Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Gipton families fight back

In recent years, 100s of mainly council tenants in Gipton and Seacroft have been forced out or evicted, their homes demolished and the land grassed over. While some of the housing was poor quality, the way people have been treated by Leeds City Council and the housing ALMOs managing the area has been both dubious and disgraceful.

On Oak Tree Mount in Gipton, however, two families have stood defiant as the housing all around has been bulldozed: Dave and Elisa Hynes of no.11 and Geoff and Elaine Ryecroft of no.7.

The Hynes and Ryecroft families outside the only 4 houses standing in Oak Tree Mount.

“Back in 2003, we got a letter from the ALMO saying they were going to pull down our homes. ‘Over my dead body’, I told them,” explains Dave Hynes of no.11, who has lived here with his wife Elisa for nearly 35 years, bringing up their 3 children.

“So they backtracked and said we could keep our home. But then in July 2005, they changed their minds and said we’d have to leave.” Having bought no.11 under the Right to Buy in the 1990s and spent £1000s renovating it, they now face being served a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by Leeds City Council.

“We’ve been offered £8200 for the house—where do they expect us to go with that? A 2-bed round the corner is going for £117,000. We don’t stand a chance of getting a mortgage.

The Hynes family, along with their neighbours and friends, the Ryecrofts, have vowed to fight the CPO all the way. “Why should we lose our homes to allow a developer to make a profit. Why can’t they build round us?”

The families have tabled alternative planning proposals that would enable Bellways to build around their homes. However, it appears that Bellways and Leeds City Council will not agree to this because they will lose money - that's right, they are putting profit before people.

In the meantime, the daily uncertainty about when a CPO might be served, and fear and anxiety over their long term future, plague the Gipton familes. Their semi-detached homes are adjoined to two empty, boarded council houses that could be providing two families with much needed, good quality, affordable rented homes but are instead being left to rot and their gardens overgrow.

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