A PENSIONER says he is living in a rat-infested estate with just one other neighbour – but refuses to move.
Phill Campbell, 70, moved to Union Street in St Helens, Merseyside, 16 years ago thinking he would spend the rest of his life there.
But now claims he is living in the middle of a “demolition site” which resembles a ghost town and is full of vermin.
His home is part of the Gerard’s Bridge estate, where the housing association Torus is planning to demolish 61 homes over concerns about their “future sustainability” and “wider environmental issues”.
Torus has successfully relocated and rehoused all the tenants – except for Phill and his neighbour.
This is because Phill and his neighbour both own their homes and have not yet reached an agreement with Torus to buy them out.
Around 18 months ago Torus offered Phill £81,000 for his three-storey home but he turned it down, saying he would need a much larger amount to buy another home elsewhere.
He sent Torus a counter offer and said that he was open to the idea of a property swap – but claims he has not heard back from them – and is now “living in limbo”.
Torus though claims that both homeowners were made an offer for their property based on an independent market valuation.
It added that it cannot continue with any regeneration plans until all the residents have moved out and intends to “reengage” with the owners in an attempt to come to a “resolution”.
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Speaking about the situation, Phill said: “I’m not being unreasonable in anything I ask. I bought this house as a retirement property and I was prepared to spend the rest of my days here.
“The problem is I’m a pensioner, I’m 70 years old now, and I’m living in the middle of a demolition site and my kitchen is infested with vermin. I do feel isolated and quite vulnerable.”
Reports say though there are currently no agreed plans to develop the site once the demolition takes place, even though residents voting on plans to demolish the houses in July 2019, with 78 per cent of those that voted being in favour of the demolition.
As for the rat problem, Torus recently sent someone out to tackle the issue, but Phill says they have returned.
A Torus spokesperson said: “We appreciate that rats are an issue in the areas and continue to work with both our own and the Councils pest control teams to manage the situation.”
‘COMMITTED TO REGENERATION’
The housing association added it was “committed to the regeneration of Union Street and the wider community but there is no agreed scheme for the redevelopment of this site at the present time,” after there have been reports by residents of anti-social behaviour becoming an increasing problem on the estate.
Locals say the situation has worsened since the houses have been empty, even though 24-hour security roam the estate to stop people entering the boarded-up properties.
Ewa Wilinksa, 36, who lives near Union Street, said gangs of youths regularly set fire to the empty houses and throw bricks through the windows.
She said: “We have quite a lot of problems with kids around here. They’re burning rubbish and it’s not really safe for us.
“If you walk over there all the time some place is burning. All the time there’s rubbish, all the time there’s glass.
“It’s frustrating. I can’t go out with my little lad because all the time there’s something – glass, rubbish.”
PROBLEM WITH DRUGS
Ewa’s neighbour Angelika Tysko, 38, echoed those comments, saying there was a problem with drugs and anti-social behaviour, as kids were smashing windows and setting fires.
Denise, 49, who moved to the area 10 years ago, says there is not a sense of community any more, since the houses started emptying.
Paul Warburton, Torus Group Housing Director, said: “Torus are fully committed to the regeneration of the areas and we understand the length of time this is taking has been frustrating for residents.
“Unfortunately, Torus cannot move forward with any regeneration plans until all the residents have moved out, as partial demolition is not an option due to utility supplies and prioritising people’s safety and wellbeing.
“Although we cannot comment on an individual case, we can confirm that owner occupiers have been made an offer for their property based on an independent market valuation, unfortunately these offers were refused, we will remain in contact with these residents to try to reach a solution.
‘REHOUSING TORUS RESIDENTS’
“Our focus, over the past few months, has been rehousing Torus residents, which has taken some time. We can confirm that as of last week, they have been rehoused to other properties. Our focus can now return to the two owner occupiers and do apologise for any delays in getting back to them.”
They continued to say: “We are aware of the ongoing issues around anti-social behaviour, and we continue to work with the Police to try to address these issues as well as the 24-hour on-site security we have implemented.
“We appreciate that rats are an issue in the areas and continue to work with both our own and the Councils pest control teams to manage the situation. We have also provided fencing to the site to prevent access and fly-tipping.
“We are sorry these ongoing issues are causing upset to the surrounding residents and we will be in contact with them over the next few weeks to provide further updates, we will also be looking to reengage with the owner occupiers to discuss the situation in an attempt to find a resolution.”
Merseyside Police’s St Helens local policing Inspector Stacey Pope said: “We take the issue of antisocial behaviour very seriously and would urge residents to report any concerns and we will take action. We continually work with local organisations and schools in the community to engage and educate children on acceptable behaviour.
“Our local policing team have also given advice to the housing association on improving security on the site.
“In addition we attend regular meetings with partner agencies, including housing associations and the local authority, to discuss any incidents of anti-social behaviour so we can respond accordingly and provide a visible presence to tackle any issues.”
They have urged anyone with information about anti-social behaviour in the area can contact them by sending a DM to @MerPolCC, calling 101 or contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.