A tight-knit community is being torn apart by Sutton Council, which wants to bulldoze their privately owned homes in a housing scandal.

In an attempt to fill a social housing quota, Sutton Council is planning to knock down 54 homes in the Wrythe ward, near Carshalton, and build new houses and a possible block of flats in their place.

More than twenty residents, who bought their former council houses under the Right to Buy scheme in the 1980s, are being forced to sell their family homes for up to £40,000 less than the market value.

If they refuse to sell, the council is threatening them with compulsory purchase orders and telling families to expect less than the original offers.

Now residents, who regularly share vegetables and can often be seen chatting over the fence, feel they are fighting a losing battle against the social housing machinery of Sutton Council.

The home-owners, some in their 80s and one in her 90s, live in Green Wrythe Crescent, Fellowes Road, Nightingale Close, and Duke of Edinburgh Road.

Many council tenants have already been rehomed and the private home-owners, who have been living in the street all their lives, are living next to empty dwellings being targeted by thieves.

David Gumble, 57, a refuse collector who has lived on the street for 27 years, may have to get a loan to finish paying his mortgage, just to get a fair price for his house.

He said: "We have put so much money into this house and the council do not care.

"I have told them our house is not for sale, but they said they will make us sell it.

"We now sitting ducks for thieves. We are surrounded by empty houses which have already been broken into.

"It is shocking how they have treated us. We have worked all our lives, we never go on holiday so we can make our house nicer."

It is the second time Sutton Council has attempted to force the residents out.

In 1992, plans were met with fierce opposition and the council backed down.

It is not the first time residents have been evicted from their homes so the council can demolish them to make way for new homes.

Residents of Elizabeth House sheltered housing complex received a letter on their doorstep in July 2008 telling them their home was going to be levelled.

Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, said residents in the latest saga must get a fair deal.

He said: "Sutton Council are between a rock and a hard place with this. It needs to improve property for tenants but it is very difficult to do so without affecting home-owners."

"Valuations for the properties need to be handed to independent people. I feel for those affected by this and I hope the local authority can address their concerns and meet the home-owners in the middle."

Sutton Councillor Tony Shields said: "Being told you must leave your home is harrowing enough but being destitute as a result is unacceptable.

"We are talking about hard working people they have my full support for a fair deal."

Lib Dem Wrythe Ward councillors Colin and Sue Stears and Roger Thistle and chairwoman of the St Helier, Wrythe and Wandle Valley local committee Anisha Callaghan failed to respond to our calls.

Marion Harper from Age UK Sutton said she felt older residents involved will be horrified if pressure is put upon them to move out of family homes they have spent all their lives paying for.

She said: "It would seem to me in this instance older people are being unfairly targeted.

"There are good reasons for assuming that later life relocation in certain circumstances and for certain groups can lead to mental health problems and an increase in mortality."

Plans for two of the streets, Fellowes Road and Duke of Edinburgh Road will be discussed by councillors in the coming weeks.

Coun Jayne McCoy, executive member for planning, economic development and housing at Sutton Council, said: "This is an opportunity to replace homes which have become structurally unsound with high-quality family homes as we now have the resources, working with our housing association partners, to enable this to take place.

"We have been working with residents to negotiate a fair settlement, and most have been very happy to accept this.

"However, we are still working with a very small number of people to find a solution which they are happy with.

"These houses have developed very serious structural faults and are now considered unmortgageable, meaning that they would be almost impossible to sell on the open market.

"We cannot leave tenants in defective homes, and have no option but to look at redeveloping the site in order to meet our social housing obligations.

"A number of tenants have been offered and accepted alternative accommodation in the borough, with the option of moving to one of the new homes when they are built, and private owners will be offered the full market value of their properties, plus discretionary compensation payments and help with moving.

"We are also looking at a swap scheme, where private owners could be given a brand new home in exchange for their old one.

"If it is necessary to use powers under Compulsory Purchase Orders to enable the redevelopment to take place then residents would have the right to have their compensation assessed by the Lands Tribunal."


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