When you think of community it often conjurors up images within your mind. Memories and times spent within that community growing up and playing as a child then seeing your children grow up on the same streets that you once had all your childhood adventures on. For some from grandparents down to the newest residents of a community its a sense of pride and belonging. The ability to knock on a door to borrow a hammer or some sugar etc it has its up and downs of course but when called upon community spirit is still alive and well. It’s easy to believe that it isn’t as more and more gentrification takes place pulling the beating heart right out of many communities up and down the country.
Community spirit has taken a bit of a battering over the past few decades as the media whip up frenzies of consumerism by night and “poverty porn” by day in an attempt to continually divide the people. If you have just done a 12-hour shift and you put your television on to be faced with programs titled benefits and proud etc it’s by design, it’s telling you to hate the poor by highlighting a small minority who appear on that type of show. Then you switch over and see lifestyles of the rich and the famous all designed to pump more debt based culture at you to bring emotions of envy and to make you feel worthless if you haven’t got the latest mobile phone or a newer model car. You are being constantly told what to think what to buy what to eat what to read and sadly how to feel. We are told to have an opinion on race, religion, economic status, appearance, gender and sexual orientation and that enables the masses to be controlled so effortlessly by the people at the top its classic divide and conquer.
You may why ask would they put so much effort into doing this and the answer is simple. If we as human beings without any labels joined together as a united group of people wanting change and battled injustices they would have to change and work for the people and not for themselves which is what is currently happening by keeping us arguing with each other over politics race religion etc we remain divided and therefore easier to control and be manipulated for the people in charge to do what they want with little resistance. We must return to the natural state of a human being one of love and compassion with a real commitment to helping one another. That brings us on to the purpose of this blog post 70 families need us all to pull together as they are all at risk of losing their homes.
Oulton residents of Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close LS26
70 families are being faced with the prospect of losing their homes. It all began when the residents received an A5 leaflet through the doors informing them of Pemberstone (Landlord) plans for the estate. However, these were not as you would have expected addressed to the tenants given the serious nature of these plans instead these were bundled in with pizza menus and other “junk mail” so over half the estate put them in the bin unaware of what was mixed up in the post. Which is insulting at best and incredibly poor customer service. These flyers also had plans for an upcoming consultation evening where again you would expect that the residents would be able to have their concerns heard and vital questions answered. However at the consultation evening that the residents attended hoping to find answers to their questions were again treated appallingly as nobody from Pemberstone was present instead they had sent two people to represent them. unfortunately, they didn’t seem to know anything regarding the impending issues and were unable to answer the resident’s questions. There were however large boards with pictures of the houses they intend to build on the site that these residents have called home for many years these houses seemed very much like executive homes and not that of affordable social housing. Also present was David Nagle from the Council and a Representative from Watsons who manage the estate.
Campaign set up
After the badly prepared consultation evening, the residents knew that it would be down to them to save their homes and formed a campaign group. Cindy Readman is Chairperson, Mark Field Vice-Chair, John Readman Secretary and Susan Gould Treasurer. Since the group formed they have made numerous media appearances to raise awareness of this terrible situation that they find themselves in. They have been on BBC Look North on a couple of occasions with residents being interviewed on the estate. They have also made the front page of the Morning Star (Local Yorkshire Newspaper). In addition, a reporter from a well respected national newspaper is talking with Cindy and Karen Bruce (The labour Councillor representing the people of Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton, and Carlton) about doing a story. Hazell and Mark have been on BBC Radio Leeds and Hazell has also appeared on LBC radio talking to Sajid Javid.
5 of the residents including Cindy, Mark, and Susan went to a deputation at Leeds Council in front of 99 Councillors and were warmly received even getting a standing ovation from them. Cindy, Susan, Hazell, and Mavis subsequently attending a follow-up meeting with 6 of the councillors which unfortunately yielded few answers to the questions posed by the campaigners and the councillors have gone away to gather further information.
A member of the housing department visited some of the residents to explain how the council housing list works and a large number of the residents are now on the list for housing although they have been told that last year the people that got a 2 bedroom place had been on the waiting list for a massive 71 weeks!! and for a three bedroom property which are in short supply as it is has a 46 week wait. The question of “where do we go while waiting for a home” was answered with “they would look into temporary accommodation” it is believed to be highly unlikely to have sufficient numbers of temporary accommodation available for this situation. An overwhelming majority of the residents do not want to move and quite frankly why should they this is a place they have called home for a number of years why should they be brushed aside for corporate greed pushing for profit over people.
