Elderly hope for homes reprieve

PUBLISHED: 11:26 01 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

ELDERLY people living in two sheltered housing schemes earmarked for closure and rebuilding are praying that St Albans District Council s Cabinet will have a change of heart on Tuesday. Residents of both Linley Court in Valley Road and Caroline Sharpe Ho

ELDERLY people living in two sheltered housing schemes earmarked for closure and rebuilding are praying that St Albans District Council's Cabinet will have a change of heart on Tuesday.

Residents of both Linley Court in Valley Road and Caroline Sharpe House in Chiltern Road, both in St Albans, are asking the cabinet to allow them to stay in their much-loved homes and with the community which has become their lifeline.

But both blocks are likely to be closed for rebuilding to go ahead during which time the residents will have to move out temporarily until new apartments are ready for them.

Both Linley Court and Caroline Sharpe House were originally designated for permanent closure as part of a shake-up of housing for the elderly in the St Albans district.

It has been prompted by the council's failure to attract elderly people into the bedsit accommodation which is offered at most of their sheltered housing schemes.

Around a quarter of apartments are empty and a survey by the council has revealed that most elderly people want to live in one or two-bedroom flats or bungalows.

Now residents of the two schemes are being told that they will have to move out while rebuilding goes ahead on their sites and they will have a priority option to move back in once the work is completed if they wish to.

But at both schemes people have been left anxious and worried about their future because many of them thought they would be living out the rest of their days in their studio flats.

Michael Clark, who acts as spokesman for residents of Caroline Sharpe House, confirmed that ideally they wanted things to be left as they were.

Of the 28 flats and 10 bungalows there, only four are unoccupied. Mr Clark said: "That is why we can't understand why we are being looked at as one of the first to close."

He pointed out that residents, whose ages ranged from 66 to 96, would face two moves and added: "We moved here because we thought sheltered housing would be where we would end our days. People here are of an age where they are fretting about it."

He will be presenting a petition with 500 signatures to Cabinet when it meets to decide the next steps in its sheltered housing review. Sandridge Parish Councillor John Foster, who has signed the petition with all his colleagues, said: "By and large we are all of a mind and feel they ought to be allowed to stay there."

Andy Pearson, who acts as a spokesman for residents of Linley Court, said feelings were running very high at a meeting over the issue on Tuesday night.

He said: "They are still talking about moving people in their 90s, moving them where they don't want to be and then moving them back.

"Residents asked why Linley Court has to be redeveloped when only two flats are unoccupied and they were saying that across the district there are about 80 vacancies so what they need is a mixture and to change the character of sheltered accommodation, rationalise and broaden its scope.

"I understand that but if you have a place that works, why not keep it particularly as there is a lovely community here."

Cllr Melvyn Teare, who is Linley Court's ward councillor and a member of cabinet, said they would be taking into account residents' individual needs and their friendship groups.

He added: "We were talking and listening to them last night and I think we have allayed some of their concerns and fears but we still need to work with them as individuals.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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