Whistleblowers silenced for raising alarm at demolition plans for Highgate homes
A social landlord has sought to silence whistleblowers after elderly and dying tenants were handed confidential information about plans to demolish their homes.
Lawyers issued a stern legal warning to current and former board members of Crouch End-based Hornsey Housing Trust after a cache of secret documents was leaked to residents of threatened Highgate estate Goldsmiths Court, in Shepherds Hill.
One whistleblower, who wished to remain anonymous, said he is being “gagged” for giving vulnerable tenants information about plans for their estate, which he says should have been made public in the first place.
He said: “I would never break confidentiality but I don’t think this is confidential. It’s a matter of public interest, so the gagging order can go whistle.”
The letter “reminds” board members that they could be in breach of contract if they disclose confidential information or speak out against the trust.
It warns that such information has already been disclosed to “third parties”, and adds: “This has become evident from correspondence sent to the trust by individuals purporting to act for a number of residents and seeking to cause damage to the trust”.
Among the leaked information was the revelation that the trust, a registered charity, spent £25,000 on preliminary surveys ahead of potential redevelopment – a fact hidden from tenants. The residents now claim this proves that the trust is thundering ahead with plans to demolish their homes without consultation. They say this is despite previous reassurances that no decision has been made.
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Retired film editor John McGovern, 65, said: “It’s a disgrace, underhand and dishonest. We should have been consulted right from the beginning.”
As reported in the Ham&High in February, the estate’s 16 tenants – most of whom are elderly, seriously ill or dying – warned that people would die if they were forced to be rehoused as a result of any redevelopment. They were first told of the plans by letter in February.
A spokesman said: “We regret that a well-intentioned and appropriate move to ensure our accommodation is fit for purpose has led to unfounded accusations from a few individuals. No decision has been made to proceed with redevelopment and any decision will need further consultation with all tenants at Goldsmiths Court. The trust and the site owners undertook a feasibility assessment to enable us to approach tenants from an informed perspective. All board members sign a confidentiality agreement to avoid any undue concern ahead of our establishing the facts on such projects.”