Residents accused council officers of using strong arm-style tactics to persuade elderly tenants to move out of a sheltered housing scheme so they can redevelop the site.
Buckland Lodge, in Netherfield, Milton Keynes, now has just two tenants left in its 34 flats and on Tuesday the council decided to consult on its future. A report by structural engineers has revealed widespread cracks and subsidence.
The council’s own favoured option is to demolish Buckland Lodge, and replace it with housing and possibly a new care facility for people with dementia. But local residents who turned out at Tuesday’s meeting believe Buckland Lodge can be refurbished and kept as a hub for the community.
Responding to claims that nobody at the council will admit to using such tactics Michael Kelleher, the council’s head of housing and regeneration, said: “There has been no forced relocation,” and that people had simply decided to move after speaking to council officers.
One of the residents at the Delegated Decisions meeting shouted out: “You need to speak to residents that have moved out, they feel forced out. One of the ladies comes back just to sit there because she misses it.”
Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West), the council’s housing Cabinet member, said: “I will come to talk to her and would be concerned if that was the case.”
But Janette Bobey, of Netherfield Residents Association, said: “Nobody will admit to it.”
Cllr Long said it has been estimated that Buckland Lodge would need a £1.8 million investment to refurbish it and bring it up to modern standards. But the costs of decommissioning would be £576,000, so that option made more financial sense.
But Cllr Long was at pains to say that even though the council had its own favoured option, they would be listening to the community and the last few remaining tenants and no final decision will be made until after the six week consultation.
“My personal view is that we have a real opportunity to do something much better on the Buckland Lode site,” said Cllr Long. “We have the opportunity to develop a new scheme, perhaps with a dementia centre and a base for carers.”
And Mr Kelleher said: “No decision has been made about the future. Our view is that demolition is the best option but the aim is to consult and engage.”
Delegated decisions like this one are made subject to no official ‘call-ins’ being made.