Elderly Highgate estate tenants protest against plans to demolish their homes

Vulnerable and elderly residents have staged a belligerent protest against early plans to knock down their homes, warning: “Put tenants first, not development”.

A handful of tenants from a threatened Highgate estate waved signs in a peaceful demonstration outside the headquarters of housing association Hornsey Housing Trust in Crouch End last Tuesday.

They fear people will become ill or even die if they are temporarily re-housed while the Goldsmiths Court estate is redeveloped under the trust’s draft proposals.

Tenant Joan Elsby, 62, who suffers from brittle bone disease, said: “I think their behaviour is horrible. There will be people dying if they take them out of their flats.”

Neighbour Josephine Burke, 84, said: “It’s a terrible worry. I’ve been here for 20 years, and I thought they would carry me out in a box.”

Following the demonstration, the Goldsmiths Court protesters were invited to a hastily-arranged meeting with chief executive Alwyn Lewis to look at draft plans for the estate. But they declined the offer, arguing that all tenants should be at meetings with the trust.

It was then agreed that a public meeting will be held later this month at a date and venue to be decided by the estate’s tenants.

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All 16 Goldsmiths Court residents were sent a letter out-of-the-blue from Mr Lewis in February, informing them that their homes were in desperate need of modernisation and redevelopment.

They claim they have heard nothing about the plans since then, and have not been consulted.

And last week, the Ham&High revealed that whistleblowers have been silenced with a legal warning after the estate’s residents were supplied with confidential information about the proposals.

The trust pledged that tenants would be moved into “suitable accommodation” while redevelopment is underway and all moving costs would be covered.

But the residents fear a house move will put them at serious risk of harm, as nearly all are elderly or have debilitating medical conditions – and some are terminally ill.

The trust promised that no tenant would be moved if it would expose them to “unnecessary risk”.

A spokesman from Hornsey Housing Trust said: “We repeat that no formal decision has been made about any development of Goldsmiths Court, and prior to any such decision there will be full consultation with residents.

“We regret that those involved did not take this opportunity to discuss the proposals, but our door remains open and we were already organising a meeting with all the residents.”