Issue 63 — November 2007
Proposal to demolish sheltered housing
Another Jericho landmark could soon disappear. The City Council is proposing to close Grantham House, the sheltered accommodation at the top of Cranham Street. Current residents would be offered flats in the new Lucy’s development.
The main reason for this is financial. The Council has to bring the housing it owns across the city up to the government’s current ‘Decent Homes’ standards, and because it does not have sufficient funds for this it plans to sell three of its fourteen sheltered accommodation blocks and invest the proceeds in the remainder.
Grantham House is a tempting candidate for disposal. It consists of 21 one- or two-bedroom flats and 16 small ‘studio’ bedsits. Nowadays people do not usually want to live in bedsits and thus have to share a bathroom, and currently six of the bedsits are vacant. Redesigning the building to give larger units would be expensive. Moreover, compared with most of the other sites, Grantham House is in a prime property location and would raise many millions if sold for redevelopment.
The news has created concern among residents who had been under the impression that they would just have to move out for six months while the building was being refurbished. Then they read in the press that the building would be demolished. As one tenant said: “We were shocked by what we saw in the Oxford Mail”.
Grantham House was built in the 1969 as part of the redevelopment of Jericho. Originally it had a live-in warden but now residents rely on a telephone connection to a city-wide system.
Is the demand for sheltered housing likely to increase? People nowadays are certainly living longer – around 13 percent of Jericho residents are 65 or over. However, they can also rely on more effective public care services that allow them to stay in their own homes.
If the scheme goes ahead, residents would be offered flats in the new Lucy’s development, on the Jericho side of the canal. These, which are part of the ‘affordable housing’ allocation, would be owned by the Catalyst Housing Association, and designed as sheltered housing, with easy access, including walk-in showers. Current residents would stay together as a community, and would receive a substantial relocation grant.
Some residents point out, however, that this is a less convenient location – further from the shops, the pubs, the health centre, and bingo at the Community Centre. The new development in Cranham Street would also have to have at least 50 percent affordable housing so residents could eventually move back to Cranham Street.
But some of the older people are anxious about the disruption. Ivy Gray, for example, who is 88 years old and has lived there for 22 years says: “We don’t want all that upheaval”. Others seem less concerned. Frances Wright, 91 years old, a resident of 31 years and now housebound, says she does not mind: “It’s just a room really, you get used to it”. One of the younger residents, Gary Webb, aged 57, who has lived there for three years says they will be campaigning to keep Grantham House open. As yet there has been no decision by the City Council. But even if they decide to go ahead it is clear that no-one would need to move until next summer at the earliest.