Misery for tenants in motorway plan

L13-050 Eviction from homes by Highway agency,  Brian Fraser and Carol Hover. Leagrave High Street, Luton, homes have been empty for years.  Connie Primmer JR 3 16.1.13
L13-050 Eviction from homes by Highway agency, Brian Fraser and Carol Hover. Leagrave High Street, Luton, homes have been empty for years. Connie Primmer JR 3 16.1.13

Devastated tenants who have lived in their homes for several years are facing eviction, as property owners the Highways Agency put houses they no longer need back on the market.

Luton Borough Council have been trying to come to an arrangement with the Highways Agency (HA) to avoid eviction of the tenants, but their negotiations have so far been unsuccessful.

The properties near junction 11 of the M1 in Luton were bought by the HA between 1993 and 2000 for the motorway widening scheme and have been rented out, but in 2009 the scheme changed and the houses were no longer needed so have been gradually offered to former owners or put up for sale.

Brian Frazer (pictured) who has lived in Belper Road for 17 years is one of about 30 households facing eviction in the latest phase of property sales.

Mr Frazer said: “We can’t afford to buy the houses ourselves. My mother lost her home in Leagrave High Street three years ago in the same way, and what makes me sick is seeing my mother’s house still empty for no reason. If they make us leave these properties now, I can guarantee they will stand empty and become derelict like the ones they tried to sell before. Why evict 30 families to try and sell houses?

“We have turned these empty shells into homes, we’ve built lives here, we are a community. Now I’m worried we could end up homeless, or living in emergency accommodation which could be anywhere.”

An HA spokesperson said they made sure the tenants were aware that, as part of the rental agreement, properties would eventually be sold on if not needed for the motorway widening scheme.

However, a resident who has lived in her Halfway Avenue home for seven years claims she was explicitly told the houses would not be sold.

The woman, who wishes to be known only as Nicola said: “Then we got the letter saying they would be and I just collapsed when I read it. We have been lied to. I love my house and I love my neighbours. I don’t want to lose my house and I can’t afford to move. I don’t understand why they are treating people like this.”

A HA spokesperson said: “We understand some people have lived in these properties for a number of years and we are doing everything we can to help and keep them informed in accordance with their rental agreement.”

The council has been trying to encourage the HA to sell or let the surplus houses to the council, or sell them at a discounted price to the tenants or a social landlord.

However, the HA are only interested in getting the market value for the houses, and selling them with sitting tenants would reduce this value.

The council are unable to meet the asking price for the vacant properties.

A council spokesperson said: “In 2010 we wrote to the then Minister requesting that Government arrange a paper transfer between the Department of Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government so these properties could be transferred to the council for use as affordable housing, but this was refused.

“The council, working with BPHA, managed to secure a few empty properties in 2011 to provide accommodation for clients with physical and learning disabilities.

“The council’s housing options team is engaging with affected tenants to advise them of their rights in this situation.”