Few regrets as the plan to close old, cold flats at Lenton Court takes off
STANDING outside the tall, grey tower block of Lenton Court, it is no easy feat to find its few remaining residents.
The automatic doors, which once opened and closed for hundreds of residents in the 96 flats, now stay shut for hours on end. With only about three flats still occupied in the 16-storey building, they have little reason to open anymore.
Meanwhile, navy blue Pickford removal vans pull up to the base of the neighbouring blocks, which are also slowly emptying.
The air of desertion, however, does not extend to the Breakfast Club at Thomas Helwys Church, run by Lenton and Dunkirk Partnership Trust every Thursday between 10am and noon.
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The room is buzzing with residents who pop in for a spot of breakfast and a catch-up.
Among them is 76-year-old Tony Wealthall, who has already moved out of the flat he lived in for 20 years.
Speaking to the Post before his move, he described his "disappointment" in being forced out of his two-bed council flat.
But now, settled in a little bungalow with a garden in Garfield Road in Radford, he says he would not change a thing.
"It's lovely," he said. "It's one bedroom but it's beautiful. It suits me. I've got gas central heating and everything."
The flats, known for having unreliable storage heaters, were notoriously cold during winter – just one of the reasons they are being pulled down by Nottingham City Homes, which manages the city council's housing stock.
"I wouldn't want to come back to the flats now," said Mr Wealthall. "I still come down and catch up with people. The new bungalow is warden-aided and I'm getting on with the neighbours.
"There's four or five bungalows up there and I've got to know them all. It's more intimate than the flats."
Lenton Court should have been emptied and stripped back last October before the bulldozers moved in at the end of 2012. But the demolition has been delayed as not all residents were happy with going.
Abdi Abdirashid, 33, one of the last remaining, said he turned down about eight relocation offers as they were not right for him.
Soon to be moving into a new home in Radford, Mr Abdirashid feels philosophical about leaving the flat where he has spent the last five years.
"It's just the kind of properties that I've been offered that didn't suit me," he said
"I was looking for a property that's close to town and not far from Hyson Green and Alfreton Road.
"I was offered quite a few properties – eight or nine. They were not in the area I want to live in."
But his removal van will soon arrive, and he could well be the last to turn the lights out.
Meanwhile, residents in the other four blocks are also going through the process of finding new homes and packing up their belongings.
While many are happy to go, they are concerned that they will be forced out of Lenton.
Steve Gillett, 52, who lives in Digby Court, the next block to be emptied, said: "I'd like to stay in Lenton.
"It's a nice area – it's close to town as well.
"I thought I'd be staying here for the rest of my life."
He added: "I've been bidding [for a new place] but I've not got anything yet.
"They're not very warm flats. The heating system is quite expensive to run."
And Robert Seaton, 67, who lives in Newgate Court, said he will be glad to go.
"When people start moving out the flats get even colder. There's only me and wife and another lady on our floor, that's it. I would like to stay in Lenton."
Work has already begun to demolish the garages on the Lenton Flats site, off Lombard Close, and demolition work should start in Lenton Court in March.
A Nottingham City Homes spokesman said: "The last few tenants are preparing to move out of Lenton Court to their new homes.
"We've been working closely with them to make sure they are moving to a home that is best for them.
"Because of the commitment we have towards making sure our tenants are happy with the move, it means our programme to start taking down Lenton Court has been delayed slightly.
"We hope to start the work to demolish the building in March and we should be able to make up the lost time throughout the duration of the regeneration programme.
"We have already started to 'soft strip' the building where we can without disturbing the remaining few residents.
"This means we're taking out of the building any items that we might be able to re-use."
Work to re-house the residents at Digby Court was "going well".
"About three quarters have already moved to their new home or are waiting to move," he said.
"We are working closely with the remaining tenants to find them a suitable new home and we aim to have done this by the end of March."
The master plan for the re-development will be discussed by the city council's executive board on February 19.