‘I can’t sleep’: Wycombe families face eviction as developer to demolish their homes

Siva Nadarajah runs the newsagent's at Aries House <i>(Image: Bucks Free Press)</i>
Siva Nadarajah runs the newsagent's at Aries House (Image: Bucks Free Press)

Wycombe families are facing eviction as a developer plans to demolish their homes and replace them with flats.

McCarthy Stone wants to knock down Aries House in Flackwell Heath and has agreed terms with the building’s owner to buy the property.

Following demolition, the developer wants to build 40 one and two-bedroom retirement living apartments for the over-60s to buy or rent.

The company is hosting a public consultation and says it has posted 1,750 newsletters about its proposals to households surrounding Aries House, which sits in between Straight Bit and Old Kiln Road.

But families and businesses in the building say they were ‘taken by surprise’ last week as letting agent Chandler Garvey sent them letters telling them their tenancies would be terminated – with section 21 notices to be served on them in August.

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“I am just depressed. It is just awful,” one of the residents told the Bucks Free Press this week.

Speaking anonymously, the 55-year-old retail worker said: “I can’t sleep. It really is affecting my mental health and my husband, and I am sure the neighbours. It is all of us, not just us.”

But despite such concerns, McCarthy Stone is pressing ahead with its plans to bulldoze Aries House to make way for the new flats and will apply for planning permission from Buckinghamshire Council this summer.

Its plans include a private communal garden, as well as nine parking spaces for five retail units – set to replace the site’s existing shops – and around 25 spaces for new residents.

The developer has even started marketing its proposed apartments online, with plush brochures promising ‘an easier life, with less to worry about and more to enjoy’.

Meanwhile, families living in Aries House say that their landlord and McCarthy Stone have kept them in the dark, despite the developer hosting a consultation and virtual exhibition for its plans.

The anonymous resident said: “Things have got to be done in the proper way. People matter. We are just numbers to them. A little bit of compassion…

“We have a choice. Either move to a one-bed here and keep our jobs or move up north.”

Another resident – who has lived in Aries House for 18 years – claimed she may also be forced out of Flackwell Heath but ‘could not face’ leaving the village where she was born and raised.

The 47-year-old mother-of-two said: “This is what I am looking at because I can’t afford to rent anywhere in this area. There is nothing up here. I have looked.

“Financially, we are just not in that position. The cost-of-living crisis has knocked everybody, and I have no idea where to turn to or what to do.

“I am just so gutted. This is my home. OK, it might not be the prettiest building in the world, but inside looking out, it is where I come every day. I shut the door and feel safe.”

The two women are among four families living in flats in Aries House above the 1960s-built parade of shops on Straight Bit, which include a boxing gym, Boots pharmacy, newsagent’s, barber shop and Betfred.

Siva Nadarajah, 67, who has run the newsagent’s for 18 years, admitted he was ‘surprised’ by McCarthy Stone’s plans.

He said: “We didn’t get any information from the landlord. We only received the McCarthy leaflets.”

The shopkeeper from Totteridge said he was uncertain what the plans meant for his business, adding: “I don’t know. Our future is in doubt.”

The owner of another business in Aries House, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “From now until it is built, it is going to be a minimum of four or five years, I think.

“We are an established business here. We would have to get a new premises and set up again, which is not easy to do. I am not happy at all to be honest. For a business it is going to be very hard to reset.”

In a joint statement, McCarthy Stone and Chandler Garvey said residents of Aries House had been offered one-to-one meetings to discuss the proposals.

They said: “The proposals for new retirement apartments could have a significant positive impact on the local housing market, allowing older people, families, and first-time buyers in the area to move into their ideal home.

“Typically, most residents moving to a McCarthy Stone move from within a five-mile radius of the development, often leaving larger homes that are no longer suitable for their needs.”

Their statement also said that ‘provision is being made for the Boots pharmacy to maintain services for the local area throughout the construction phase’.

It added that other existing tenants will be able to ‘express interest in the replacement commercial units ahead of them being marketed more widely’.

McCarthy Stone claimed that ‘independent research’ for the company by WPI Economics showed that if its new development goes ahead, elderly residents of the site ‘would be expected to generate around £390,000 of spending annually in the local shops’.

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