Friday, 13 February 2009

Seacroft pensioners still fighting EASEL demolition

This story, from Seacroft Today (1/2/09), is about two of the last remaining tenants on site 7 (phase 1) of EASEL - see Map.

They were the first to move into a Seacroft estate – and after four happy decades have vowed to be the last to leave. Friends Maureen Ramsden and Rita Varley are among the last few tenants standing in Seacroft's Easel demolition area. The two live in Parkway Vale, their flat-roofed, terrace homes looking isolated amidst the debris of demolition sites and the blocks of abandoned homes. The metal shutters over their doors and windows make them look like mini-fortresses.

Rita said she moved in when she and her late ex-husband had returned from Australia in December 1968. The mum-of-two explained: "We we there nearly four years but we got homesick. It was the right decision. This was a lovely estate with lovely people. I've always been happy here and couldn't have wanted a better neighbour than Maureen."

Maureen, a great-grandmother of 10, said that over the years the community has shown its spirit through big events such as bonfire night parties through to the smaller things, such as feeding each other's pets. She recalled: "I'll never forget the Queen's silver jubilee in 1977. We had a big party in the square, we crowned Rita's daughter and there were trestle tables, balloons and union flags everywhere. "It is memories like that that have made us all so happy here."

The Parkway Vale houses are being flattened to clear the way for new homes which will eventually be built as part of the £1bn Easel regeneration scheme. The massive project, aimed at creating 5,000 new homes and 2,000 new jobs, has been hit by the credit crunch, although work is under way to build new houses in South Parkway, near Parkway Vale. Most residents have now left, with council tenants helped to find another home and private owners handed the market value of their property plus a 10 per cent relocation fee.

A short distance away from Rita and Maureen's homes stands a cleared site, the last property on it being torn down in the short time the Yorkshire Evening Post was in the area. As the claws of the digger bit, the inside of the house was left cruelly exposed, the once intimate interior of someone's home left on display with pink bathroom tiles on an upstairs wall, the remains of the staircase itself a few feet away. The rest of the house, reduced to twisted metal, broken glass and discarded brick, lay on the muddy ground.

One demolition worker said: "Some of them are like glorified sheds. It's for the best they are going." But Rita, 66, said: "We were the first in and we never wanted to leave, but we know we will have to now. It does feel like our lives have been on hold for the last three years, and when the day to leave does come it will be hard."


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