Council approves demolition of 343 homes as residents outraged

Residents on The Uplands in Palace Fields, Runcorn, including Sandra Myndiuk-Davidson, third from left
-Credit: (Image: runcornweeklynews)

Residents of a housing estate are furious over plans to demolish hundreds of homes.

Earlier this year in May, Halton Council's Development Management Committee gave the green light to housing association Riverside's next phase of an £80m regeneration scheme in Palace Fields, Runcorn, during a meeting at Runcorn Town Hall.

The approved plans will result in the demolition of 343 homes in Palace Fields, along with the community centre and closure of two subways. This will pave the way for the construction of 391 new homes, as well as additional community spaces, roads, footpaths and cycle paths.

The plans form part of Riverside's decade-long scheme aimed at rejuvenating the area.

However, some local residents have voiced objections to the plans due to the impending loss of their homes, including those who own their properties or have made specific adaptations to cater for disabled family members. Many have been residents of the estate since its establishment in the 70s, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Riverside has stated that it remains dedicated to working with residents and taking on board their feedback, acknowledging that some households were apprehensive about how the changes might impact them.

At the meeting, Mr Davidson, a local resident and objector, expressed that many residents were finding it hard to sleep due to worry and stress, with some resorting to antidepressants.

He remarked: "For Riverside, these properties appear to be like pieces on a Monopoly board, which can be bought, sold and moved. But for residents they are so much more. These properties are homes filled with love and long-lasting memories."

Residents of the Palace Fields estate have voiced their concerns to the ECHO about the recent developments, arguing that the move could result in them being "turfed out" of homes where some have resided for generations.

Carl Storey, who owns a property on The Uplands, lives next to his parents while his elderly grandmother also resides on the estate. He has reportedly invested "about £45,000" in his home "in the past two years" and now feels all his investment is "gone".

Describing the situation as "a huge mess", he stated: "They're actually knocking down more than they're building, which makes absolutely no sense. My nan is 92 and has lived in her house since these were built; she's lost her daughter and her husband so all of her memories are in that house. But as far as Riverside is concerned, it's just: 'Go somewhere else'."

Carl alleges that Riverside has proposed to homeowners the market value of their property plus an additional 10%. Nonetheless, he expressed his discontent with the offer, explaining: "That's whatever the market value is at the time but it could be low at the time that they start offering us amounts."

"If they give you the market value and the house is worth £100-120k, and then they give you 10% which is £10-12k, you're not going to find a lot of houses for £130k which have all your memories in it, or a kitchen or bathroom the way you need it. For example, I've had to make modifications to my home because my son is in a wheelchair."

He added: "All the estate agents around here are going to put the prices up because they know people are going to want to stay in the area for hospitals, schools and for work. So the market is inflated because more people are going to need homes."

Palace Fields falls within the Weaver Vale parliamentary constituency. Prior to the dissolution of parliament for the July general election, Mike Amesbury served as the MP for the area, holding a position in Keir Starmer's shadow cabinet, most recently as Shadow Minister for Building Safety and Homelessness.

Carl expressed that residents had to "almost argue" to get him to visit the local community centre to provide some clarity. He remarked: "After about 12 months, he finally came in and said he could only give us half an hour of his time."

"He said that he didn't want any compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to be given out but that he has to welcome in regeneration money - and I do get that - but there's plenty of land around here to build on and there's plenty of other really old housing estates which really could benefit other than this one."

Carl, saddened by the plans, shares: "I'd prefer that they didn't knock this down but if they're adamant about it then it has to be like for like; if they want my three-bed house then they need to give me one of their three-bed houses - or at least more than the extra 10% because this house alone has set me back at least £160k."

He added: "There's people who've missed birthdays, weddings, events so they can work to pay their house off and now they're just taking it off of them."

Residing in Palace Fields for over four decades is Sandra Myndiuk-Davidson. Although her residence isn't scheduled for deconstruction, she established The Uplands Group in September 2022 with a goal to aid fellow occupants.

In conversation with the ECHO, Sandra reveals: "It's dreadful. I found out about what was happening from a neighbour."

"The group now meets every month and has grown from three to 12 people on the committee. Members include councillors Alan Lowe and Dave Thompson - they're superb for their support."

She adds: "Riverside are not thinking about the people. Tenants will all be moved out and put into other houses in Halton. But where are they going to find 200 houses to put people in?

"One or two people think that they are going to be coming back to brand new houses - that's not going to happen. People are furious about the way they've been treated."

