Between Armfield Crescent and Feltham Road, with allotments on both sides, a pair of semi-detached houses, numbered 39 and 41.
As 3,700 wait for Council Houses –
COTTAGES LIE EMPTY
‘A meeting place for vandals’
WITH 3,700 people waiting for council houses, Merton Council have been accused of wasting the accomodation they do have.
Residents in Feltham Road, Mitcham renewed their complaints this week about No. 39. They say the two semi-detached cottages could house two families but instead theylie empty and are fast becoming a regular meeting place for the area’s vandals.
Boards nailed across the windows have been torn aside and the glass smashed. The upstairs windows have become targets for stones and air rifles and inside doors hang from their hinges and plaster has been hacked from the walls.
But despite this the roof appears sound and, say the residents, the cottages could soon be made habitable again.
Mr William Adams, a retired baker, remembers them before they were taken over by the council: “They were beautifully kept and the gardens were a picture to look at,” he said.
“But since there have been council tenants living there it has gone down and down.”
Mr Adams’ complaint was not against council tenants in general but more against the housing department who used it as a half-way house.
They used it as emergency accommodation for people they could not give permanent accommodation. As a result families stayed there for only two or three weeks before getting proper council houses.
These short term tenancies meant the cottages often remained empty for weeks at a time. Last summer they were left for six weeks and the vandals moved in.
“It was terrible,” said 68 year old Mrs Daphne Adams. “We could see them smashing the windows and playing about inside and when we told them to go away they threatened us. More than once we had our own windows broken.”
So the council nailed the boards across the windows. Then in February this year they offered the house to 26 year old mother of two Mrs Marie Stewart.
The tenancy was to be a permanent one and Mrs Stewart was thrilled. She had been living in half-way houses for nine months.
But when she saw the cottage she refused point blank to move into it.
Broken bottles and rotting rubbish were piled against the front door. Inside there was no heating or running hot water. Light leads stretched to the floor and the outside lavatory was nailed up.
She went straight back to the housing department and with Communist candidate Miss Jean Geidart, told them just what she thought of it. “It’s a slum,” she said. “A tramps’ doss place.”
Since then she has been found somewhere to live, but the incident moved the council to declare the property unfit to live in and, in effect, leave it tho the vandals.
And the vandals have been quick to take up the invitation.
LADS AND GIRLS
“They are always about the place, larking about and lighting fires. Even the little children from St. Mark’s primary school go in there now. And late at night I’ve seen young lads take their girls in,” said Mr Adams.
He complained to his new Labour councillor, Mrs Vera Bonner and she has taken it up with the housing department. But until she has a reply she will not bring it up in the council chamber.
However the housing department know all about No. 39 Feltham Road. Indeed it has been a thorn in their side for some time.
The housing manager, Mr A. Brown has two choices: Do it up or knock it down. He realises it cannot be left as it is.
But until he knows what the Town Planning department propose for the land he cannot do anything and it is understood the planners have not been quick in making up their minds.
The surrounding land has been waste since the allotment scheme there was abandoned nand the site is ripe for development.
But there is no point in building on it if the Loop Road plan comes into operation in the 1980s. In that case it would be more profitable to redecorate the cottages and recoup the money in rent.
Everything hinges on the decision of the Town Planners and the housing department were still waiting on Monday.
From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 18th June, 1971.