21st Jul, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: 'Our Coventry retirement village nightmare': Pensioner rebels speak out

Les Reid 26th Apr, 2018 Updated: 26th Apr, 2018

CAMPAIGNING elderly residents of an ‘award-winning’ Coventry retirement village say planned building work on site is turning their dream into a nightmare.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust has announced it will start building ‘phase two’ of its high-profile Earlsdon Park Village this summer – adding 60 homes on a three-acre site of the former Butts Technical College.

But some of its elderly and infirm residents in its existing 262 flats say the disruption and loss of facilities during further development will ruin their retirement.

They already have a catalogue of complaints regarding previous landscaping work immediately outside their doors and windows, service charges, and a collective dispute over council tax.

One, widow Mary Johnson, aged 74, a retired company director, told us: “What we were promised while the building was built and what we received are a million miles apart.”

Mrs Johnson sold her Cheylesmore family home of 35 years for her “dream” retirement home, with her grandchildren in Australia. She was among the first residents for the new modern complex in July, 2016.

She said: “I moved in here to put my feet up and open a bottle of wine, not to fight these battles.

“I still have the energy to do it but there are people here who are so poorly.

“Some people are on benefits and have care. There is a slow decline but it has to be catered for.

“I paid £325,000 for my apartment – the most expensive.

“But we also paid £133 per week for the maintenance and amenities of the site, plus Council tax bands C to E which were not disclosed until after residents moved in.

“It was too late to back out for many when they realised living here is unaffordable. Their savings were gone and they were unable to go back – trapped – leading to ill health and depression.

“Some of us went to a Valuation Tribunal.. We lost.

“For the first 12 months after we moved in, the views from my balcony resembled a fly tip with a dreadful effort made to level and seed the site.

“Fencing was continually blowing over and was left for weeks at a time.

“In March 2017, residents’ unrest was such that it was agreed to do some temporary landscaping and in July during the hot weather turf laying began.

“By late summer last year, at last we have semblance of what we were promised.

Of phase2, she said: “There is no provision for the lost parking during the build.

“Phase 2 will leave the residents of Phase 1 and the additional 60 flat tenants with less recreational outside paths, grass, benches and healthy environment facilities.

“For two years the mental and physical wellbeing of the residents will be dreadfully affected.”

“Feelings are running very high.

“How did our dream turn into a nightmare?”

Residents are a mix of owner-occupiers and tenants.

Robert McDonald MBE, aged 78, a retired businessman, said residents were only presented with full knowledge of phase two and what it entailed AFTER houses had been sold and deposits put down.

He claimed the six-storey phase 2 was higher than expected and would block sunlight from his apartment.

Other residents too have contacted the Observer with similar complaints.

New residents are expected to move in towards the end of 2019.

The village, a partnership with Coventry City Council, represents a £44m investment in older people, the charity says.

The charity responds: 

THE charity running a high-profile Coventry retirement village where residents are protesting over building development outside their doors has responded to claims.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust, based in Coventry since 1988, says it is committed to being open, consultative and supportive at Earlsdon Park Village.

It denies claims the full extent of ‘phase two’ of development was unknown to residents when they sold their family homes to move in, in 2016.

A spokesman said: “No purchaser was allowed to complete their transactions with us until they understood our development plans for the land.

“.. At Earlsdon Park Village we ran monthly community meetings from two years before the village was opened

“… We would never seek to put our residents in a situation where they had no option but to move into the village.

“We delayed all ‘exchange of contracts’ until every resident had been informed about the land purchase by our staff. Their solicitors were all contacted in writing and appraised of the situation.

“Our charity’s vision is better lives for older people. The well-being, happiness and security of our residents is very important to us and we take any resident concerns about the quality of village life very seriously.

“We are also proud of the impact the village has had on residents’ lives. Residents are involved in numerous social activities, including dancing, table tennis, gardening, wheelchair yoga, choir singing and a significant range of social events including a recent fashion show and theatre performance.”

Of the Phase 2 development, it added: “Had it been available we would have bought the land for phase 2 with the whole site and built both phases of the village together.

“We bought the Phase 2 land when it came available because it would have been purchased by another developer and we would have had no control over the buildings that would be developed or their purpose.

“We were acting in the best interests of our residents. We also knew that there were many older people who wished to enjoy the benefits of our charity’s lifestyle and the Phase 2 extension would provide that opportunity.

“During our residents’ move-in process, the future development timescale for the acquired land was uncertain and it was left undeveloped. We are sorry for the delay in providing a temporary solution.

“Our residents asked us to improve the visual impact of the site and we responded by landscaping the area on a temporary basis and providing additional temporary car parking. The security of the village was not affected.”

The charity added: “We also take great care to ensure that our residents’ choices of home and living circumstances are as affordable as we can make them. We offer our residents welfare benefits advice.

“Across ExtraCare, our well-being service has won national awards.

“If a resident has moved into one of our villages, feels unhappy with the circumstances of their move and feels the situation cannot be resolved, we will consider a refund of their original purchase price (irrespective of the properties market value) minus an administration fee.”

It added: “Charges such as maintenance and amenities are means-tested according to people’s financial circumstances.

“The maximum cost last year was £133 per week. This has now dropped to £109. A person receiving full benefits could be paying in the region of £35 a week to rent a one bedroom home in the village.

“We made every resident aware that they would have to pay council tax and were clear that rates would be set by the Valuation Officer, not the charity. Residents were not happy with the rate set and went to an appeal tribunal with our full support.”

The charity said the greater part of phase 2’s footprint will take the place on a temporary car park, but there will be new car parking spaces and landscaped areas with the new development.

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