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KIDBROOKE: Greenwich Council takes 31 Ferrier Estate residents to court
Greenwich Council took 31 people from a housing estate to court last week as it sought to secure £21m in government funding.
The council needs to take possession of all the Ferrier Estate flats in Gallus Square by next April to ensure it receives the Homes and Communities Agency grant.
And by next October the whole estate is meant to be vacated so it can be demolished and rebuilt as part of a £1bn regeneration scheme.
But people on the estate have been highly critical of the way the move has been handled, complaining they were given court orders at short notice and without a suitable alternative place to move to.
An advisor for the Ferrier Residents Action Group (Frag) Tony Bird told News Shopper: “Tenants got the notices for seeking possession without any warning at all.
“For the last three weeks people have been in tears and incredibly distressed about it.”
Those being taken to court included David Bowie, 47, who cares for his disabled 33-year-old stepson at his Ferrier flat, and claims he has not been offered a suitable alternative.
His solicitor Alice Hilken told the court: “They know there’s a seriously disabled person living in this property. They’ve done nothing to determine what his needs are from the start of this.”
Under the council’s guidelines, current Ferrier residents are supposed to be offered two suitable places to move and have a choice of area.
But Mr Bird said: “It’s not a case where people have had letters of offers. They want to move. But they’re supposed to get two reasonable offers. The council are ignoring that.“
Twenty-two of the 31 accepted an offer before last week’s hearing, but Frag chairman Nick Russell said this was probably because they felt “bullied” by the prospect of court action.
The court heard some residents had only been made an offer the day before their court hearing, while two men complained of being offered a one-bedroom flat designed for a disabled pensioner.
Another woman told News Shopper she had viewed one flat she had been offered, only to be told the last occupant had been murdered.
District Judge Michael Lee criticised the council for not acting sooner and putting pressure on the court system.
He told them: “If your client issued these proceedings in the middle of October, why should the court suffer?“ Most of the cases have been adjourned until December 23, but Mr Bowie’s is pencilled in for next February.
Last week, the council was also criticised by the Tenant Services Authority for its approach to Ferrier repossession.
In a letter to Frag, tenant standards manager Jane Smith said: “We feel any uncertainties and distress for tenants that have arisen could have been mitigated by earlier and clearer action.”
Leader of Greenwich Council Councillor Chris Roberts told News Shopper: “We’ve been doing this for a very long time. If there’s a criticism of us it’s that sometimes it’s taken too long.
“I think we probably needed to be clearer with people that the council has to have them rehoused by a certain date.
“We’ve probably been too tolerant. People have turned down seven to ten offers. That slows the process down.”
And he added that surveys showed most residents would be pleased to leave.
He said: “There’s a stigma attached to the estate and the people that live there.”