Victory Housing Trust announce “preferred option” to demolish part of Portalfield sheltered housing scheme in Stalham

Elderly residents at a north Norfolk sheltered-housing scheme have been told their landlord wants to demolish their homes as part of a multi-million pound modernisation project.

Victory Housing Trust has announced its 'preferred options' for Portalfield, in Stalham, which dates from the mid-1960s and contains a high number of out-dated bedsits.

Victory wants to demolish, in phases, the 'back row' block of 19 out of its 39 properties on the Portalfield site, off Camping Field Lane, and build one and two-bedroomed homes in their place, at a cost of more than �1.5m.

? The preferred option was revealed at drop-in sessions with residents, their families and other interested parties on May 9.

John Archibald, Victory chief executive, stressed that no decisions would be taken until July and there was time for people to comment. A final announcement would be made in October.

If the preferred option was given final approval by the Victory board, the trust would work closely with all those affected to find them suitable alternative accommodation, either temporary or permanent, according to individual need.

Residents who had to move permanently would be entitled to a 'home-loss payment' of �4,700. There would also be disruption cash available to help people with the costs of moving and a dedicated member of staff would be appointed to support and advise residents throughout the process.

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Portalfield contains 14 bedsits, combining a bedroom and living room, and Mr Archibald said they were unpopular and difficult to let, although he recognised that they had been some people's homes for many years.

'We don't do this lightly. We have put a serious amount of planning into it. Doing nothing is not an option. We would be left with inadequate accommodation which nobody wants,' he said.

Modern replacements would be easier to maintain and cheaper to keep warm and most affected residents would be offered the option of one of the new homes. Mr Archibald estimated that, after completion, there would 'broadly be the same number of units' as at present.

The 'back row' block also contains community facilities and residents are being asked whether they would want these replaced.

Over recent months Mr Archibald said Victory had not been finding new tenants as Portalfield units became vacant, in order to minimise the number of people disrupted by modernisation, and to free-up homes which could be used as temporary accommodation for those displaced while building work was under way. There were currently nine empty homes in Portalfield.

Victory began exploring ideas for the sites in October 2011 and has already held a series of consultation meetings with residents.

Pauline Grove-Jones, a North Norfolk District Councillor for Stalham, said she was relieved that Victory had not plumped for alternative options of demolishing all the homes, or selling the site and investing the cash in homes elsewhere.

The other option, refurbishing the existing units, would not have been cost-effective.

'I think they have gone for the best one, causing least disruption, and it leaves the main part of the site static. Most people seemed OK with it,' said Mrs Grove-Jones after attending one of the drop-in briefings.

Portalfield is one of three similar schemes - the others being in Ludham and Horning - where Victory is proposing major changes. with an estimated combined cost of �3.5m