Fighting with former coal board estate residents to ‘Save our Homes’ from the bulldozer

Residents on the former coal board estate of Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close, near Rothwell sports centre in Oulton are sick with worry as Pemberstone (their private landlord) submitted its planning application to bulldoze the 70 homes on the estate and replace with 71 new private houses. Residents are happy there and many have lived there for decades including quite a few former miners, miners widows or grown up children of miners. There are a group of residents that have lived there for half a century when the estate was part of the mining community of the Rothwell district.

Image result for councillor karen bruce full councilThere are also a lot of residents who have lived on the estate for up to 15 or 20 years, who still be turfed out of their homes with only two months’ notice the same as those who have been there for a shorter times. Pemberstone says it will meet its legal responsibilities but as that gives no protection at all for most of the residents, it isn’t good enough.

Petition on Christmas stallMyself and my ward colleague Cllr David Nagle have been supporting residents in various ways since October see previous update. On our Labour councillors’ stall in Rothwell we collected signatures for the paper petition to ‘save our homes’ along with residents. This is being run in conjunction with the online petition which already has over 1300 signatures and you can sign at http://bit.ly/sohls26.  I also organised for a welfare solicitor to meet the group and he gave some useful advice to the tenants.  I also advised the residents of a phone in on 18 February on LBC radio with the Conservative housing secretary Sajid Javid where a resident got to speak with him and put the plight of the residents to him. He said he would receive their information and looImage may contain: 2 people, people on stage, people sitting and indoork into it for them, but he hasn’t got back to the residents as promised.

I raised the issue in the council chamber at full council speaking up for the plight of the residents of the estate and used the opportunity to also call for more social housing. I also assisted the group in being able to take a deputation to full council on the same day to put forward their case to all councillors and senior council officers.

This is the singImage may contain: 3 people, people sitting, table and indoorle biggest injustice I’ve seen in my time as a Rothwell councillor and it beggars belief that this could be allowed to happen. I’ve met lots of great local people in my time as a councillor and it is gutting that a whole community of our fantastic local people face losing their homes. They deserve so much better. I will continue to do my utmost for these residents.

We have met with the group on a regular basis and offering ongoing support with all the issues as they develop. We have arranged for Leeds Housing Options to visit residents to offer the appropriate advice on each individual family’s housing situations.

When the issue came to light I managed to secure BBC coverage on its Look North television news programme to highlight the plight of the residents http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-41650285.

We are lobbying the council to see to what extent it is possible that it could intervene to help the residents.

As a result, I’m pleased that Martin Farrington, the council’s director of city development will meet with Pemberstone, the owner of the homes, shortly so that the council has certainty about its intentions towards the tenants.

The planning department has told me that it will still accept comments on the planning application up until at least 16 February. If you want to help local families stop private investment company Pemberstone from bulldozing their homes to replace them with expensive executive homes please put your own comments in to object to the planning application. They are our neighbours and part of the Rothwell, Woodlesford and Oulton community and are relying on us all for support.

Here are some of the points you may consider including in your comments to planning application 17/06933/FU :

  • These plans would see 70 families losing their homes and it would be impossible to rehome them all.
  • The proposal will change the character of the former coal board estate neighbourhood and a key part of the local mining heritage beyond recognition.
  • The 70 existing properties on this former coal board estate are fully occupied by tenants, many of whom have lived there for many years. Residents are happy living there in their close community.
  • It is unfair that a whole community of people should lose their homes and community support because they can’t afford to buy or rent expensive new private housing
  • This type of affordable rented housing is badly needed in the area. To lose 70 affordable housing units would be devastating for the area.
  • It is important to have a good mix of properties and the type of private housing proposed to be built will just provide more of the same type of new development we have seen so much of in the Oulton area.
  • This proposal is harmful to community wellbeing and the health and wellbeing of individual people.
  • The proposal doesn’t add any housing to the area and isn’t an allocated site.
  • Residents see a lot of bats around the estate, especially at certain times of the year. There are reports of bats in residents’ lofts. Bats are protected by law and no bat survey has been done.

