Thetford Abbey Estate plans criticised by landlord and councillor

A private landlord and a councillor have criticised plans to bulldoze homes on an estate undergoing redevelopment.

Some £250m is being spent on replacing homes on the Abbey Estate, Thetford, Norfolk, which was built in the 1960s.

Landlord Cathy Spillane said the plans would leave her worse off, while councillor Terry Land said residents would lose their green spaces.

Flagship Group said it would re-house its social renters and buy owner-occupied properties.

The housing association has submitted a planning application to transform the estate, one of England's most deprived, over the next 20 years and create an extra 500 properties.

Ms Spillane, who lives on the estate and rents out two properties there, said: "Flagship promised us nobody would be financially worse off; we will be."

She said she had also received a letter saying it was her responsibility to inform her tenants of the redevelopment.

"Once they're homeless there would be no guarantee that Flagship or Breckland [Council] would provide them with another house," she said.

"[Flagship] claimed that no one would be made homeless in this regeneration."

Mr Land, a Labour member of Thetford Town Council and Breckland Council, is also chair of the Abbey Action Group.

"I would welcome it [redevelopment] if I thought it was a regeneration. The reality is, it's infill," he said.

"It'll push more people into a small area and people will lose their green spaces, which is a huge part of the Abbey."

He said he was also worried about the infrastructure, including Thetford's two GP surgeries, being able to cope.

"The infrastructure is the last thing to be addressed; we haven't heard anything about doctors and schools," he said.

He called for both Breckland Council and Flagship Group to listen to residents, address their concerns and come up with more constructive proposals.

"They need to engage with us as a group and the residents," he said.

James Payne, regeneration director at Flagship Group, insisted no-one would be forced to leave the estate if the proposals were agreed.

"We've been responding to issues people have told us about. Really critical to us is improving the quality, the affordability and the types of property we can afford tenants of the future," he said.

The phased building would help "manage the rehousing process better", he said, adding that the plan aimed to make sure "people stay as close to their own home as possible".

"These projects are always slightly more difficult in the earlier stages as there aren't necessarily the volume of new homes to move people into," he admitted.

He said landlords would receive fair compensation, assessed by independent valuers.

He also denied more homes would be crammed into the space.

"The work we want to do should enable the Abbey not just to cope in the future but to thrive," he said.

Breckland Council has been asked for comment.

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