LETTER: Upton councillors are working to try and resolve Beacon House issue

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In response to comments made by Mr Crossley and Mr Heyes in previous editions I would like to inform Mr Crossley that Beacon House and Chiltern Court belong to WDH and not WMDC, and as he once served on a parish council I would have assumed he knew the difference between the two.

In answer to Mr Heyes question as to what we Ward 1 district councillors are doing about it, may I inform him that we are working closely with the residents and WDH to try and find a resolution to this very upsetting issue.

This is something very close to my heart and I am shocked and dismayed to learn that WDH have listed both Chiltern Court in Ackworth and Beacon House in Upton for closure.

The residents of both are in most cases elderly, and in some cases very vulnerable. they all chose to live in supported living accommodation of this nature as it gives them the added security of having a warden on site, but that’s not all, they find companionship with each other and it is their home, which may I add they pay for! One lady has lived in Beacon Court for more than 30 years.

My colleagues and I were only informed about Beacon House via an email from WDH on the afternoon of Friday June 6, which ironically was after they had been in to tell the residents.

We were appalled by this and had no prior knowledge. Prior to that announcement we had already arranged a meeting with Kevin Dodd and officers from WDH for June 12 to discuss the future of Chiltern Court, so we had to then combine the two.

We were told at that meeting that the two schemes are no longer viable due to diminishing applications over the years, but we strongly question the validity of this as we have been informed by residents and other members of the community that people have indeed been showing interest, only to be either refused for not meeting the criteria, or they haven’t bothered applying as rumours of closure (certainly in Chiltern Court’s case) have put them off.

First of all if WDH have encountered problems with viability it is indeed their problem and not the residents. I went to see the residents of Beacon House and their families, along with District Coun Allan Garbutt and Parish Coun Lee Pickin on Monday this week, where two representatives from WDH were also in attendance.

From the cross-section of comments and concerns we received, we were all of the opinion that we would like to see a more robust advertising campaign take place, which would prove one way or the other whether or not there is a demand for accommodation of this kind from people within our area, and that is what we have asked them to do.

We have received no comments or concerns from residents or families of Chiltern Court, although Ackworth Parish Council have spoken to WDH along with ourselves with regard to it. We were told that its transition towards closure has been met with a positive acceptance and residents there have each indicated their choice of alternative residence.

However, if anyone connected to the scheme does have concerns I would urge them to contact us and we would be happy to meet with them. I do have to say the accommodation in Chiltern Court is made up of bedsit accommodation which really isn’t fit for purpose, whereas Beacon House is made up of self-contained flats, which the residents were made to believe were earmarked for refurbishment.

They were of the understanding that the meeting that took place on Friday was to discuss this, only to be given the devastating news that it was to be closed! The residents do accept that they would have to move out temporarily if a full refurbishment was undertaken at Beacon House, and they accept that it could take approx 12 months, however they would have the peace of mind in knowing they could return.

We truly believe that closing Beacon House will have a debilitating impact on the health and well being of its residents and my heart goes out to them all.

We will do everything we can to try and reverse this decision on their behalf. Meanwhile we are awaiting a reply from WDH with regard to the request for a more robust advertising campaign to be undertaken. It is already over 60% occupied and we all believe there would be a demand for letting the further 40%

I really feel the need to add that as local elected members for Wakefield Metropolitan District Council we have always had a good working relationship with Kevin Dodd and WDH and this the first time we have had cause for concern. I truly hope we can come to some agreement with them to resolve this.

Jean Askew (District Councillor)