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Shepway regeneration scheme hits buffers as leaseholder won't budge

Plans for a multi-million pound regeneration scheme have hit a snag.

It was just a week ago housing association Golding Homes announced it had gained planning permission for its ambitious project to demolish the 1950s housing estate in Cambridge Crescent, Shepway, Maidstone.

Included in this is a neighbouring shopping parade at Northumberland Court with plans for 236 new homes in a mixture of flats and houses, and a shopping court with 15 retail units.

First the 114 tenants who already live there have to be moved out and their homes knocked down.

But it has emerged now 10 of the tenants own their properties, having bought them leasehold from Golding, or at least from its predecessor as landlord, Maidstone council.

At least one of these homeowners is refusing to budge.

Danny Roberts, 79, bought his ground floor flat in Winchester House in 2014.

He paid £90,000 to obtain the balance of a 120-year lease from the previous owner, who had himself purchased the one-bedroom property from Maidstone council in 1999.

Artist's impression of how the new Cambridge Crescent homes would look
Artist's impression of how the new Cambridge Crescent homes would look

That gives Mr Roberts the right to stay there until 2119.

He said: "I bought this place to retire to. I want to spend the rest of my life here until I am carried out in my box."

Golding has been "negotiating" with Mr Roberts since March – although this seems to have been all one-sided.

It first offered him £140,000 to move but has since upped that offer to £154,000.

But the pensioner said: "That's a ridiculous amount. I have done some research with estate agents and to get anywhere decent at all would cost at least £250,000."

Golding has found him a property to move to – it's a flat built in the same era that is exactly identical to his own at Iverness House in Lancashire Road, which they say is available for £145,000.

Shops at Northumberland Court, Shepway
Shops at Northumberland Court, Shepway

But Mr Roberts said: "I don't want to move there. That area's known for drugs."

Golding also did not explain how if his own flat was no longer considered suitable accommodation, an exactly similar one would be acceptable.

He is clearly proud of his home and was keen to show how he kept the grass outside his property mowed and free from litter, as opposed to most of the rest of the Golding Homes estate.

He gave his reasons for staying put: "I get on well with my neighbours. We talk to each other. I really like it here – it's quiet and peaceful.

"I have a fox I feed, and the birds, and even a wild cat that comes around.

"I don't want to leave and I don't see why I should."

A letter from Golding Homes offering Mr Roberts £154,000 for his flat
A letter from Golding Homes offering Mr Roberts £154,000 for his flat
Typical properties on the estate now due for demolition
Typical properties on the estate now due for demolition

Golding said: "We’ve been talking to all our customers, including our leaseholders, about the regeneration and will continue to consult with and support them at every stage.

"At the start of each phase, we’ll speak to customers individually about their property and the options open to them."

Mr Roberts said: "They keep rattling me – trying to persuade me to leave.

"I've written to the chairman of Golding Homes, Chris Cheeseman, to explain my position, and that's that."

Mr Roberts has also contacted his MP, Helen Whateley, for support.

He added: "This is all very stressful – I have a heart condition that I need to take pills for."

The multi-million pound regeneration scheme forgot about Danny
The multi-million pound regeneration scheme forgot about Danny

Nevertheless he is determined to fight on

Asked what he would do if Golding resorted to seeking a compulsory purchase order for his property, he said: "I have already spoken to a firm of solicitors and they are ready to take my case on. I will fight this in the courts if necessary."

Golding has yet to secure a contractor for its project, but says the work will be carried out in three stages, each lasting around two years.

The planning application can be seen here with the planning reference number 22/500638.

Cambridge Way is not affected by the redevelopment.

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