'Regeneration has put Milton Keynes residents’ mental health on the line'

Private renters have experienced mental health issues over the controversial regeneration of seven areas in Milton Keynes, a meeting heard.

The ‘regeneration’ of seven estates in the city has been put on hold while Milton Keynes Council sorts out how to communicate with 20,000 people in 8,500 homes.

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes

But a meeting of the Regeneration Cabinet Sub-Committee on Thursday (March 21) heard how people who rent from private landlords in the area are suffering from mental health problems because of the uncertainty.

“The last two years has seen a rising impact on private tenants, including on mental health” said Benjamin Gilbert, who lives on Fullers Slade. “Our mental health is being impacted because we have got this hanging over our heads.

“We are living in the cheapest housing in Milton Keynes and there is nowhere else for us to go. There are 60 families renting privately in Fullers Slade and hundreds across the city.”

Mr Gilbert said that private renters are ‘not part of the equation’ for re-housing if and when it happens. Council tenants would be re-homed, and private homeowners would be compensated if their properties are demolished, but people who rent privately are not covered.

“The prospect of homelessness is something that is frightening to people,” said Mr Gilbert.

The committee also heard that private landlords are already taking advantage of potential investment in the areas by increasing rents, and by forcing tenants out by using controversial no-fault evictions.

Michael Kelleher, Milton Keynes Council’s director of housing and regeneration, said even though the authority has ‘lower obligations’ to private renters he wants to “give everyone the opportunity to remain in the community”.

But Mr Kelleher was unable to say what the commitment would mean. “At this stage we do not know how much it will cost us but we will work with all private tenants to look at all of the options.”

MK Council is currently working out how it can re-start consultation with residents on the seven estates, which are Fullers Slade, Tinkers Bridge, Netherfield, Coffee Hall, Beanhill, Bradville, and the Lakes Estate in Bletchley.

It will involve a billion pounds of ‘improvements’ and take place over 15 years, but last year it got off to the worst possible start. The approach of a company called YourMK came under huge fire from residents. This lead to the council taking the whole project back under its wing to be re-set.

Now the council is looking at a revamped website, and is encouraging residents’ groups to give their feedback. Three members of the council’s ruling cabinet sit on the sub-committee, councillors Nigel Long, Hannah O’Neill, and Rob Middleton.

Thursday’s meeting also heard how people value the strength of community spirit, especially on Fullers Slade, and they don’t want the regeneration project to rip that apart.

“We refuse to accept that they (the council) should be able to continue to label the process as community-led when their definition of ‘community’ excludes and causes hardship to those not lucky enough to be council tenants,” Mr Gilbert said, in a report.

Cllr Long vowed that a forthcoming Big Conversation consultation exercise would involve all people living in the regeneration estates. And he said the committee should set aside time to think about the impact on private tenants.