Fighting to save our own homes

PUBLISHED: 14:00 06 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:55 06 May 2010

On behalf of our residents association and in response to recent articles and letters, I would like to correct some misconceptions and fill in a little of the history of our estate. Firstly, the bungalows are not temporary buildings. Timber framed with

On behalf of our residents' association and in response to recent articles and letters, I would like to correct some misconceptions and fill in a little of the history of our estate.

Firstly, the bungalows are not temporary buildings. Timber framed with aluminium external walls, plasterboard internal walls, lined with fibreglass insulation, and standing on a substantial concrete base, they are classified as permanent buildings, model type Hawksley BL8D. Unlike the many thousands of prefabs built post-war only 3,000 Hawksley bungalows were built as the quality of materials and the generous dimensions made them more expensive to construct than some traditionally built homes.

The estate was well laid out and the three bedroomed bungalows were built in 1949/50 to accommodate key workers taking up management and skilled personnel positions in local industries such as K & L, Shelvoke & Drewry, Sigma, etc. Some of the original tenants still live on the estate.

These days the bungalows have taken on a new role. Over a third have been adapted to accommodate the individual needs of people with a variety of disabilities, in many cases enabling families to stay together. There are no other properties in Letchworth or the surrounding area that can offer the facilities the bungalows do.

When NHH took over council housing stock in March 2003 there was no hint of possible redevelopment but within a year we were told our homes must be demolished because of their structural condition. This decision was made without the benefit of a structural survey and our requests for one were refused.

After 17 months our association funded its own survey which more than justified our confidence and found the structure to be in very sound condition. Three months later NHH finally commissioned a survey. Again this survey found very little wrong but the report quotes heavily from a 1960s government projection report, a report that other housing authorities have dismissed because of the age of the report versus the condition of the properties to date. Needless to say NHH have taken a different view and are still insisting the bungalows be demolished.

For two years North Herts Homes have shown considerable arrogance and little appreciation of the enormous stress their actions are having. In their eagerness to construct higher density housing they are blinkered to the true worth of the bungalows, especially the unique role they are playing in providing comfortable, adaptable, manageable homes for residents with very special housing needs.

We have been given no cause to have confidence in any of NHH assurances and are asking that arrangements be made for a public meeting at the earliest opportunity.

JEAN FISH, Secretary, Highover & Campfield Residents' Association

* I would just like to thank the residents' association and supporters for working so hard over the last couple of years in trying to prevent the demolition of the aluminium bungalows in Highover Road and Campfield Way.

It is such a heartbreaking situation for the residents and their families, as we know from independent and extensive tests on these bungalows that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. They are structurally sound and have been well maintained. Some may think that they look a little dated, but in other areas of the country, where the councils have been kinder to their residents who live in these type of bungalows, they have been bricked around, to preserve them, bringing them up to date. But of course, North Hertfordshire Homes would then not make a massive profit, in what is so obviously going to be a private sell off, and who has given permission to build on a conservation area?

My parents were one of the first to move into these unique bungalows 55 years ago and are now in their 80s. Like many of their neighbours and friends who have also lived there for many years, they take great pride in their homes and gardens, so you can image the toll it has taken on them, when it was leaked to the local radio and media that their homes will be demolished next year! To uproot this mainly elderly and disabled little community and dump them in the unknown is an utter disgrace.

Be it on your heads North Hertfordshire Homes, as you are about to destroy the lives of many senior citizens of Highover Road and Campfield Way.

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

* I wonder where the person lives who penned such a heartless letter Bring in the Bulldozers to Campfield Way and Highover Road, (The Comet March 30).

I am not surprised by their cowardice at not volunteering their name and address when referring to our precious homes as a shanty town.

Had these Hawksley bungalows, which were provided for workers after the war, had their facia walls bricked, (and still could), when several other councils in England decided to do so, we would not be in the situation we are in now. These homes are not slums and could knock spots off many other properties in Letchworth Garden City, which incidentally has been our home town for over 60 years.

May I suggest Mr or Mrs anonymous not be so smug. You only have to look at the shops in Letchworth town centre the council are planning to knock down, to realise no area in this town is immune to change.

Mrs D M MARSHALL, Angry resident

* Re Tin Town, my parents have lived in one of the aluminium (not tin or steel) bungalows in your so-called Tin Town since they were built in 1949, where I was born and my brother and I spent our childhood.

Having rented it from the local council for many years, some 23 years ago my parents decided to purchase the property after a structural survey showed that not only was the construction totally sound but that it was indeed better than most modern houses.

North Herts Homes' claim that these bungalows were only intended as temporary and cannot be modernised or repaired cost effectively is complete and utter nonsense. Members of the residents' association have been in contact with residents and council members in other areas of the country where bungalows of the same construction have been updated cost effectively, internally and externally, rather than the bungalows being demolished. North Herts Homes has ignored this information. Their claim that the properties are structurally unsound is also unfounded as shown by my parents' survey on their bungalow and surveys done for other residents who have also purchased their homes, something that North Herts Homes is also ignoring along with many other facts listed by the residents.

Most of the residents of Campfield Way and Highover Road are elderly and/or to some degree infirm - my parents are in their 80s, my father has recently undergone heart surgery. They neither want nor need this stress and worry and do not want to be forced out of their homes to line the pockets of this company, for North Herts Homes is interested in one thing and one thing only - the money that can be made from building many houses on this large plot of land.

JULIA STIMPSON, Hitchin

* Having read the unpleasant letter Bring on the Bulldozers, I often pass through Campfield Way and Highover Road and notice the neat and tidy gardens, homes and streets free of rubbish and litter.

There are other streets in the Wilbury area which are in a very untidy state which drag down the charm of this garden city.

JOHN E WINDEBANK, Address supplied


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