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The Bristol Cable

Local people are fighting mass evictions and the demolition of 542-home Foxhill housing estate, where most affordable and social housing won’t be replaced.

Photo: Facebook, Save Foxhill

Foxhill Residents’ Association was granted a judicial review by the High Court on Monday that could halt controversial proposals to demolish Foxhill housing estate in Bath.

In July 2017, Bath and North East Somerset Council gave planning permission for housing association Curo to demolish 542 homes on the estate, which would force around 2,000 people out of their homes.

This was despite the planning application saying there would be a net loss of 204 affordable homes and approximately 100 homes for social rent.

The judicial review, which will take place in Bristol later this year, is the latest of many tactics employed to resist the demolition plans, including protests at council meetings, film screenings and a petition.

Foxhill neighbours set up a residents’ association in August 2015 to fight the demolition plans. They soon won support from the Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations, particularly from other neighbourhoods affected by Curo’s controversial proposal to build a cable-car overlooking them.

Residents launched a crowdfunding campaign in mid-January, which raised enough money to cover the costs of the judicial review in only a week.

Demolishing – not building – affordable homes

Curo argues the demolition is needed to ‘create an integrated, inclusive and thriving community with new facilities and open spaces’. But local residents, lacking guarantees of rehousing on the estate, are questioning whether they’ll be included in the ‘thriving community’ Curo is hoping to ‘create’.

Keith, 62, has lived at Foxhill for 30 years. “There’s been no consultation. All we get is one of these displays, ‘come and see the plans’. And when you say, ‘Where’s the social housing? Am I going to be able to swap my house for one of the new ones?’, there’s no good answer,” he told the Cable.

“The only thing they offer is shared ownership, swapping my house for a 75% stake in one of their new ones. I don’t want that. I own my house outright. And then how will I ever be able to sell it on?”

“Since the council flogged the estate to Curo, the estate has gone to ground. They’ve let the estate go to wreck and ruin”

Nola, 58, moved to the estate with her daughter 21 years ago. “When I moved in it was as a council tenant. I moved from a 1 bed council flat to a proper house up here with a beautiful garden. I was chuffed to bits. I was a single mum and it couldn’t have been better for me,” she said.

“At first I was open-minded about Curo’s plans. Twenty years ago I saw how a council estate in Trowbridge had been replaced like for like, replaced council houses for council houses. I thought that might be what they planned,” she added.

“I had no inkling that they’d be trying to move us away. It’s only as they’ve revealed what they plan to do that I’ve realised what Curo’s all about.”

Residents like Keith are clear that this is only the latest stage in a long-term plan. “Since the council flogged the estate to Somer [Curo’s previous name], the estate has gone to ground. They’ve let the estate go to wreck and ruin,” he said.

“In Weston they upgraded all the houses, replacing the bases and all the walls. Here they slapped cheap cladding on and that was that. I think this has been the plan all along, to let it run down and pull all the houses down.”

Fighting back

Nola is somewhat positive about the residents’ ongoing campaign. “The campaign has grown and grown. The thing that has been most inspiring has been seeing how people have become empowered. There are now 70-odd people involved in the residents’ association.

“When we finally got in the same room as Victor da Cunha, Curo’s CEO, he was forced to acknowledge that they did the consultation badly.

“Since then Curo has been trying, in a way. They did an exhibition on Saturday with a new architect, and at least he sat and listened to our concerns. But at the same time Curo won’t back down – they say demolition’s going ahead no matter what. So they’re trying and they’re not trying.”

Keith’s 13-year-old grandson, Jake, is one of the most active members of the campaign to save the estate. “When I heard about the plans to demolish the estate I got involved straight away. Foxhill is a tight-knit, lovely community. If you need anything you just have to ask for it,” he said.

“Foxhill does need improving, it got neglected. What it needs is an oomph. I think if we campaign hard enough we can make a big difference and get it back that oomph.”

Curo have been approached for comment.

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