Axe for Norwich sheltered housing schemes means people in their 80s and 90s will have to move out

City councillors, Ash Haynes, right, and Jo Henderson, front 3rd right, with resident Sidney Coplan

City councillors, Ash Haynes, right, and Jo Henderson, front 3rd right, with resident Sidney Copland, front 2nd right, and other residents of Lakenfields sheltered housing. The Green councillors met the tenants earlier this year and had raised concerns about them having to move. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

Almost 40 older people, including some in their 80s and 90s, will have to move out of their homes, after council bosses agreed their sheltered housing schemes should be closed down.

Norwich City Council last night agreed to 'decommission' the housing schemes at Lakenfields, in Lakenham and Britannia Court, in Knowland Grove, off Dereham Road.

Council officers say they are planning to invest in the city's sheltered housing schemes, but those two schemes, built in the 1970s, are not suitable for upgrading.

Council bosses say they will now speak to the 39 residents about moving to new properties. The council says they will be given priority status over picking new homes and that efforts will be made to keep groups of friends together.

Tenants will be paid compensation for having to move. They will get a home-loss payment of £4,700 and a 'disturbance allowance' of £890 for those in one-bedroom flats – which tots up to payments of £212,780 the council will have to make.

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Because Lakenfields and Britannia Court were under review, the city council stopped housing people there 12 to 18 months ago, which means of the 66 homes across the two schemes, 27 are empty.

The tenants were consulted in April and, as reported in the Norwich Evening News, a number, from Lakenfields particularly, said they did not want to be moved.

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At last night's meeting, councillors acknowledged that of the 10 responses to consultation from people in Lakenfields 'there are some very strong views represented'.

They said only one response came from Britannia Court, which supported the closure of the scheme and officers said: 'It can be concluded that the residents of Britannia Court do not have strong views regarding the possible decommissioning of the scheme.'

But former army parachute regiment member Edward Calaz, 63, who has lived in Britannia Court for two-and-a-half years, said moving would be traumatic for some of his neighbours.

He said: 'A lot of us like the flats we are in and we have made them into our homes over the years. There's a blind gentleman who lives here and he will find it difficult to settle somewhere new. Although it's sheltered housing, we have become a real community. We look after each other and we are like a family.'

Bert Bremner, cabinet member for housing at Norwich City Council, said: 'When one goes into sheltered housing you want to be safe, secure and actually settle in for what could be your last move, and to have to change that can be a major trauma.

'But sometimes there has to be change and change like this is not suggested lightly. We know the possible stress to the residents and their families, but we feel we can make this work for them, and in the end it will be for their benefit.

'There will be really positive support for all the tenants, staring with being put on gold band for the choice-based letting system, help for friendship groups and visits by support workers, sheltered housing officers, neighbourhood wardens, neighbourhood housing and hopefully, the police safer neighbourhood teams.

'There will be home loss payments, disturbance allowance, help with moving, packing and unpacking. In fact, city housing will go every extra mile necessary to reduce any problems caused by the changes to a bare minimum.'

The cabinet agreed to give the council's deputy chief executive, in liaison with Mr Bremner, permission to decommission the homes.

An 'options appraisal' will then take place as to what should happen at the sites in the future, but Mr Bremner insisted that, contrary to speculation, no decisions had been taken.

The decision had been due to be taken behind closed doors at last night's cabinet meeting, but, following representations by the Norwich Evening News and the Green group, it was dealt with in public.

Ash Haynes, Green city councillor for Town Close ward, said her group could not support the cabinet's decision. Speaking after the meeting, she said: 'The residents at Lakenfields didn't want to move - they feel like a family and some of them have spent a long time in their flats.

'The flats are a nice place to live, although they do need some refurbishment. That could easily have been done with the money the council is now going to pay out for disturbance, without the impact on people's lives and emotional wellbeing that both moving and going through the process of consultation has caused.

'One of the most important things about consulting people properly is to listen to what they have to say, not to just carry on with what you were doing anyway.'

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