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Rainham retirement home residents given Asbos for fixing garden

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 November 2019

Residents Ann Hunt, Carol Hawkes and Patricia Ince. Picture: Roy Chacko

Residents Ann Hunt, Carol Hawkes and Patricia Ince. Picture: Roy Chacko

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Residents at a retirement home say they feel bullied after receiving anti-social behaviour notices for making improvements to the communal garden.

Cloisters Court garden where residents got Asbo notices for planting flowers and herbs. Picture: Roy ChackoCloisters Court garden where residents got Asbo notices for planting flowers and herbs. Picture: Roy Chacko

A group of six people (a third of the 18 flats) at the Cloisters Court retirement home, Rainham, received the notices starting in October from Home Group, which manages the property.

Some have lived there almost 20 years and have been maintaining the garden and were shocked to suddenly receive the notices that threaten further action might be taken against them.

Steve Gotman, 65, who has lived there for five years, told the Recorder: "They are bullying the elderly. If this was done in a work place, it would be classified as bullying."

The residents said no one came to investigate their alleged anti-social behaviour or get their side of the story.

Garden at Cloisters Court where residents want to install a log cabin. Picture: Roy ChackoGarden at Cloisters Court where residents want to install a log cabin. Picture: Roy Chacko

Steve said: "They are acting as judge, jury and sentencing and we demand redress."

Carol Hawkes, 79, who has maintained the garden for 18 years, said she feels like she has nowhere to go after receiving the notice.

Argeanna Smith, Home Group's housing manager, said: "We received reports from customers at the Cloisters about fellow customers making alterations to the communal garden which they felt were detrimental to the overall look of the garden. We have asked those customers to refrain from such actions and have asked for a meeting."

The garden is used as a gathering space for residents, aged from 60-104, since there is no communal meeting room indoors. They say countering social isolation is important to them.

Cloisters Court Retirement Home. Picture: Roy ChackoCloisters Court Retirement Home. Picture: Roy Chacko

Last October they researched installing a log cabin there so they could get together in the colder months and help tackle loneliness.

They found a heated cabin with keypad entry costing £17,000 that would not require planning permission, and asked Home Group if it would install it but their idea was denied.

The residents feel the expense for this could easily come out of money set aside by the Home Group and the social benefits would far exceed the cost.

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Home Group, the freeholder of the building, cited a clause in the title document dating from 1955 that prevents any new builds on the site.

Steve said: "If this was a historic castle we would understand but that's not the case."

After MP Jon Cruddas intervened on the residents' behalf and reached out to the chief executive, Home Group budged slightly and said the residents could have the cabin if they paid for it themselves.

Steve says the Home Group has changed its mind by first saying the log cabin can't be built for planning purposes but then can be if residents pay for it themselves.

He said: "They are willing to forgo all the legalities if we have the cash.

"It is beyond belief a company as big as Home Group can't do this."

Mr Cruddas told the Recorder: "I am not convinced that residents receive an adequate service for the money they pay Home Group. Therefore the log cabin should come out of the service charge.

"They have been hiding behind technical reasons not to build the community facility that residents need and I know will take care of.

"There is no reason for Home Group not to build the log cabin if they genuinely care about the interests of their residents."

Home Group operations manager Christine Jeffers said the company appreciated the effort residents put into their request and considered it at length, but unfortunately it was not possible to approve it.

Ms Jeffers said: "There were issues with land title restrictions and covenants. The proposed fund customers suggested we use to provide the cabin was not appropriate and would have taken 100 per cent of customers within the Cloisters to agree to change the fund structure.

"At the end of a costly and long process there were no guarantees of overall success.

"We do appreciate this was disappointing news for our customers."

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