Tenants in a council block in Woolwich town centre are to be given £6,500 to moving out so their homes can make way for a new leisure centre.
Greenwich councillors are set to agree at a cabinet meeting next week to demolish Troy Court, which stands in the way of plans to build the new centre along with new homes.
The 23 tenants of the block, which houses older people, will be given the money, help to find a new home and a right to return if council housing is included as part of the new development, so long as they qualify for a home.
With the coronavirus crisis meaning many older people are reluctant to undergo the hassle of moving, they will also be provided with taxis so they can view new homes, tablet computers so they can take part in virtual viewing and two nights’ hotel accommodation to help them move.
They will have until December 2021 to move out of Troy Court, which is due to to be knocked down along with the Wilko store, the Bull pub, and the former Barclays Bank branch on Woolwich New Road.
In their place will be a new leisure centre to replace the Waterfront, a refurbished Tramshed Theatre and private and “affordable” housing. At a meeting in January, councillors pledged this would mean double the current amount of council housing – Troy Court has 24 bedsits. Detailed plans are expected next year.
The residents were not balloted, but council officers say in a report that 57 per cent of the residents who face losing their homes were “generally supportive of the approach and understood the reasonings for it”.
“In general, for those who were not supportive of the proposals the two key issues were the fact of moving older people who were settled, and key concerns over the timing of the moves in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated risks,” the report to councillors at next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting says.
Following a petition signed by 15 out of the 23 residents raising concerns about using public transport to view new properties, breaking self-isolation, a lack of computer access and the stress and anxiety involved, the council agreed to pay for taxis, provide tablets, provide PPE and cleaning for removals it carries out, and offer up to two nights in a hotel for anyone worries about the virus while moving.
However, the council claimed that “some residents said they had not understood what they were signing” when they put their names on the petition.
In January, Sizwe James, the cabinet member for regeneration, said the leisure centre project would be “a catalyst for the regeneration of Woolwich”.
“It’s a very good news story for Woolwich, when we speak to the public they are enthused,” he said. “When the Waterfront first opened, when I was a boy, it was something it was something that enthused us and we wanted to get involved, we hope this will be similar.”
Councillors on the cabinet, the council’s main decision-making body, will discuss the proposals at a meeting on Wednesday.
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