Published: 15:43, 05 September 2018
| Updated: 16:38, 05 September 2018
Dozens of people evicted from their apartments will be given two weeks to find new homes or could be forced to move to County Durham.
People living in Hythe’s Pensland House and Marlborough Court face homelessness after property owner Chelsea Portfolio gave them their marching orders to develop the building.
A number of benefit claimants living in the 56 affordable beach-side apartments say Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) offered new properties 330 miles in north England.
"This scheme, while some distance away, does offer the most probable outcome for those approaching the council as homeless" - Folkestone and Hythe District Council
In a letter seen by KentOnline, law firm DAC Beachcroft wrote to residents: “It is in the interest of all concerned, including the current tenants, to cooperate and exchange information to make the process less traumatic than it need be.
“Delaying matters will prolong anxiety and may bring legal costs to tenants fighting possession.
“In order to assist tenants, it is proposed that the blocks will be vacated over the course of about seven months, commencing with the vacation of Marlborough Court.
“We are instructed the local authority has advised of alternative accommodation available out of the area and this continues to be an option which may be pursued by tenants.”
Chelsea Portfolio decided to sell the building 18 months ago when it ceased to be financially viable – the firm largely blamed changes to the way government paid benefits to claimants.
Chelsea Portfolio brought forward the mass eviction after town councillor Laura Sullivan (Lab) “stirred up tensions”, the letter claims.
In a separate document leaked to KentOnline the district council said moving homeless ex-tenants to Durham would be the “most probable outcome”.
“Further to our discussion regarding the notices being served on the residents, I have outlined details of our relocation scheme to County Durham.
“This scheme, while some distance away, does offer the most probable outcome for those approaching the council as homeless.
“The reason I am sending this is quite simply we have over 1,000 households awaiting social housing in the area.
“There is no prospect of immediate or even mid-term social housing for those approaching,” wrote council housing manager Mark Damiral.
He added people would be given two weeks to seek private housing or be referred for “a choice of property in Durham or the surrounding area.”
He added the council would foot travel fees and admin costs should people choose to relocate.
"Most of us have lived here all of our lives, how are single people with children meant to cope without support?" - resident
Meanwhile some residents, who wish to remain anonymous, claim the authority suggested they researched Durham based lettings agency AMRP Relocations as part of their homeless packages.
The company specialises in bringing empty properties back into use as affordable housing.
One resident told KentOnline: “How are we meant to get back here to visit our families?
"Most of us have lived here all of our lives, how are single people with children meant to cope without support?”
Round journeys take more than 10 hours by rail and fares cost between £100 - £300, the Trainline website shows.
Chelsea Portfolio has launched two planning bids to develop the buildings, including six new “penthouses” on the top of Pensland House.
FHDC council leader David Monk said: "As a council we try to help people, and what is helpful is County Durham's spare capacity.
"Sending people to Durham is not a council policy, we are just suggesting people look at the opportunity because there is existing housing stock.
"We can't build 1,000 council houses overnight.
"At the moment we are within 200 hundred social housing homes within a ten year period.
"Our Otterpool Park Garden Town scheme will help provide a significant amount of the social housing we need."