VULNERABLE tenants in two affordable Watchet housing developments have been saved from the threat of eviction after an outcry from angry local campaigners and the town council.

The Free Press revealed in February that Acorn Homes, of Taunton, had applied to Somerset Council for permission to sell five ‘affordable’ flats at Malthouse Court and Mill Street Bakery, by altering an S106 agreement to convert rentable tenure to discount sales.

The application has now been withdrawn.

The entrance to Malthouse Court, in Watchet.
The entrance to Malthouse Court, in Watchet. ( )

Elderly and seriously-ill tenants in the flats feared if the application was successful they would lose their homes and not be able to afford anywhere else to live.

One said: “We have never been under so much stress - nobody contacted us and we thought the way the application was made was disgusting.”

Tenants were told of the U-turn this week in a letter from Acorn’s planning director, which said: “Due to changing circumstances we are writing to inform you that we have withdrawn the planning application to vary the affordable housing tenure and will now be looking to retain the properties.

“For clarity, there will be no interruption to your rental agreement and your tenancy will continue as normal. Our apologies for any confusion or inconvenience caused.”

This week, tenants in the two developments were celebrating the end of the eviction threat.

One said: “Having the security of your home threatened has a direct effect on your physical and mental health. I hope we will now be allowed to regain the peace and privacy of our homes.”

Another tenant, who is recovering from severe health issues, said: “I can get on with my life now.

“My ground floor flat has been ideal for me during my recovery from major surgery.”

In the original application Acorn Homes asked planners for permission to sell the flats at 20 per cent below market value, claiming that they could no longer continue to service the low-rent flats and couldn’t find anyone willing to take them on.

In its objection, Watchet town council said: “There has been no consultation by Acorn Properties with their tenants. This is most deplorable and, we consider, unethical.

“We also understand that several of the tenants have health issues likely to have been made worse by the threat of eviction and homelessness.”

A leading player in the successful campaign against the planning application was the new Watchet-based CIC (community interest company) Base for Life, set up to source and provide homes at affordable rents.

At a meeting with the town council’s environment and planning committee, BFL members claimed that the sale of the flats would have a disastrous effect on elderly and vulnerable tenants.

John Summers, a trustee of the company, said: “We are delighted that we successfully represented the residents of Watchet who were outraged that these people could be made homeless.” 

After the withdrawal of the planning application BFL’s future plans will be discussed at a public meeting at the Royal British Legion club, Mill Lane, Watchet, on May 21, at 7.30 pm.