Despite Sandra not being relocated, she expressed her anxiety about what life will entail during the demolition and construction phase. She said, "My husband is very ill with COPD and has extreme emphysema; we don't know how we are going to live here because the dust from the demolitions will kill him.

"We've got many elderly neighbours and I know people who've been to the doctor's because they are so worried."

She further commented, "Also, how are kids going to play out when all this is going on? It's not going to be safe and the noise will be dreadful."

An anonymous resident aged 59, who has resided in The Uplands for 34 years expressed his dissatisfaction by saying, "They haven't been straight with us from the off. First of all, they said they wanted to make improvements to the estate so we thought that was brilliant, a win-win; the tenants get something and we get something."

He lamented, "Then suddenly, we get a letter through the door saying that our house is earmarked for demolition. There was no 'would you consider it? '".

Clouded with anguish, he continued, "This is killing me. I've already had one heart attack but now I've got the stress and the strain of everything that's gone on and the unfairness of it all. I've worked days, nights, weekends, kids birthdays, Christmas to pay off my mortgage. We've worked all our lives for what little we have and now Riverside has come along and done this."

"We're going to be made effectively homeless. It's all very good with Riverside saying that we will get 10% but what can we, in essence, buy for that extra 10%."

"There's 50-60 homeowners who are going to be turfed out so house prices are going to go up. The only houses which we can afford are other Riverside houses. If we move over the road to another estate, in three or four years time, the same thing could happen there."

He added: "I've bought and paid for this place. It's f**k all, but it's mine!"

A spokesperson for Riverside said: "We have been working closely with residents in Palace Fields since 2019, and they have played a fundamental role in shaping our regeneration plans. We want to reassure residents that we remain committed to working with them and listening to their feedback.

"Our overall ambitions to regenerate Palace Fields (across The Uplands and Local Centre sites) will provide a net increase of 48 new affordable homes and nearly 400 new homes overall available to the community.

"From our extensive community engagement and consultations, we know there is a high level of support for our aims to regenerate Palace Fields to deliver high quality thermally efficient homes and a better neighbourhood with an upgraded local centre. However we completely understand that some households are concerned about how the changes may affect them. Planning permission has already been granted for the first two phases of development, following careful consideration by Halton Borough Council.

"Riverside's specialist housing and regeneration teams will work with individual households to talk through moving options with the aim of finding a suitable property that meets their needs.

"As part of the project, we are prioritising existing homeowners and residents for the new and existing homes, and will offer a range of options to enable impacted homeowners to be able to afford to move into the newly developed homes such as enhanced disturbance payment and equity loans. We are in the process of producing offer documents ready to communicate these offers to affected homeowners, and will meet the cost of independent financial advice for those affected.

"We will also be working closely with residents to re-provide adaptions in their homes and will follow any guidance set out by occupational therapists.

"As with all our development schemes, we make every effort to minimise impact on the community and maintain safety, including through selected working hours, using subtractors who have undergone rigorous health and safety approvals, and regular maintenance to prevent spread of waste. Works will also be phased, with any areas requiring limited access communicated to residents.

"We want to remind residents that we have a dedicated team available to provide a variety of personalised support and share any concerns or feedback with."

Mike Amesbury, Runcorn and Helsby's Labour parliamentary candidate for the new seat, commented: "The whole scheme represents an £80 million investment in a left behind neighbourhood. Funding for new housing, community facilities and the environment is desperately needed and is supported by the vast majority of local residents.

"The two phases of the Palace Fields regeneration will create 391 new homes, 80% of which will be affordable, adding an additional 48 dwellings overall. As Shadow Minister for Homelessness, I naturally welcome genuinely affordable housing, within sustainable neighbourhoods, at both a local and national level.

"However, I understand any regeneration has an impact on existing householders and I will always stand up for residents, including the small minority affected in this case. I have supported householders by taking up concerns expressed in email correspondence and at my regular surgeries. In June 2023, I promoted a dedicated Uplands surgery where people were invited to air their views.

He continued: "Earlier this year, I attended an open meeting with The Uplands Group when I met predominantly owner-occupiers who wish to remain in their homes.

"As the then MP for Weaver Vale, I spoke up for impacted residents in a statement read to the planning committee before the Uplands application was determined. I made clear that I did not wish to see their homes subject to a CPO. The scheme must work around their properties if people do not wish to move.

"Riverside has a team committed to supporting anyone affected to relocate to suitable homes, including offering financial and physical relocation assistance. My hope is that bespoke solutions can still be agreed in as many cases as possible."

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