It appears that there are two types of contracts on the estate. With around 13 families having a lifetime contract (this is for ex-miners or their descendants) meaning Pemberstone have to find them a property of equal size and unfortunately some of the residents that this contact applies to believe they will get one of the new properties on the estate, this is highly unlikely. It appears that they have to be found a property within a certain radius believed to be around 25 miles. Which would mean they would be moving out of the area a prospect the other residents are also faced with. The rest of the residents have assured shorthold tenancies and only have to be given just 8 weeks notice I am sure you will agree that uprooting your entire life with just 8 weeks notice is a daunting prospect to be faced with not to mention the anxiety and fear that this would cause.
Additionally, there is an environmental aspect to this case as Bats currently roost in the area. Bats are a protected species and can not by law be disturbed without a licence issued by the Government it is unclear at this stage if a licence has been granted.
Activities that can affect bats include:
renovating, converting or demolishing a building
cutting down or removing branches from a mature tree
repairing or replacing a roof
insulating or converting a loft
installing lighting in a roost, or outside if it lights up the entrance to the roost
removing ‘commuting habitats’ like hedgerows, watercourses or woodland
changing or removing bats’ foraging areas
using insecticides or treating timber
The above bullet points are taken from the Government website a link will be at the end of this blog post. A survey has been conducted regarding the bats with a further 2 more surveys to be conducted over the next few months.
The 70 houses on this estate were built over 50 years ago by the National Coal Board, originally intended for short-term use to provide housing for miners who worked at the colliery close to the estate. Pemberstone, a property investment company located in Worcester purchased the properties from UK Coal and they plan to demolish them to build executive homes instead of affordable social housing. This isn’t good enough and we must all as human beings stand shoulder to shoulder with the residents and not let this terrible act take place. The campaigners had a meeting with the director of city planning in January to ask the council to buy the estate and have it as housing stock. There would be an added expense of renovating the houses to bring them up to a certain standard but as the residents point out does not have to be completed immediately it could be undertaken over a period of time. This is a superb suggestion by the campaign group and would solve this issue in its entirety.
One elderly couple has resided in their home since 1953 and have seen it all in their 65 years on the estate. They are now both in poor health and had hoped to see out their days in their home a wish that is on the verge of being denied them. Imagine if this was your parents or grandparents. How would you feel and what would you do to prevent this?
Among the other residents, there are many elderly people (mostly ex-miners) who have no interest in moving away from their homes and their friends and neighbours. There are many families with young children who attend the local schools. Why should they have to go through such traumatic and stressful experiences which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on their education? One of the campaigners young son has been battling stress and severe anxiety due to pressures at school. He had been improving and on the road to recovery who knows what kind of setback this will cause him if it’s allowed to happen?
This is unfair and we can not sit by and allow this to take place due to a company putting profits over people. A lot of the residents have called this estate home for over 10 years and if you live somewhere for that length of time you put down roots you get to know the neighbours and you share in each other’s lives. What would you do if this was happening to you? How would you feel? Now magnify that by 100 and then you can really begin to appreciate the pain, misery and suffering this is causing for all concerned.
The petition that we posted on Twitter is still going please can everyone reading this post take just a minute to sign it. Link to petition is also below. It’s so quick and simple to do but it could make a huge difference to the resident’s lives. Let us show them they are not alone and we are all here for them. Think about sending an email over to Leeds council showing your support for the residents. Keep sharing their posts across social media keep raising awareness and don’t stop until the families are allowed to remain in their homes. The thing is you never know when this could happen to you or anyone of us. We must help them in every way we can as one day it may be one of us who needs the same help. We are better together than divided.
A huge thank you for reading this blog post. We hope it has given you further insight into what the families are campaigning for. If you are able to help or have suggestions please contact the campaigner’s links to their twitter are below if you want to tell us anything that could help or you have advice we will be more than happy to pass it on. Please get in touch. Have a great day and we will see you all very soon. Please follow the campaigners also and help them spread the word. Take care
Petition link (Please Sign)