drive which also need attention (although are all empty and mostly derelict). There are also a few members of Friends of Newsham Park.

For nearly a year this group has been meeting but to no effect.

The LibDem Councillors' best suggestion so far is to support the proposition that we knock the whole lot down and let the so-called preferred developers, Bellway, build some apartments and town houses in this park-side plot.

Well that was not good enough 12 months ago when it was first suggested and it wont be good enough in 12 months time either, no matter how many times they keep proposing it.

Local people, residents and home owners do not want to sell up to the bulldozers. They believe that only the ones that have to be demolished due to condition should be knocked down and that where possible we should retain and refurbish these large family homes so they can stay. There have been a lot of tears over a long time.
All over Kensington large family homes are being demolished because apparently nobody wants them - but if we knock them all down then where will those people who really do want a large family home live?

We have to keep some, otherwise we will have to set up a new scheme to start building them again!

So, as I was saying, there are these people living in these houses being blighted by public landlords because the council have told them to keep them empty pending some future wonderful idyllic time when perhaps they might actually be bothered to come up with a plan and put it into action.

And what is being offered after three years of no action at all and a further year of meetings which have also achieved nothing? Bull-dozers.

Well it is not good enough and we wont stand for it, not the residents and not the Labour Party, not the MP either who was instrumental in setting up the meeting with C7 yesterday, and definitely not me.

I think Tom was moved by the stories he heard and he has promised to contact in person all the remaining residents and discuss with them just what they really want, whether they want to stay in the same house, move to another house in the row with a more sustainable condition, sell up and move somewhere else, do a house swap, whatever it might be. Well it is a start and I cant see any progress without it because I will never agree to a mass demolition, not ever, in any circumstances, unless the residents say that is what they want!

He has also promised to do something about the houses in the hands of C7 which are blighting their neighbours.

I will be holding him to that, I will also help as much as I can, we made a good start with the residents we met this week, maybe together we can finally steer this working group in the right direction and see the end to this delay and decay.

I think I do trust him to do the right thing, now we will have to convince the rest

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