Pensioners are preparing to fight council plans to move them out of their retirement flats to make way for homeless families.

Elderly tenants of Tonbridge House, a sheltered housing block in Penge Road, South Norwood, learned last week their homes had been targeted to help tackle the borough's housing crisis and reduce the number of families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

Croydon Council wants to replace current tenants with homeless families, 414 of whom are currently living in costly B&B accommodation.

It said no tenants would be forced out, but with only one of Tonbridge House's 39 flats currently empty it would need to free up space.

But many residents insisted they will refuse to move, with some accusing the council of trying to "bully" them into submission.

William Ramsey, 80, who has lived there 14 years, said: "To try to remove these people from their own homes, I strongly feel it is an infringement of our human rights. Surely you are allowed to take the last few years of your life with a bit of peace?"

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William Ramsey with tenants in Tonbridge House's community room

Donald Donaldson, 82, said: "I don't want to move. I have lived here for 18 years and I love living here. I feel we are being bullied."

Tenants also fear the introduction of young families could shatter the peace of their retirement and residents feeling vulnerable. All but six of the 11-storey block's current tenants are aged over 65 and several are disabled.

Peter Godman, 70, a tenant for 12 years, blind and has Parkinson's disease and epilepsy

He said added: "They would have to drag me out. I am settled here. It is peaceful, friendly and safe.

"It is going to be horrible. I can't walk very far and there are going to be youngsters racing around playing in the corridors and lifts. I am very concerned."

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Tonbridge House in Penge Road

Coun Jane Avis, South Norwood councillor and Labour's spokesperson on older people, said: "We have great sympathy with the council for the fact that there is very little housing, but you can't burden one set of people in favour of another.

"These people were more or less guaranteed sheltered housing until the end of their days and now have the stress and anxiety of finding out that was rubbish."

Croydon Council drew up a shortlist of 11 retirement blocks to consider opening up to homeless families. 

Councillors approved plans to convert one of them, Gillett Road in Thornton Heath, to mixed-use temporary accommodation in July.

A warden will be employed to tackle anti-social behaviour at Gillett Road, which Mr Ramsey suggested showed the council expected trouble to arise.

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Tonbridge House in Penge Road

The council said Tonbridge House was also chosen because of the availability of alternative nearby accommodation for elderly residents and the relatively small investment which it would need to be adapted. 

A spokesman said: "This will help the council to manage homelessness, make better use of our housing stock, and reduce the usage of expensive nightly paid accommodation such as bed and breakfasts.

"We are consulting with residents at Tonbridge House because it is a difficult to let high rise tower block and because we know that generally older people prefer lower rise accommodation.

"Nobody will have to move, however there is suitable alternative accommodation nearby, including a twin block, which people could move to. They will be provided with all the help they need should they choose to move."

The plans will go before the council's cabinet in January following a consultation of residents.