THERE is a ‘public disgrace’ at the heart of Chichester, as derelict flats lie empty and decaying.
This is the view of Winden Avenue residents – who said they despaired of work ever starting on the Heritage Site, which elderly residents were forced to abandon in 2008 to make way for a multi-million pound redevelopment.
Veronica Tildesley, 64, said the endless delays were ‘soul- destroying’ and criticised developers Hyde Martlet for not keeping residents informed.
“We’ve been virtually kept in the dark all the way along. We’ve no idea what’s going on,” she said.
“It’s made me virtually suicidal at stages because it’s so depressing.”
She said it was ‘immensely sad’ people were ‘unnecessarily moved’ from sheltered housing for the redevelopment.
“None of them wanted to go and it’s just sitting there empty and decaying when people are crying out for places to live.”
She said that, after the buildings were vacated, the area became a drug den and squatters moved in. There were also rats, some of which crossed over to residents’ houses.
“They stopped sending police dogs in because they kept cutting their feet on all the glass. I find it absolutely heartbreaking and there’s no end in sight.”
She said squatters did a ‘huge amount of damage’ to the site. Windows are now boarded up, hoardings were erected and the whole site is patrolled by a security guard.
Her neighbours Colin and Shirley Turnbull were equally angry.
“It’s an absolute public disgrace,” said 71-year-old Colin. “We thought it would have at least been flattened by now. If somebody was really organised they could turn that round in no time.
“It’s a real white elephant. They’ve done nothing with it except put a security chap in.”
They questioned how much money Hyde Martlet had lost on the site, in terms of rent revenue and paying for round-the-clock security.
The project for 56 affordable homes and 36 for sale on the open market was allocated a £1.9m grant from the Homes and Communities Agency. However, work was supposed to start by March in order to get the money.
A spokeswoman from Hyde Martlet did not wish to comment on lost revenue, but said the company was ‘fully committed’ to the site.
Hyde believed it successfully completed a compulsory tender process towards the end of 2012 but, because of circumstances beyond its control, the process had to begin again this year.
“We’re really doing our very, very best to get on site as soon as possible to build homes because people need them,” she said.
In January, Chichester councillors agreed part of the site could be sold to subsidise affordable housing, citing declining demand.