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I WANT TO GO: Thorntree House demolition

I WANT TO GO: Thorntree House demolition

Inside Thorntree House, Image: LDRS

Barry Wilkinson can’t wait to move out of Thorntree House, so much so that he wants to be the one leading the demolition.

“I want to go, I want to pull this down, I will pull the trigger,” he said.

On Tuesday, he was told that Thirteen Group would be tearing down the flats and he is raring to leave.

He added: “Let me go because I hate it. It was alright 20 years ago, absolutely fantastic when I moved in 20 years ago, it was great. There was security, everything was done.”

“I just want to leave now I have had enough.

“They are going to give us 18 months to leave but I’ll go tomorrow. As soon as I can get out I’ll get a removal van, I want to be out before Christmas.

“I want a nice little bungalow and a cul de sac.”

Another man who spoke to us, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed with Barry on wanting to leave the tower block.

He said: “We can’t wait to get the hell out of here. You can’t socialise out the back here, it’s horrible.”

He lives with his mother and was not happy about anti-social behaviour around the block.

Mr Patterson was also keen to leave the other residents in the building behind but was concerned that his home wouldn’t be as secure if he went away once he moved out of the block.

He has been in the building for nearly 20 years and feels like there has been a lot of change in his time.

“It’s the building that’s the problem, the people in here have made it a halfway house for convicts,” he said.

“I moved in nearly 20 years ago, it was older people then but they have moved on and lots of more young people moved in. There are drug dealers and ex-criminals.”

“It’s disgusting, I have been here for 11 years”

Two women who we spoke to together were both unhappy with the decision to tear down the tower block.

Both said that they struggled with mental health issues and were not looking forward to the stress of moving.

One of the women, who is in her fifties, said: “It’s disgusting. I have been here for 11 years and they just put it on you. It’s the upheaval of moving, it’s stressing me, I suffer from depression and have mental issues.

“They didn’t sit and speak to us and tell us, they just handed us that [letter].”

The pair met at the flats and it’s clear that they spend a lot of time together – something that might not be able to happen so easily when they are moved out.

“We have a load of friends in here. We all sit out the back and have a drink, we don’t cause no trouble,” she added.

The other resident, who was in her sixties, was also sad about the move but was frustrated at the time it had taken to fix the building’s repairs.

On one occasion, she claimed it took six months to fix her windows meaning they were closed for half a year and the place was ‘like a sauna’.

She added: “As you come in [the main entrance] the door has been broken for six months and it hasn’t been fixed. Anybody can come in here. Two or three times a day my door handle has been tried.”

Director of operations at Thirteen Kay Glew said: “While some repairs are taking longer than usual due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, we always work hard to fix any issues as quickly as possible and as soon as they are reported to us.

“This remains the case in Thorntree House and Fleet House and if any customers have outstanding repairs, we would ask them to let us know and we will do our best to fix them as quickly as possible.”

While most people felt strongly either way about the demolition, we did speak to one person who didn’t seem to mind either way and thought the response was largely positive.

“The majority of people I have spoken to are happy because they get some kind of compensation. It’s not how it was back in the day so I suppose the majority will be happy,” Mark Phipps said.

However, like Mr Patterson he was worried about going away and leaving his home due to the risk of burglary when you are not in the tower block.

He said: “If you go away then your house is intact.”

Yet he seems to have a pretty practical mindset about the move.

“It’s just a block of flats, you just have to deal with it and get out.”

“The decision to rehome people isn’t one we have taken lightly”

In response to the issues raised, Kay Glew, director of operations at Thirteen, said: “We’re sorry to hear that some customers feel they may not have had the assistance they needed.

“It was important to us that our customers heard the news first-hand from Thirteen and had a chance to ask any questions they might have.

“We had 36 colleagues on-site throughout Tuesday and those teams took the time to visit each customer individually, so we could let them know the news and support them with any immediate queries.

“All of the customers we met with were given the opportunity to ask questions then and there, as well as to make a follow-up appointment with us at a convenient time for them, so we could answer any further queries.

“In addition, customers were given leaflets covering key questions and outlining the help, support, and the statutory home loss payment they will receive. Our teams will continue to be at the blocks over the coming days and weeks to offer advice and support to customers.

“We would urge customers to give us a call with any questions or speak to one of our colleagues in the blocks, so we can support them with what they need.”

The housing group said that people would receive a £6,500 home loss payment to support their move.

Ms Glew added: “We know this news will be difficult for customers and the decision to rehome people isn’t one we have taken lightly.

“We will work closely with everyone who is affected to ensure they are supported to find alternative homes in the local area with Thirteen, as well as supporting them with a statutory £6,500 home loss payment.

“Our team will be on hand to help customers and their families through every step of the relocation process, ensuring they find homes that suit their needs.

“The redeveloped site will create a vibrant new community that meets the needs and living aspirations of current and future customers, offering high-quality, sustainable homes for local people.”

Thorntree House and Fleet House will both be demolished as part of Thirteen’s £1bn regeneration investment plans after the housing group revealed they were not ‘financially viable’ due to rising maintenance costs and low demand.

Across the two tower blocks, 155 residents are affected and it will take around 18 months to relocate them.


Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter

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