Plans to rebuild 120 council estate homes in Cambridge divides community

Plans to demolish 120 homes on a road in Cambridge to make way for a new development are dividing the community, Claire McGlasson reports.

Homeowners who have been living on a Cambridge council estate for up to 40 years have said they are "devastated" at the prospect of losing their homes.

Ekin Road is a mix of council, privately owned and rented flats and houses.

And while some tenants say its time for a fresh start, many homeowners are worried they'll lose their place on the property ladder.

The estate was identified for possible redevelopment after Cambridge City Council reviewed estates with older housing stock.

The council said in early September 2023 that there were three options for redevelopment of the 122-home estate.

These are: retaining buildings but carrying out essential repairs and retrofitting; partial redevelopment, retaining 20 houses to the south and east; and redevelopment of the entire site.

Some homeowners and tenants on the estate have joined to create the Save Ekin Road campaign group.

But others who live in the council-owned flats, have welcomed the news that the area might be regenerated, saying the buildings have fallen into disrepair.

If the estate is fully redeveloped, council tenants would have to move from their homes while property owners would be subject to compulsory purchase orders (CPO).

Homeowner of 10 years Miriam Ferrer Espinosa, 47, said the uncertainty made it impossible to make decisions. "It's very difficult to try to make an option when you don't know what the option actually entails," she said.

"It's like you're given a choice of boxes and asked to choose a box but you don't know what's inside until you open it."

Maurice and Rachel Chiodo in the garden of their home in Ekin Road Credit: Cambridge News

Homeowners Maurice and Rachel Chiodo, both in their thirties, have lived in Ekin Road for six years.

Ms Chiodo said: "This is our home and we don't want to be forced into giving that up.

"We saved and we did everything we could to try and get on the housing market. We finally felt like we'd made it. We then had our own house and now apparently the council can just take it away."

Mr Chiodo and his neighbour Paola Pugsley, 81, both said they thought they would live in their homes for the rest of their lives.

Ms Pugsley said: "I saw this one as my last house. It really is my little cocoon. I don't want to start again somewhere else."

But Chris Stanley, who lives in a council-owned flat said: "I currently have three girls, all aged under 10. "We've had issues from black mould to concrete falling out of our walls, subsidence, there's damp issues. You just can't fix it without knocking the place down."

Ekin Road, Cambridge Credit: Cambridge News

Councillor Gerri Bird, executive councillor for housing on Cambridge City Council, said: "We do understand that living in a state of limbo causes concern for people, and that’s why we are hoping to be able to provide clarity on next steps following the Housing Scrutiny Committee meeting next week.

"That said, I would like to reassure residents that if they are asked to move out of their homes, we have considerable experience of working with households to provide support to make the transition as seamless as possible.

"For example, tenants required to relocate will be offered one-to-one support, where considerations such as social bonds and local connections are considered – for example, we recently supported two neighbours to both relocate to the same new development."

Tenants would be given £1,250 to help with moving costs, and compensation of £7,800, and would be given top priority to bid on homes of their choosing.

"If a proposed redevelopment in East Barnwell is approved in November, we would anticipate any Ekin Road residents needing to relocate being able to access brand new homes in nearby East Barnwell," added Ms Bird.

"While it may still be the case that some of the houses are not redeveloped, should the decision be taken to redevelop, leaseholders and freeholders will receive comprehensive support too.

"This ranges from independent market valuations of their homes, in addition to statutory compensation and costs covered such as legal fees, mortgage redemption, stamp duty and removal costs. We will also work with every resident to help them find a suitable new home."

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