An islander facing being moved out of a housing complex alongside many elderly and vulnerable individuals to make way for affordable homes is urging the Government to "think of the consequences" of its failure to address population control.
Jill Bartholomew says the Government is treating the residents of Willows Court as “invisible,” and wants officials to reflect on the wider, individual impact that their lack of a population policy has.
Her comments come after outline plans for redeveloping The Limes Nursing Home and the connected Willows Court into housing taller than Police HQ were recently unveiled by Andium.
Jill first moved into Willows Court 17 years ago with her mother, who was then elderly and “very frail.” At the time, the flats were directly connected to The Limes, with an intercom system that allowed staff in the nursing home to come to the assistance of the tenants in the Willows flats should they need it.
After her mother passed away, Jill was able to continue living in Willows Court, as she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. Though the intercoms with the Limes were eventually cut through the years, and the responsibility for the flats handed over to the Housing Department as social housing, the ‘sheltered’ structure of them remained the same.
Pictured: Willows Court resident Jill Bartholomew has criticised the Government for the "enforced relocation of a group of elderly and infirm residents" as a result of their attitude towards population.
“They are specially adapted for the disabled,” Jill explained, “so most of my neighbours are elderly and infirm, some with multiple health problems. In fact, I think there are a few of them who will not survive the move.” She estimated there were over 30 residents currently living in the 28 flats.
Jill said that residents’ concerns began back in 2015 when The Limes was closed as a nursing home. At the time, then-Health Minister Andrew Green said that “Willows Court and the Willows Day Centre had nothing whatsoever to do with” the closure of the Limes.
However, from that point on, the residents knew that their position was “precarious", with that feeling confirmed when in 2017, the Government sold the Limes to Andium Homes.
Instead of an immediate move, though, Jill said she felt “the can was kicked down the road.” In 2017, the Government requested that before any development take place, junior doctors should be moved into the Limes building to facilitate the now-abandoned Future Hospital project, with plans to develop the site into housing pushed back to a long-term goal.
Pictured: Willows Court and its Day Care Centre would be refurbished as part of the redevelopment plans for the site.
In 2019, the junior doctors were announced to be moved to Hue Court, leaving the housing once more free for the redevelopment initially touted.
“This threat has been hanging over us ever since the announcement of the closure of The Limes five years ago,” Jill explained, “with the temporary housing of the junior doctors there only delaying the inevitable - and thus prolonging the agony.”
She added that it was the frustration and uncertainty of the delays that caused residents anxiety: “If they had begun developing when the States agreed to hand over the property to Andium Homes, and had there not been this delay with putting the doctors in, we would not have been kept dangling like this.”
In June of this year, Jill said they received the first formal notification from Andium of the redevelopment, with a “rough” outline of the plans, and talking residents through the changes.
She said there have been suggestions of moving residents to either newly developed housing in Ann Court, or the redeveloped high rise at Le Marais, but that nothing will happen until the planning application is approved and a date set for construction to begin. Currently, the most recent update on Andium’s website cites mid-2022 as the goal to start development.
Pictured: Jill called the prolonged period between the sale of the Limes and the relocation of residents as "delaying the inevitable and thus prolongining the agony."
Illustrating the way she felt tenants had been left voiceless, she recalled when one of Andium’s representatives came to visit last month. Upon meeting the residents, they confessed they had not realised just how infirm many of the tenants were, and acknowledged the difficulty they would have in moving them.
Even at a recent consultation, she felt the presentation was more for the neighbours of Green Street than for the benefit of any current residents.
She said this lack of awareness that had been particularly hard during the process, and that of the plans she had seen: “There is not any mention of the fact there are 28 homes and the impact it will have on the residents, and that is hurtful.”
However, she was keen to point out she felt Andium were not the ones at fault and had been handed a “poisoned chalice”, and that they were only dealing with the circumstances given to them by the past few Governments of the island.
“I would like to emphasise that I have no criticism whatsoever of Andium Homes,” she said. “They are being very helpful and are keeping us informed of progress as things move forward."
Pictured: Andium revealed their plans at a consultation with residents of Green Street on 26 October.
She continued: “They have been given the unenviable task by the States of Jersey of providing an unlimited supply of social housing with only a finite amount of land on which to do so, with the enforced relocation of a group of elderly and infirm residents being the result. We are the insignificant collateral damage of the States' unwillingness and total inability to address the problem of population control.”
Concluding, she again addressed the Government, saying: “My message to the States as a whole is to think of the consequences of your actions on the individuals.”
Earlier this month, the Government was given a deadline of December 2021 for producing a population policy, following the publication of a new migration plan which had no population policy to accompany it.
Express has contacted the Government and Andium for comment.
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