A Leeds couple who were meant to be evicted from their home today are “heartbroken” as they face losing long time friends and possessions.
Hazell and Mark Field, 58 and 66, were supposed to be out of their house on the Sugar Hill estate in Oulton today, but have not been able to find anywhere else to live.
On top of the stress of eviction, they’re having to prepare to get rid of the cat they’ve had for 12 years, Pumpkin, because they can’t find any private rentals that allow pets.
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Hazell, a coordinator at the NHS, told LeedsLive: “We haven’t found one private house rent that allows pets. So we’re going to have to rehome our cat Pumpkin, who’s been with us for 12 years, just to find somewhere to live.
“It’s really heartbreaking. I’m broken. I cry just thinking about it. Our daughter who lives down south has offered to take Pumpkin but that’s 150 miles away. But when we visit we’ll have to leave her again.
“She’s such an adorable cat – really friendly and everyone around here loves her, but no private landlords will take her. And how can we move into a new rental and call it home without her with us? Even if we get somewhere to live it ‘ll never be home – we’re not just losing our home, we’re losing our pet.
“None of this is our fault and we’re having to lose things and that feels tragic.”
Hazell, Mark and their son Max, 32, have been living in the house on the estate for years, where it is ideally placed for Hazell to get a bus to the hospital where she works.
Mark found a black and white moggy on the street when she was just six weeks old, and brought her home – the family fell in love instantly. She was christened Pumpkin, and has now been with the Fields for virtually all 12 years of her life.
Hazell has also built a community on the estate – inviting two of her friends who got divorced 15 years ago to come live nearby and keep them from becoming socially isolated.
In 2019, landlord Pemberstone applied for planning permission to demolish the estate of pre-fabricated houses. Permission was originally denied by Leeds City Council, but that was later overturned by a government planning inspector.
The Fields are among the second group of tenants to receive eviction notices – they were given notice four months ago they should be out of the property by March 14.
“We can’t move out today because we don’t have anywhere to go. We know from tomorrow onwards that there will be court papers dropping through the door,” Hazell said.
“It’s very stressful and scary knowing we’re on borrowed time.”
Neither Hazell or Max can drive, so they’re hoping to find somewhere local to move to so they don’t have to rely on two buses to get to work.
But they’ve been having trouble finding local private rentals in their price range, and say looking for a place for three adults makes things particularly difficult.
Mark, a driver for the NHS, said: “We’ve been turned down on numerous occasions because we’ve got three adults in the house. We’re all working but they seem to want families in all the two-beds we find .”
The Fields have got a tentative offer, though nothing is yet confirmed, for a house – but it will mean rehoming Pumpkin and getting rid of much of what they own to fit.
It’ll also inevitably see Hazell separated from best friends Sue and Linda – with Sue already having moved back to Sunderland to avoid having to rehome her cat like Hazell and Mark are.
“The new place we’re hoping to get is smaller and doesn’t really have a garden,” Hazell said.
“We’ve got a lot of my mum’s possessions and also my dad’s, who died recently. It’s a lot of trinkets and things but they’re important to me and we’re going to have to get rid of most of them, especially all the ones in the garden.
“We had such a good community here and this is splitting us all up. I don’t drive and neither do Linda and Sue, so it’s going to be much more difficult to see each other. Everyone here is looking at having to start again I’m nearly 60 and I don’t want to start again!
“But it’s going to be really hard.”
Hazell, Mark and Max are spending the day packing up their things into boxes they hope will go to a new home soon, though many are marked for the charity shop.
Residents on the estate formed the Save Our Homes LS26 group to campaign for their future, as many of them on the estate have struggled to find elsewhere to live. But their attempts were unsuccessful, and much of the estate is now boarded up and empty.
Elsewhere on the estate, some of the residents who were supposed to move out in December have been presented with legal costs they say they can’t afford for not vacating their properties on time.
A spokesperson for Pemberstone said: “These are pre-fabricated properties built in the 1950s which are now well beyond their projected lifespan. They are deemed “defective” by Government due to issues with their original design and construction and surveys have shown their structural integrity is compromised.
“Pemberstone has been working to address this problem for over five years. We have said from the start that redevelopment is the only realistic option. Our view has now been supported by the planning appeal inspector and Leeds City Council as well as the numerous housing associations we have spoken to.
“Even if refurbishment was viable, it would still require the tenants to leave. It is sad to see the impact of change on a community, but we firmly believe that the redevelopment of the estate to create modern, energy-efficient homes, including new affordable housing, is the best option to secure its long-term future.
“Tenants have been aware of the diminishing lifespan of the houses for a number of years. Everyone has been offered up to £3,000 to assist with relocation costs and many tenants have already taken advantage of this offer. Of the 60 homes in question, 43 are empty and a further 11 tenants have either secured alternative accommodation or undergoing reference checks.
“At a recent meeting attended by Leeds City Council’s Chief Housing Officer, it was confirmed that most of the tenants who had been served notice have been offered a property, either council or private, via the Leeds Housing team.”
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A spokesperson for Leeds City Council has previously said: “The notices being served to residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive in Oulton are from landlord Pemberstone, in accordance with national law.
“Our priority remains firmly on helping to minimize the stress and any hardship on the tenants concerned, providing all the help and guidance we can to ensure they have alternative accommodation and support including ensuring they have the relevant priority status on our Housing Register.”
“We are also committed to working with the developer of the site to ensure those displaced tenants will have priority for the new affordable homes, which the aim is now to have up to 40 such properties available for rent. Moving forward, the council remains committed to lobby government to change the law and end ‘no fault’ evictions.”
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