You can comment at http://publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk/online-applications/

Wood Lane double parking action

PA300184Just to give an update on the parking issue on Wood Lane. We have been making regular visits over the last few months to look at the problem at different times. Just in the last two weeks we’ve looked at it with Angela Kellett, chair of Rothwell Tenants and Residents Association, and also with Gary Bartlett, the director of highways for Leeds City Council and with Cllr Richard Lewis, the executive board councillor responsible for highways.

We have spoken to lots of residents about this and you understandably have strong, and varied, opinions on the subject. We have also asked for more feedback from residents on the proposed plans which highways had drawn up earlier after our initial meetings.

After giving this much thought and deliberation and considering everyone’s comments, we have decided to progress with the scheme of further restrictions. It does need different actions working together to try to improve the situation. These further parking restrictions will play a part in this.

We are also working with agents of Valley Park who are planning short term to increase parking at one of the sites, the Lowell group’s own offices, a possible short term increase of 106 spaces, and we are working with them to make this happen, and to look at increasing parking at other businesses and at possible options on and off site.

PA300172Residents tell us they think the parking problem is dangerous. We want to see the restrictions in place as soon as is practical. Safety is our number one consideration so these are the improvements that we have asked to be implemented as soon as possible:

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To improve resident safety, including school children crossing:

  • Stricter parking restrictions to reduce double parking and provide better visibility and access at junctions.
  • Request for a pedestrian crossing, we’ve asked for a survey to be done to try to secure a crossing.
  • We’ve asked Highways to look at better access for buses to get into and out of the bus stops.
  • Work begins next year on Park and Ride car park at Stourton, which should alleviate some of the parking pressure in Rothwell including in the Wood Lane area
  • Liaising with representatives of Valley Park to increase its parking provision on site
  • Liaising with Valley Park to encourage employers to improve their parking policies, such as introducing better car share arrangements and allowing more staff to use current parking facilities (rather than just senior management).
  • Regularly review the situation particularly any actual impact of the further restrictions on Wood Lane.

We know how frustrating a situation this is for residents which is why we’re determined that things should improve.

We want to reassure you that residents have our full support and we have been and will continue to do all we can to resolve this issue.

Save our homes plea from residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive

Photo of residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive with Cllr Karen Bruce and Cllr David Nagle

It’s a very worrying time for residents on one of our local estates, which is the former coal board estate near to Rothwell Leisure Centre, Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive. As it came to light in the last week or two that a whole community of 70 families is in danger of having their homes bulldozed as their private landlord prepares to put in a planning application for new housing in place of their homes.

This is a devastatingly worrying time for them and we as Rothwell councillors are doing all we can to support them. We have already spoken to many of the residents already and are continuing to knock on doors to try and visit all the residents. We have helped them to start a campaign this week for them to “Save our Homes”.

Many residents of the estate tell me they love where they live and want to stay as they have a great community. Many have paid enough in rent over the years to this private landlord that it would have been enough or even more than enough to buy their house.

Most residents only found out about this when a flyer arrived through their door. about a ‘public consultation’ event for “land at Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive”. Some didn’t see the leaflet as it was hidden in amongst takeaway menus that were delivered the same day.

Residents are rightly very upset and angry to be treated in such a horrible way. This is about the homes they live in and their close community which are far more important than the land.

A company called Pemberstone owns both the land and the homes. It is going to put in a planning application to build 72 new houses which we believe is likely to be sold as private housing.

David and I attended the drop-in session held by the agents and then demanded a meeting with the owner and its agents. The owner didn’t attend and the agents who attended on its behalf did not give satisfactory answers to our questions. The agents refused to make any guarantees to ensure that existing tenants would be protected and refused to give any guarantees to reassure tenants.

We as local Labour councillors will stand by the residents to fight this proposal and try to protect them and their families.

