Bemerton leaseholders could lose their homes if estate is demolished

MORE than 250 leaseholders on an estate earmarked for demolition could be forced to give up their homes or face being saddled with huge mortgages for flats in the swanky new blocks.

People living on the Bemerton Estate, off Caledonian Road, Islington, are currently being asked whether they would like to see their 1970s redbrick blocks bulldozed and rebuilt in a street pattern.

Under the plans, all council tenants would be rehoused – but leaseholders who bought their council homes will only be able to stay on the estate if they can find a way to cover the huge increase in the value of their properties.

Kane Zhang, 41, secretary of the newly Bemerton Leaseholders’ Association, which was formed on Thursday, said: “We just want to be treated fairly. If we are given a new home on the new estate on a like for like basis then we would be happy.

“I wouldn’t even mind having to pay up to �50,000 extra for a similar property on the new estate, but it might be that our flats go from �200,000 to �400,000, and people can’t afford that.

“Many of the leaseholders are pensioners who have lived here for a long time and have paid off their mortgages. They will have to move away or get into serious financial trouble.

“One elderly lady came up to me and kissed my hand and told me she just wants to stay here. Money is nothing to them, they just don’t want to leave.”

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Islington Council insists discussions on the future of the estate are at a very early stage and demolition is just one of three options to combat anti-social behaviour and crime. If it goes ahead, all leaseholders would be offered the market value for their homes plus a 10 per cent “home-loss payment” by way of compensation, but they say that is far from satisfactory.

“A lot of us bought our flats at the height of the property boom in 2006,” said Mr Zhang. “We were banking on them going up in value because of their location right in between Angel and the new King’s Cross, but we will probably be offered less than we paid for them.”

Dr Brian Potter, chairman of Islington Leaseholders’ Association, said: “The Bemerton is only about 30 years old, and has just had millions spend on them as part of the Decent Homes project.

“I’ve had reports of leaseholders unable to sell due to the fear of imminent demolition, and some have just purchased, and not been informed that the threat existed. All they want is to be kept informed and properly consulted.”

Councillor James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing, said: “No final decision is being taken at the moment - the current consultation has been asking residents whether they would like the council to further investigate any redevelopment options.

“If the council investigated further, more detailed plans would come back to residents again before a final decision was made. If residents and the council did decide to go ahead, leaseholders would get the market value of their property plus at least 10 per cent.”