Campaign to save homes

RESIDENTS in a pretty Rotherham village are to hold a public protest meeting tomorrow amid fears their homes could be demolished.

Monday, 15th October 2007, 1:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th October 2007, 11:11 am

Rotherham Council is to carry out a survey of around 50 so-called Airey houses in Harthill to make sure they are structurally sound.

But residents are worried if the council decides it cannot afford to put right any defects it might decided to flatten them instead.

Already scores of so-called non-traditional homes like the Airey houses have been demolished in other areas due to repair costs.

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Many of the residents have bought their houses from the council and have spent thousands bringing them up to modern standards. They now fear the council might decided to compulsorily purchase them at knockdown prices. Others whose homes still belong to the council are also concerned they may be rehoused somewhere else.

Residents, who were sent a letter outlining the plans, have contacted Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron to seek his help, and are trying to get local councillors on their side.

Tomorrow residents are invited to a meeting at Harthill Village Hall at 6.30pm to decide what to do next and to talk to housing officials.

The council is trying to play down residents' fears and says the survey is part of an ongoing exercise to assess the condition of Rotherham's non-traditional housing stock.

And it says no decision has been taken over the future of the homes if the cost of upgrading the properties is too high. One resident Robert McDonald said: "The letter came as a great shock to many residents as they were not aware that any problems existed with their homes. Many people didn't understand the letter or its implications because if was not written in plain English and was full of jargon.

"It caused widespread concern, particularly as residents began the process of contacting the council to find out more details and were often given conflicting information.

"What became clear, however, is that compulsory purchase and demolition was one of the options under consideration. Three months on and we still have no solid information."

Chris Brown, the council's Regeneration Programme Manager, said: "Following an initial review, the council made a decision to carry out Decent Homes and structural investment in nearly 500 non-traditional properties we own.

"We have decided to conduct a more detailed review on the remaining 330 non-traditional properties we own before making any further investment decisions.

"We are keen to involve and understand the views of owner-occupiers living in non-traditional properties in the same areas involved in the review.

"I can assure all residents that all we are doing at this stage is simply seeking views and letting people have their say.

"No decision has been made and we are actively encouraging people to come forward and take part in the consultation process, such as the residents' meeting taking place in Harthill tomorrow."