Helping plucky pensioners into battle for homes

Residents of sheltered housing in Hampstead are gearing up for a fight with Camden s housing chiefs

Pete Beech

Residents of sheltered housing in Hampstead are gearing up for a fight with Camden's housing chiefs.

Lena Bolton, 94, heads a consortium of outraged tenants at Henderson Court who are contesting plans to add an extra floor to the peaceful complex.

They are concerned that a drawn-out refurbishment process - which will involve moving tenants out of their homes - will affect the health of frailer individuals.

"I've battled with Camden Council before and I'm not afraid," said Mrs Bolton, a former dressmaker who has rented council homes all her life.

The building work will include extensions to each flat and walk-in showers and will mean more than two years of disturbance at the Fitzjohn's Avenue home.

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"For elderly people, the whole thing is horrific," said Mrs Bolton. "We're not interested in how it will look - most of us won't be here when it's done. It's not that I'm worried about - it's the principle.

"They make it sound so good, saying they'll give us a sauna for example. But it'll be terrible. At our age, you don't want all that. You want peace and quiet and security. We want what we've got now. We are very happy."

It is not the first time in recent years that the pleas of those at Henderson Court have been ignored. Four years ago the council installed new double-glazed windows in a six-month process which caused "terrible upheaval" for the home's 73 residents.

And six years ago central heating went in, also provoking complaints of huge disruption.

"The truth is that they're a load of rubbish," said Mrs Bolton. "We were promised a wheel-based window system but we didn't get it - instead we've got sliding panels. It's tremendously difficult for us to get them open. The windows are far too large for us to clean by ourselves or do anything. When I want to change my curtains now I have to get my niece in to help me.

"What they are talking about now will be far worse, it will be terrible and it's not necessary.

"The problem with the council people is that they don't listen - they just go ahead and do things."

Meanwhile Mrs Bolton has her own theories about the council's real motivation. "The pie in the sky for them is to build on and to sell," she said.

"They wouldn't do it if it wasn't to sell it. There is lots of private sheltered housing in Camden. Henderson Court should be for people, like myself, who have always rented.

"I'm 94 and I still go dancing at the drop of a hat. I'm not going to give up. This is too big to let go without a battle."

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: "We're bringing all the flats up to extra care social housing standard but we're not allocating them all for people with extra care needs.

"This is because residents have asked us for a balanced community, otherwise it will turn into a residential home which is not the point of this re-development."