Knock it all down
Evening Gazette Jan 29 2003
Sandy Mckenzie, Evening Gazette
Hundreds of homes on a Teesside council estate could be bulldozed in a multi-million pound revamp.
In their place new developments of private and housing association homes could be built.
The heart of the Mandale estate in Thornaby is the area where the radical action looks set to be taken.
Stockton Council's Cabinet will consider tomorrow a move which would see 578 homes knocked down in the centre of the Mandale estate.
Today residents welcomed the plans, with most saying they wanted to return once work is complete.
Local councillor Steve Walmsley, who was born on the estate, said action was long overdue.
He said: "We have people living in houses on the Mandale which if we were put into as package holiday accommodation we would complain loudly to the travel agent."
And Mum Rae Oram, of Skelton Road, said: "I would rather it's done, to take the houses down and rebuild them.
"But I would like to come back - I've lived here all my life."
Most of the homes earmarked for demolition are council owned - more than 60 are currently empty, but 104 have been bought under the Right to Buy Scheme.
Much of the housing is poor quality and Mandale is among the 10pc of most deprived wards in the country.
In a report to the Cabinet council officers say: "Consultation undertaken with local residents revealed the community's overriding issue in Mandale was one of physical rather than social decline."
The officer says the demolition of 578 homes with tenants being relocated is a radical option.
It would require a significant programme of moving tenants to new accommodation, which would need to be managed over a number of years.
Adjacent council homes will be brought up to a "decent" standard over the lifetime of the authority's ten-year programme of works.
Owner occupiers would get the market value for their property, plus 10pc of the market value as home loss compensation and an allowance for disturbance.
A key part of the proposals is also to include the former Dene School playing fields in the area for redevelopment. Private housing could be built on at least part of the open area.
The scheme could include providing new open space and improving existing open areas in Thornaby.
Eventually between 600 and 700 new homes - 200 housing association and the remainder private sector - could be built in the area.
Ian Thompson, head of regeneration and economic development with Stockton Council, said: "This is a significant set of proposals. The report to Cabinet is saying people like the idea of a radical rethink of the estate and up to 578 homes being demolished.
"If the report is approved we will work up a scheme in more detail showing a possible layout of housing and facilities."
He said further consultation would go ahead and if the results were positive development partners would be sought.
The cost of property acquisition, the demolition work and preparing the site for development is currently estimated at around £7.6m.
Cllr Walmsley said: "We have been pushing for action on this since I was elected as a councillor and even before that. We do not want a 'them and us' situation in the area with some new houses being provided and some older housing left.
"The only solution is something radical."
Cllr Walmsley said he was born in Eston Close. The 18 houses there were knocked down about 20 years ago.
"People in other houses in similar conditions on the estate have waited long enough for something to be done," he said.
He said the former Dene School playing field was derelict land and building on it "would solve a lot of anti-social behaviour problems."
Frustrated residents of the Mandale estate spoke of the uncertainty they have been living in for years.
They say they have been plagued with anti-social behaviour and crime while the area is allowed to run down physically. Most welcome the idea of bulldozing the area and starting from scratch, despite the disruption such a project would bring to their lives.
But they complain the council, having initially involved them in consultations, has since kept them in the dark over their own future.
Mum Rae Oram, of Skelton Road, said she - like other residents - knew nothing of the latest developments.
Another resident, who did not want to be named, said: "The council just don't tell us anything. We're going for meetings for so long and nothing happens. "
Christina Large, of Skelton Road, also of the Mandale Association of Residents Support, said: "The demand study raised hopes but then we heard nothing. "
Alison Trainer, chairman of the Mandale Association of Residents Support, said residents knew something drastic was required to be done.
"But residents feel they are stuck in a time warp. We do not know when something is going to happen. We do know things can't happen overnight but the council needs to produce a timetable for the action programme," said Mrs Trainer.
She said she hoped the good tenants on the estate would be given the chance to return when the new homes were built. She said some tenants had lived on the estate for decades.
A fishy tale?
Elderly residents in a threatened housing development have been assured by council chiefs their needs are a top priority.
The assurances came after pensioners accused council officials of caring more about re-housing giant goldfish who live at the site than they did about residents' welfare.
Those living at Kennedy House sheltered accommodation, off Mitchell Avenue in Thornaby, were "upset" at plans to demolish their homes early next year to make way for a state-of-the-art old people's development.
They claimed they had been given little information about what was happening and even less about where they would be moved to.
But Neil Schneider, the council's Corporate Director of Service Stockton, said huge efforts had been made to keep residents up to date with developments.
"We have taken great care to ensure residents are kept fully informed, I can't recall us ever doing more to ensure that's the case," he said.
"Residents' needs come before anyone starting on the site."Yes, we would like to start work in April. But if we haven't met their needs - both housing needs and care needs - then clearly we can't."
More than 30 residents live at the site - which consists of 16 bungalows and a block of flats - and most say they have no idea what the future holds.
"No-one has been offered anywhere else to live, we just don't know where we will end up," said Hilda Machin, 85."It makes you wonder if they are just trying to send us over the road to the cemetery," said Mary Legg, 85, a resident since 1967.
According to residents two council officials called at the Thornaby site recently and said they had been given the task of re-housing the fish.
"They care more about the fish than they do about us," said Olwyn Morshead.
Mr Schneider said since December 2001 council officials had consulted residents every step of the way.
In January residents were taken on a visit to Marske and shown a similar development to that planned for Thornaby, said Mr Schneider.
In July there was an open meeting. In October letters were sent to residents and two weeks ago newsletters were sent out, he added.
A fact sheet is being sent out this week with a list of frequently asked questions and answers and a meeting is also being arranged for next week.
Residents are also being offered one-to-one meetings to discuss their individual needs.
"What we can't tell them, until we start decanting the scheme, is where they will move to. But we will find alternative homes for them and will be asking them 'where do you want to live?'," said Mr Schneider.
Residents have also been guaranteed a place at the new development, should they want one.
Formal approval is still needed for the scheme, which, if proposals go according to plan, will be complete in October 2004.
Homes for the elderly planned
Plans for a state-of-the-art elderly care housing development in Thornaby have been given the go-ahead by councillors.
The proposals for the John F Kennedy House site, off Mitchell Avenue, Thornaby, will see the present homes - built in 1964 - bulldozed and replaced by a mix of 48 two-bedroom flats and bungalows.
A Stockton Council cabinet meeting heard the present properties would need "significant investment" to modernise - about £500,000 - and would still not meet the changing needs of the elderly.
Anchor Trust will manage the new “Extra Care” development.
Assurances have been sent to current residents that work will not start until their needs have been met - both housing and care requirements.
.Speaking this week Win Hodgson, cabinet member for housing and community safety, said: "We are committed to providing high-quality housing and care for older people and this fabulous innovative scheme is part of our re-provision exercise.
"All existing residents at John F Kennedy House will be given first option to move back into the brand new development and their needs are our primary concern throughout the whole scheme.”
Councillor Ann McCoy, cabinet member for health and social care, said: "This type of scheme aims to create a community with mixed levels and types of need where the focus is upon promoting and maintaining independence.
"The Extra Care scheme is designed to support older people and enable them to have the comfort and stability of being able to stay in their own homes.”
The plans for the new development also include a hairdressing salon, laundrette, consulting room, restaurant and communal gardens. .
Anchor Trust has put in a bid to the Housing Corporation to secure funding for the scheme and providing the bid is successful work is due to start between next July and August. It is expected to take 12 months. .