Court battle looms over repossession of Norwich homes
- Credit: EDP pics Â© 2007
A housing co-operative set up in the wake of the controversial eviction of squatters from Norwich in the 1980s is gearing up for a fresh court battle with council bosses - to prevent the repossession of three homes.
Norwich City Council has concerns about the way the Willow Housing Co-operative is being run, but its manager says the council's action puts seven people, including himself at risk of eviction.
The Willow Housing Co-operative was formed as a result of the creation of one of Europe's biggest squats - in the city's Argyle Street between 1979 and 1985.
Since the late 1980s, the co-operative has rented three properties from Norwich City Council, initially to house the women and children who were evicted.
But over the years, the homes rented from the council, along with five other properties, have been made available to a wider range of people.
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For a while, the co-operative took referrals directly from St Martin's Housing Trust, putting a roof over the heads of homeless people.
However, Norwich City Council has now served repossession notices on the three homes which the co-operative rents from them - in Clarkson Road, Bowthorpe Road and Grosvenor Road.
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Among the reasons given by the council for the attempted repossession of the homes is that Peter Shaman, the part-time housing manager of the co-operative, lives in the Grosvenor Road house and that constitutes a conflict of interests.
For the past 10 years there has also been a continued argument between the city council and Willow about changes to their original leases.
But Mr Shaman said: 'We have been renting according to terms of our rent books for 28 years. The council tried to upgrade our lease, but has not been able to produce our original leases, so we said the leases should be negotiated, not imposed.
'We have tried to talk to the council about it and tried to get mediation, but they just say they will see us in court.
'Since 2006, we have rehoused 160 people. Most of those people were single and homeless and are what I call troubled tenants.'
The co-operative currently houses about 20 people, and Mr Shaman said he now tries to house families where possible.
He said, as an honorary member of the co-operative he is entitled to live in one of the homes, which he also uses as an office to manage the other homes.
An online petition in support of the co-operative has been set up at www.willowhousing.wordpress.com and has garnered more than 200 signatures.
The matter will come before Norwich County Court tomorrow and Norwich City Council said it could not comment ahead of the court hearing.