‘I’m being forced out of my home’

Dave Colbeck who is one of the last remaining home owners in the Lawrence Walk flats in Rowner.  Picture:Steve Reid 113440-631
Dave Colbeck who is one of the last remaining home owners in the Lawrence Walk flats in Rowner. Picture:Steve Reid 113440-631
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When Dave Colbeck steps out of his Rowner home, he is greeted with the sight of a concrete jungle.

Most of the homes are boarded up, many buildings are falling apart, the windows have been smashed, the lifts don’t work and vandals often target the area.

Demolition at Rowner for the regeneration project  Picture: Paul Jacobs (101031-2)

Demolition at Rowner for the regeneration project Picture: Paul Jacobs (101031-2)

Just last month Mr Colbeck had his van broken into.

Rowner has become a ghost town within the last year since residents began moving out to make way for the £145m Rowner regeneration project.

But despite everything, Mr Colbeck has made a home here since moving in almost 12 years ago.

Having paid for his three bedroom property outright, he will now be forced to either get a mortgage or start renting, when he is made to move out next month.

The planned new Rowner

The planned new Rowner

The project will see the construction of up to 750 new houses, along with shops, a supermarket and a community square.

Gosport Borough Council has been forced to use compulsory purchase powers to remove the last remaining residents refusing to leave the run-down estate.

Just 22 owners have yet to agree terms with the council about selling their property.

Mr Colbeck, 46, is one of those yet to agree a deal with the council, although it is believed he will be offered £35,000 for his property in Lawrence Walk.

‘I have got a three bedroom property and no debt,’ he says.

‘I bought it outright and now I have got to buy somewhere and get a mortgage or rent somewhere.

‘Unfortunately a few lowlifes have been living here and bringing down the value.

‘The maintenance cost is absolutely extortionate.

‘I have been here for 11 years now. It was quite nice when I moved in.

‘I have a nice view of the Isle of Wight. You can see all the ships in the Solent.’

Over the years the area has deteriorated.

Now, Mr Colbeck must climb seven flights of stairs to get into his home after the lifts stopped working a few years back.

Vandals have often been seen in the area and it’s become unsafe.

‘The flats are getting old and they are a bit of an eyesore,’ he adds.

‘Some flats are being boarded up to stop people breaking in.

‘It’s become like a ghost town.

‘It does need to be regenerated but they aren’t being fair to the people who are living here.

‘These people’s lives are changing because they want to make a profit on regenerating the area.

‘Why not just replace the properties? I’m not after a profit, I don’t want to be any different to how I am now.’

At the moment, Mr Colbeck is paying just £125 a month for a maintenance fee for the area, which he says hasn’t been suitably used as the area is in such a poor state. But when he moves he will likely have to pay rent on a property.

After he was made redundant from The Co-op three years ago, he has not found another job and has been bringing money in by selling bits and pieces and working on vehicles in the area.

Now, he will be forced to use the money from the sale of the property to pay the rent.

‘I’m happy to be moving somewhere else but it’s going from £125 a month to about £700 a month,’ he adds.

‘The money might last me about five years and then I will have nothing to show for it.

‘At the moment I haven’t got any money but I have got a property and I’m better off than people who have got big mortgages.

‘But this is going to put me in lots of debt because now I have got to move out.

‘There are lots of houses that need coming down and are getting to the end of their life.

‘A lot of people have taken the money and run. I know a lot of people who have been here for years but are just biting the bullet and going.

‘The house will be smaller and I will be in debt. It’s wrong really. I have got all my creature comforts here.

‘I have got no debt at the moment.

‘I will just have to rent somewhere I suppose.

‘But I will have nothing to show for what I have put into this place.’

But Councillor Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, said it’s essential that the area is redeveloped in order to improve the living conditions.

‘We mustn’t forget that the accommodation that people are living in there is beyond economical repair,’ he says. The places themselves are not suitable for living in. Something needs to be done to resolve that.

‘I can understand that people have made it their homes but the fact is the living conditions aren’t suitable.

‘They have been let down by landlords and lifts not working. The buildings are falling apart, the roof is leaking. The buildings have deteriorated to such an extent that it’s beyond economical repair.

‘As a partnership we have put forward a project that would improve the living conditions for anyone who was living there and improve the quality of life for anyone who was living there.’

He added: ‘It will provide a supermarket. It will bring it into the 21st century and improve everyone’s living and working conditions.’

The Rowner Renewal Regeneration Project is an eight-year phased project.

It is made up of five members: First Wessex, Gosport Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, Homes and Communities Agency and Taylor Wimpey UK Ltd. Phase one of the project is nearing completion and residents will be moving into brand new properties later this month.

It will deliver a total of 125 affordable homes and 94 private homes.

The Compulsary Purchase Order will be confirmed at a meeting tonight. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, granted the council with the powers to move people out of their homes.

All residents will likely be asked to leave their properties by the end of November.

Once this is complete phase two can begin and the homes will be demolished.

Phase two includes 101 new apartments, a residential tower, a Tesco supermarket and three smaller retail units which will bring much needed jobs as well as new homes to the area. There will be 20 affordable homes and 81 private homes and these will be complete by mid 2013.

Further phases are planned to begin in mid 2012 and construction is likely to continue over the next six years or so. It is expected that the project will be completed by 2017 or 2018.