Halted redevelopment has left Sandridge home residents in limbo

ELDERLY people who moved out of their sheltered housing accommodation so that it could be redeveloped have been left in limbo without any communication from the district council, it has been claimed.

Sandridge parish councillor John Foster said that none of the residents who moved out of Caroline Sharpe House from October 2009 on the basis that they could return when the project was completed have received any information from the council in recent months.

They had been told by the council’s housing department along with residents in several other schemes in the district that their bedsit accommodation didn’t meet current standards for sheltered housing and needed to be replaced with one-bedroom apartments instead.

But Caroline Sharpe House in Chiltern Road, Sandridge, is still not empty 15 months after the first residents moved into temporary accommodation and the council has yet to start looking for a housing association partner to carry out the development.

Cllr Foster fears that the project could have fallen victim to the credit crunch but he insisted that the council should have had a solid plan in place before they uprooted the residents and he voiced disappointment that they had not been kept informed.

He said: “When they started moving people out they should have known what they wanted to do. But here we are in 2011, 15 months on, and the district council hasn’t got anybody on board and I’m getting a little bit anxious about whether they are really going to do something or if they are going to demolish the building and let it go for other housing requirements.

“They should have been seeking expressions of interest before the recession and before they started moving people out.”

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He continued: “The downturn in the economy may mean that the council can’t find a housing association partner but what you don’t do is keep people in limbo, you tell them what is going on. If the council isn’t able to get a partner, give the residents an honest answer.”

Cllr Foster said that had the council been determined in pressing ahead with the project, the remaining residents, one of whom he understands is insistent on being moved into a two-bedroom flat in Marshalswick, would have been found alternative accommodation by now.

Michael Clark, one of the residents who moved out of Caroline Sharpe House, said: “We were supposed to be moving back in there this year or next year and they promised us a monthly information letter which has dried up.

“In November we were promised an update before Christmas but that still hasn’t arrived. I speak on behalf of all the former residents when I say we’re disappointed about not being kept up to date about what is going on.”

Karen Dragovic, head of housing at St Albans district council, said that the residents had been told finding alternative accommodation for them would take time which was why the council “specified a lengthily closing period.”

She explained that the council was in the process of finding suitable alternative housing for the remaining residents and that they would be seeking expressions of interest from contractors for the rebuild.

Ms Dragovic insisted that residents had been kept informed and claimed that newsletters were sent out in January.

She also said that the council would be contacting Mr Clark to rearrange a meeting cancelled during the snow last year.

She added: “We are always happy to discuss the housing needs of council tenants wherever they live. If existing or former residents of Caroline Sharpe House who are still council tenants would like a meeting, then their housing support officer will be pleased to arrange this.”