Last man standing

GARETH MACPHERSON, Cambridge News, 23 May 2014

Tenant refuses to leave house due to be demolished

A DEFIANT tenant in a row of council houses controversially marked for demolition is staying put - as the authority prepares to evict him.

Most residents of the 24 council flats and bungalows in Water Lane, East Chesterton - many of whom were elderly or vulnerable - were vehemently against the bulldozing of their homes, saying they were happy there and the upheaval would be too much for some to bear.

But while virtually all of them have been moved out, Brian Toms is still refusing to budge - with the saga set to come to a head on Monday, when the eviction process starts. Mr Toms, who has lived there since 2006, said the way the council has acted is "disgraceful" and a huge waste of taxpayers money, adding the council has deployed bullying tactics to get him out.

He said: "They are sturdy, well-designed flats, there is nothing wrong with them and I like living there. They want to get me out but they've only made me one offer, which is much inferior and that offer wasn't made until the end of January."

Cambridge City Council, which is spending £1.4 million knocking down and replacing homes in Green End Road and Water Lane, says the properties are small and outdated. It will replace the Water Lane homes with 14 new council properties and nine to be sold on the open market. John Patman, a friend of Mr Toms' , believes the properties are worth £6 million, and do not need replacing.

He said: "It's absolutely wrong to be flogging off properties which belong to the community and house people in the main who can't stand up for themselves. A lot of these people have lost husbands and wives or don't have children who can stick up for them. They are easy target for the council to pick on."

All of the tenants have been rehoused - with at least one now in a nursing home - apart from Mr Toms and one other social tenant. A leaseholder is understood to still be living there.

Alan Carter, the council's head of housing strategy, said it was a tough situation, but the council has to think about the broader picture for housing.

He said: "Regrettably if we are not able to encourage anyone to move into alternative housing our last resort is to go down the legal route. Clearly it's a difficult position and one of the hardest decisions to make in terms of housing is asking people to move on from their current homes."

He added: "We need to think about the bigger picture. We have got 7,000 properties and it' s inevitable some of them will get to a point where they are getting harder to let and they are of a less acceptable standard."

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