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St Mildred's Close in Tenterden becoming a 'sink estate', say residents

Screams in the middle of the night, a bathroom door kicked in and a boarded up front entrance have created a "sink estate" where older residents live in terror.

That's the claim of Ailsa Vinelott, 69, who describes how chaos has descended on a once sleepy close in the heart of Tenterden.

A collection of bungalows and flats owned by Ashford Borough Council at St Mildred's Close used to house predominately older people who lived in harmony with a few disabled tenants.

Broken fencing and clutter in one of the gardens in St Mildred’s Close
Broken fencing and clutter in one of the gardens in St Mildred’s Close

Retired management consultant Mrs Vinelott created a vegetable patch and grew fruit trees in the communal garden with the council’s agreement.

Her neighbours included a woman with learning difficulties and a man with a head injury, who became her friends and helped to cultivate the patch and water the plants.

But all that changed as the complex, previously home to mostly over-50s, saw an influx of younger tenants with social and mental health problems.

Mrs Vinelott who lives in a flat says: "I've been awoken at 2.30am by screaming, crying, foul language and the sounds of a door being kicked in.

"A man who is a relation to one of the tenants began camping in the hallways and at one stage put up a tent in the communal gardens where he was sleeping.

The battered bathroom door put out with the rubbish
The battered bathroom door put out with the rubbish

"He took my teak sun lounger for a bed and broke the arm off it."

She described how a bathroom door was kicked in after what she believes to be an episode of domestic violence in the flat above and the battered door was later slung out with the rubbish.

Her neighbour 77-year-old Douglas Smith, who has lived in the close for 12 years said: "We’ve had police here and they bashed down a front door and I heard it was a drugs raid.

"There is a man who wanders round outside in his pyjamas and someone was living in the garden in a tent and he is still about.

"I feel intimidated in my own home."

Resident say St Mildred's Close is turning into a 'sink estate'
Resident say St Mildred's Close is turning into a 'sink estate'

The mother of a disabled man who has lived at St Mildred’s Close for 10 years says that her son, who never takes a day off sick, has missed work at a Tenterden store because he has been too afraid to leave his flat.

Mandy Richardson, 64, who lives in Stone, says complaints about the man rough-sleeping in the hallways, made to both police and Ashford Borough Council (ABC), have left her "going round and round in circles" without a resolution.

She accused ABC of "not acting responsibly" by housing "aggressive and disruptive people" alongside vulnerable elderly and disabled tenants.

Several residents said the man was also found to be rough-sleeping beneath the stage at Tenterden Club in nearby Church Road, although a club spokesman would only confirm it had experienced problems with an individual who had since been dealt with.

Police have been called numerous times by fearful residents living in the close, opposite the 12th century St Mildred’s church and Mrs Vinelott said: "This used to be an absolutely delightful place to live and we enjoyed our vegetable garden.

Mandy Richardson has complained to the police and council
Mandy Richardson has complained to the police and council

"It’s just two minutes from the town centre."

But the pensioner says that her blood pressure has "gone through the roof" having to cope with multiple disturbances at the housing complex.

She added: "Our homes must have been the jewel in the crown of the council’s estate, but it is fast becoming a sink estate and a place where it is terrifying to open your own front door."

A police spokesman confirmed: “Between May 11 and 22, we received reports regarding a man seen in the communal areas of a building in St Mildred’s Close in Tenterden.

"Officers attended the area where residents were spoken to and provided with security advice.

"A 50-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage on May 31 in relation to a report of a door damaged in St Mildred’s Close on May 21.

"He was released pending further investigation."

ABC said it was looking into the situation and a spokesman said: "We are aware of some ongoing issues which have been reported to us and we are currently investigating them."

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