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Tenants at former Army homes in Canterbury offered six extra months to find new homes if in 'hardship'

More than a dozen families who face losing their homes have been offered a further six months to find a new place to live - if they face "hardship".

Those affected have been living in former Army houses at the old Howe Barracks site in Canterbury for two years, renting from the Ministry of Defence.

Cllr Dave Wilson (left) with families facing eviction
Cllr Dave Wilson (left) with families facing eviction

The eviction notices came as a bolt out of the blue to the families, who say they fear being made homeless or having to move away from the area because they cannot afford private rents.

The 13 properties affected are currently leased to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from Annington Homes and sub-let.

The MoD wants to end the leases and hand them back to the company in March 2021, along with a further six which are already empty.

But it has now offered to extend tenancies for those facing difficulty.

A MoD spokesperson said: "We are aware of the issues facing tenants and where, in cases of hardship, extra time is required we are willing to extend tenancies by up to a further six months through to September 2021 on a case by case basis.

"Tenants who have been served notice are being informed."

Gayle Shearwood and her postman husband Mark, who have a two-year-old and live in Albuhera Square, has mixed views about the extension.

"It gets us through Christmas but we are still in a position of worry because we know we have still got to get out," Mrs Shearwood said.

"It takes a little less worry away but it’s not long enough. It’s a start of an offer, but another one would be better.

Mum Gayle Shearwood fears she could be made homeless
Mum Gayle Shearwood fears she could be made homeless

"We will probably be worse off next year because jobs are not great at the moment. It’s just prolonging the inevitable.

"House prices will probably go up and down - who knows what will happen. It's a bit of a minefield."

Supermarket worker Tom Eckett, 28, received the extension offer from the MoD today.

"From our point of view it gives us an extra six months to find somewhere else," said Mr Eckett, who lives with his partner Jon Griffiths, 29.

Tom Eskett had a mixed reaction to the extension
Tom Eskett had a mixed reaction to the extension

"We’re not going to have this looming over our heads quite so immediately over Christmas.

"We can try and enjoy it rather than telling all our family it’s off because we have to save for a deposit."

The plight of the residents has been taken on by Labour city councillor Dave Wilson, who says it is outrageous the families face being turfed out of their homes.

Reacting to the extension, he said: "They haven't defined what they mean by hardship, but at least it is a first sign of movement."

Most homes on the barracks site previously housed military families.

But following the closure of the Army base in 2015, the MoD has handed back hundreds of the properties to owner Annington.

The majority of these have since been leased to Redbridge Council, which has moved its tenants down from London.

Those still leased by the MoD - including the 19 it wants to give back in March 2021 - have been sub-let to private tenants.

It is not yet clear what Annington will do with the properties when they are returned but the company says it was not informed by the MoD of its decision to end the tenancies.

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