Poster in window Wordsworth DriveWe are already working with residents and have helped to set up a residents’ action group to fight this and stand up for people on Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive. A house meeting on Saturday saw volunteers come forward to help start the campaign. Over the weekend and using social media to keep in contact with the group, the campaign has already started and it’s great to see the posters in windows so quickly saying, “Save our Homes”.

Looking to future needs of Rothwell people with extra care housing

Great news for Rothwell as plans are approved by the council to provide brand new extra care housing potentially in the Rothwell area.

I brought a group of interExtra care groupested community activists together to start looking into the possibility of extra care for the future in Rothwell over a year ago and they have been meeting regularly with and my Labour ward colleague Nagle and the council’s adult social care and Executive Board members to discuss how the group will liaise with the council and others to help to make extra care happen in the Rothwell area. Members of the group include, Ron Frost, Pauline Hope, Peter Smith, Anglela Kellett, Stuart Bruce, Gordon Dick, James Morley and Brian Garbett.

We also have an ambition to incorporate a community social hub into Rothwell plans where both residents inside and outside of the extra care housing can meet and it could become a focus of activity to beat social isolation in the wider community, especially where older people are living alone in their own homes.

We have as a group visited two extra care sites – at Yew Tree House in Moor Allerton and last month the recently opened council extra care facility Wharfedale View in Yeadon to get a feel for what we could achieve in Rothwell as a forward thinking alternative that many of us would prefer when we reach our older years.

Yew-Tree-Court-extra-careAt the council’s executive board meeting held at Civic Hall on Monday 17 July, members approved a proposal which involves potentially developing six sites in the city for council-owned extra care accommodation, and one of the sites is at Windlesford Green, Woodlesford, which is past the Tesco Express along Holmsley Lane.

The sites identified for possible extra care schemes are in Rothwell, West Ardsley, Armley, Seacroft, Holt Park and Middleton form part of a commitment by the council to invest £30million in the development of extra care housing in Leeds, and working with partners with the aim of delivering over a thousand new extra care units to meet rising demand by 2028.

The council’s approach forms part of the Better Lives Programme, which aims to modernise how care and support is organised in line with older and disabled people’s aspirations. Extra care housing offers an alternative model to residential care, and is primarily for those who have care and support needs as well as a housing need.

Features of the extra care approach include on-site access to 24/7 emergency or unplanned care, access to shared facilities, dining and activities to help alleviation isolation, allows people to use personal budgets to make their own arrangements for planned care, accommodation can be adapted to support the delivery of personal health and social care services.

It’s great news that Rothwell is in the six identified for potential extra care housing to be built. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen looking at other schemes. Whilst in a care setting, people get to have their own modern apartment, not just a room like in a care home, and still have access to the care they need, extra care is not like sheltered housing, as some have suggested, as it can still provide the level of care one might expect in a care home. Times change and so do expectations, I want the best possible for people in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton. I would like to thank the group for helping us come this far and look forward to working even more closely with local people and the council to try to get the scheme we’d all like in the Rothwell/Woodlesford area.

Aldi backs down on late night opening

Aldi

Good news for many residents living close to the proposed new Aldi site.

Following our strong opposition with the community to Aldi’s attempt to opening hours until late at night, me and my Labour ward colleague Cllr David Nagle and nearby residents are pleased that the pressure we brought to bear has caused Aldi to withdraw its application to open later.

When Aldi got planning permission to build a store in Rothwell hours were restricted to 9pm as we as your councillors and nearby residents objected to late night opening as young children and older people in sheltered housing would be sleeping nearby.

Aldi went for another bite at the cherry as it didn’t like the original decision at plans panel but soon realised that permission would not be given and that we are still as opposed to late nights. Aldi seem to be more interested in tinkering with the opening hours than with actually getting on with building the store which should be its priority now. Residents want to know why it has stalled and we are calling for Aldi to get on with the job.