Home > From the WEB, housing > We’ll fight closure plan, residents vow; Pensioners blame council for uncertainty.

We’ll fight closure plan, residents vow; Pensioners blame council for uncertainty.

Byline: Neil McKay

RESIDENTS who say they have been “left in limbo”for five years while civic bosses ponder the future of their sheltered housing have vowed to oppose closure plans.

Durham Council says it doesn’t have the funds to upgrade Oversteads House, at Ushaw Moor and Brandon House, Brandon, both on the outskirts of Durham City Durham City.

But the remaining residents of Oversteads House last night hit out at the “inhumane treatment” they say they have been subjected to by the county council and by Durham City Council before local government reorganisation.

Problems began five years ago when the city council halted a pounds 250,000 upgrade of the properties after the money ran out.

Audrey Renahan, 73, who has lived at Oversteads House for 10 years, said: “There were 34 residents here, but the council stopped encouraging people to move in. Now there are only 11 of us. They say nobody wants to move in, but that is because the future of Oversteads House is so uncertain.

“It is inhumane treating elderly people like this, causing so much uncertainty. We have had this hanging over us for five years. The council has even offered us money to move out, but we are happy and secure here.”

Another resident, Kevin Flaherty, 59, said: “The uncertainty means people are reluctant to spend money on new carpets or furniture. We want to know where we stand, whether we will be still here this Christmas or next Christmas.

“We are a happy community here and don’t want to be split up.”

Betty Underwood, 76, said: “We are happy here, most of us are from Ushaw Moor and don’t want any upheaval at this time of our lives.”

A report due to be discussed by Durham County Council’s Cabinet next week will say that falling demand for Oversteads House and Brandon House means 44% of flats are empty.

Some have been unoccupied for up to four years. They will also hear that a total investment of pounds 1.5m for the 45 flats would not even bring all up to standard. Cabinet member for housing, Coun Clive Robson, said: “We cannot escape from the fact that the ‘bed-sit” that we offer today is no longer fit for our customers.

“In addition there are location problems with Oversteads House in particular. It was built on a slope with very poor access to local shops and amenities. Nevertheless we recognise that, despite all these issues, this is a sensitive subject for the people living in these buildings.

“As such we have consulted extensively with residents and their families who also acknowledge the problems.” But residents of Oversteads House say they have made their feelings clear and that they don’t want to move.

They hope a private landlord or housing association could take over the complex and the one at Brandon and provide the investment required.

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