A housing association which failed to consult local residents and never bothered informing its own tenants that it wanted to bulldoze their historic home has now added insult to that injury by failing to advise the residents of Well Cottages that it has abandoned the demolition plans. Our housing correspondent, BARRATT HOLMES, reports
Optivo, the housing association which wanted to demolish a pair of Victorian workers’ cottages in a conservation area in Coulsdon to make way for a Las Vegas-style block of flats, has not bothered informing the elderly tenants who live there that they have dropped their plan to re-house them against their will.
Coming under mounting public pressure over their proposals, following reports by Inside Croydon and a 600-signature petition raised by the local MP, on Wednesday Optivo withdrew its planning application to demolish Well Cottages.
Optivo was quick to fire off a press release to the Guildford offices of a little-read local newspaper with the news. Yet by today, 48 hours later, the housing association had done nothing to advise its own tenants who live in the property of the change of plan.
The couple living in the cottage learned of the decision from their family and friends reading Inside Croydon. Well Cottages, in the centre of Coulsdon, are among the last remaining buildings from the Cane Hill Hospital estate.
“The elderly couple who live in Well Cottages have been treated worse than shabbily by the housing association through this whole affair,” a friend said.
“They have lived in that house for nearly 40 years, always paid their own rent and rates, and just a year ago were given firm assurances by the Greater London Authority that they would never have to leave.
“It’s not their fault that the property has passed through the hands of various public bodies since the closure of Cane Hill, but whoever is their landlord at least owes them a little respect and consideration. That has been notably absent from Optivo: the tenants only found out about the demolition plans by accident, when they read the planning application notice pinned outside their home.”
Colin and Sheila Kennedy are in their late 70s and in poor health. Both had been hospital workers, Colin at Cane Hill, Sheila at nearby Netherne. The home came with their jobs.
The suggestion that they might have to leave their home of 40 years has caused the Kennedys considerable anxiety and distress. The first approach they received from Optivo over the development plans was a telephone call on Monday of this week, more than two weeks since the housing association’s planning application was published by Croydon Council.
A press statement issued by the housing association to this website last Friday was amended on Monday, following our report that the Kennedys had not been consulted by the landlords. Optivo’s revised statement then included, “Our staff are in contact with the residents at Well Cottages. We will continue to work closely with them to find a suitable replacement home that meets their needs.”
It is now understood that the “contact” was a single telephone call from Optivo last Monday. Since then, Optivo have made no further contact with the Kennedys about the future of their home.
The news of the reprieve for the heritage buildings has nonetheless come as a huge relief for the Kennedys.
Anne Kennedy, their daughter, told Inside Croydon, “My parents have been overwhelmed by the amount of support they have received from family and friends in their endeavours to remain in their home and want to say a heartfelt thank you to all involved.
“They and their home are an integral part of Coulsdon history – my father having worked at Cane Hill Hospital for most of his working life and my mother at Netherne.
“Back in the old hospital days there was a wonderful community spirit and everybody looked out for each other. We are delighted that this tradition has continued on in successive generations and this is why Coulsdon is so dear to my parents and our family.”
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