Plymouth’s sad row of homes will soon be no more

In the shadow of Plymouth’s controversial incinerator, people are not immediately concerned with plumes of ‘hot air and hot water’ from the chimney, nor with the ‘eyesore’ itself.

A ‘rotten smell’ was frequently emitted when first constructed, and still occurs in the summer.

Issues with large amounts of dust settling inside nearby properties meant certain homes couldn’t have their doors and windows open in those hot months.

For some, this is pressing – ‘why worry about what’s on your doorstep when you may not have a doorstep this time next year.’

That’s how one resident of over 20 years in Barne Barton feels.

Despite spending a long time in the area, he’s unsure if he’ll be living near the incinerator long enough to worry about it.

Homes in Talbot Gardens lay in the shadow of Plymouth incinerator’s chimney

It’s undeniable, the incinerator has sparked protests and widespread complaints in its short life. At one time or another it’s been described as ‘looming’, ‘unacceptable’, and a ‘blight’.

Although, residents say it has ‘got better’ over the years. Other tall structures in the area now the priority.

The huge blocks at Talbot Gardens and Savage Road are set to be demolished as part of Sanctuary Housing’s redevelopment plans.

This group of two-bed, two-storey maisonettes share the skyline with the incinerator.

Some of the last remaining residents revealed lengthy struggles with their housing association ahead of their homes being demolished.

It’s claimed getting the right people out to carry out repairs take far too long to arrange – and that was the case even before Covid.

It’s resulted in a loss of faith, with some choosing to live with problems rather than report them, as they don’t think anything will be done.

The area will soon get an exciting makeover, but people are still living in these ‘ugly’ buildings

Another occupant of the Talbot Gardens towers claimed a neighbour had to repair holes in her walls left from shelves, or face a charge, even though the property would be remaining empty until it’s brought down.

It led the resident to suggest these homes, in which families still live, are being forgotten because they’re soon to be destroyed.

In response, Sanctuary Housing said it remains ‘committed to completing any repairs that are reported to us by our tenants, in line with the Covid guidance in place.’

38-year-old Laura Makepeace has lived in Talbot Gardens for 11 and a half years. For three of those years, she had issues of her own.

She said: “It was alright to start with, then I had some issues with my ceiling. It got sorted, but then it started again.

“There was too much mold, too much water coming through. It wasn’t a dribble, it was literally running down the bedroom window and into my lounge as well.

“I’ve had to move from one block to another, I told them they had to move me, because I’m not putting my son at risk any more.

“The area itself is fine, it’s just the state of the buildings. I still don’t know if they’ve fixed the ceiling.”

Laura and her son moved blocks weeks ago, but their problems had been ongoing for much longer.

The first time it was raised, Laura was temporarily moved into a hotel. This time around, due to a loss of faith in Sanctuary, she didn’t even bother to ask with assistance moving.

Laura Makepeace has lived in Barne Barton for over a decade

She added: “It was easier for me to do it myself. If I asked them to help, it probably would’ve taken longer.

“The bloke that used to live here obviously couldn’t be bothered to wait for Sanctuary, so he did a botched job trying to repair the hot water.

“So I’ve got no hot water at the minute. But they are sorting that.

Laura is still planning to stay after regeneration works are complete. Sanctuary’s plan is to empty some blocks and move all residents into others.

When the first set of new builds are complete, families who have been allocated a place can move in from the old ones.

The remaining old ones will then be demolished to make way for more new housing.

‘Easy-going’ Laura isn’t from Plymouth but is very much a part of this community.

She’s currently volunteering at a food bank set up in Barne Barton by community group Tamar View.

It’s undergoing renovation works and in normal circumstances Laura would be behind the clubhouse bar.

She’s entrenched in Barne Barton and wants to remain that way.

She added: “I love this area, I do not want to move out.

The area will soon get an exciting makeover, but people are still living in these ‘ugly’ buildings

“I’ll put up with mold and waiting a long time for repairs. I just want somewhere that’s waterproof.

“These buildings are ugly, but they’re spacious. We know they may not be as big as they are now, but I’m excited for it.”

Another concern is an apparent lack of communication.

Although the planning process is complicated, some neighbours are  feeling frustrated about the amount of information available.

Many want to stay in the area they’ve lived in for so long, but don’t know what their future holds in regards to their new homes.

A spokesperson for Sanctuary Housing said: “We continue to receive the support of the community for our exciting regeneration plans in Barne Barton.

“Residents have played a key role in helping shape our proposals with vast amounts of positive feedback provided through a range of consultation events and conversations with staff.

New homes proposed in a regeneration scheme at Talbot Gardens, Barne Barton, Plymouth
New homes proposed in a regeneration scheme at Talbot Gardens, Barne Barton, Plymouth
(Image: Sanctuary Housing)

“This feedback has helped form the planning application for the redevelopment which is now live on the Plymouth City Council Planning Portal for people to view.

“Residents have been updated regularly since the start of the project with a range of communications and we have answered all their questions so they understand the process.

“We also have a clear agreement on the housing strategy for the allocation of the new homes with the local council.

“Resident Sam Weaver, chair of the local Residents’ Association, has also told us that the community are delighted by our progress with the project and the ways we continue to keep all residents informed of the next steps.

“We will continue to work closely with residents and our local partners on this multi-million pound investment to replace the old blocks and build new, modern housing for local people.

“In addition, we remain committed to completing any repairs that are reported to us by our tenants, in line with the Covid guidance in place.”

Plymouth Live