Help to save the Hilltop homes

I looked in vain in today’s Observer for reaction to the story on last week’s front page, so I am writing now to put the story in context.

I was an architect in 1991 when the derelict mental hospital and formerly Rye Union Workhouse was sold to a local developer, granted planning permission and listed building consent and converted into 16 modern houses and flats.

Shortly after completion the whole development was bought by Orbit Housing Association to provide affordable rented social housing.

The tenants have recently been informed by Orbit that they are to be evicted because repair costs, estimated at £1.3m are unsustainable.

A brief inspection of the houses shows that 20 years of minimal maintenance by Orbit has resulted in some repair and renewal work being needed now.

Orbit’s excuse that listed buildings are difficult to repair is nonsense.

The main element requiring replacement are the windows, which after 23 years exposure to the elements and little maintenance, are failing.

Similarly eroding stonework can be repaired; part of the problem is that the stonework has been painted, leading to flaking surfaces due to trapped moisture.

I have personally seen that tenants are generally looking after the inside of their houses well.

I fail to see that £80,000 is needed to update each property.

The tenants have been offered no realistic accommodation when their homes are sold to a developer, merely a vague offer of houses in Uckfield.

Remember that these are mostly local Rye families with jobs, families and children attending local schools.

Otherwise they will have to join the unruly mess of private rented housing.

I suspect that the real reason behind the eviction is that Orbit want to get rid of the development before the government gives tenants the right to buy housing association homes.

I appeal to readers to join the Facebook Save our Homes at Hilltop Drive group and do everything to reverse Orbit’s decision.

Chris McGrath

The Grove


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