Thursday, 3 January 2008

Girnhill Residents Refuse To Move

DEFIANT homeowners on a doomed Featherstone estate are refusing to leave their properties after council chiefs approved an order to force them out.

Bulldozers are expected to move on to the near-derelict Girnhill Lane estate – where 35 families have clung on to their houses despite being plagued by arsonists and vandals for six years – in the next three months after councillors slapped a compulsory purchase order on the properties.

Furious residents say they have only been offered between £40-70,000 for their "slum" houses and will not be able to swap them for replacement properties.Angry householder Adrian Cottingham, of Girnhill Lane, told the Express:

"They'll have to drag me out or pull my house down while I'm inside."It's absolutely unbelievable, for four years the council has insisted that this wouldn't happen.

"Why should our houses be classed as slum, while across the road they sell for hundreds of thousands?"

Residents have now pledged to take legal action to fight the council's plans.

Mr Cottingham added: "We've spoken to a barrister to get an injunction and judicial review – I'll follow it all the way until we get a house for a house.

"The council plans to flatten and rebuild 170 houses – many boarded-up shells that are a magnet for troublemakers – in a massive overhaul of the former National Coal Board estate.

Worried Girnhill Lane resident Joyce Cording, 54, said: "I'm living in desperate hope of another option, I own this house and won't leave.

"It's the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing at night, we're trapped on the estate with no idea of what's going on."Kathryn Bishop, of the Girnhill Lane Residents' Committee, wrote to the Express to say the council had "delivered a Christmas bombshell".

She said: "The council is not just taking away our homes, but also our children's heritage.

"We hope we have everybody's support because if they can do it to us they can do it to anyone."

Bob Hall, Wakefield Council's programmes and partnerships manager, said the estate's demolition was "the only realistic alternative" after private landlords' failed management caused poor conditions in the early 1990s.

He added: "The council has worked very hard to support residents and, with English Partnerships and the Regional Housing Board, is taking the lead in regenerating the area.

"We looked at giving residents a replacement property on the estate but cannot as we would be acting outside our legal powers. All residents have been offered independent valuations and relocation packages of up to £50,000 are also available.

"Mr Hall added that owners of properties that did not use government improvement grants in the 1980s were aware they had a lower market value.