An elderly couple who had just moved into their £200,000 house were horrified to receive a letter from their council suggesting the property could be subject to compulsory purchase and used to house asylum seekers.
Jose and Ted Saunders said they were ‘insulted and shocked’ when the strongly-worded letter from North Northamptonshire Council – which has never balanced its own books – dropped on their mat last month.
It said their neat mid-terraced house in Rushden, near Wellingborough, was deemed to be an empty property, or was ‘derelict’ and the council could even force them to sell it.
‘I couldn’t believe it,’ said retired carer Jose, 76. ‘We moved to Rushden to help provide childcare for my grand-daughter and found this nice little place to live.
‘The idea of forcing us to sell it to make room for refugees and asylum seekers seems totally wrong.’
Jose and Ted Saunders, the couple who received a letter from the council suggesting their property could be subject to a compulsory purchase order and used to house asylum seekers
The letter that Jose and Ted received from North Northamptonshire Council last month
The letter, headed ‘Empty Properties and sites initiative’ had their exact address in bold and stated: ‘We are writing as we have reason to believe that the above-named premises… is empty or unused.
‘The Government has identified empty privately-owned properties as a potential cause of blight within communities, and as a wasted resource at time of high housing need.’
The letter continued that the council was seeing a ‘considerable increase’ in positive immigration decisions being made in favour of asylum seekers, mainly single men, and the authority was ‘struggling’ to source suitable accommodation for them.
It added: ‘The ideal long-term solution would be to provide accommodation by using empty properties which would benefit owners and the project.’
It said the council could make a compulsory purchase order on the property.
The couple thought the they were going to lose their home worth £200,000 (above)
North Northamptonshire Council has never managed to balance its budget since its inception in 2021. The council has said increased pressures from demand-led services have driven up costs.
Added Jose: ‘It was all the more worrying as we’d only moved in last November, so we still hadn’t received the deeds for the house.’
Retired driving instructor Ted, 78, and his wife called the council and asked what was going on.
Three days later they received an apology, saying their staff had mistakenly ear-marked the house for possible compulsory purchase, but the Saunders were still baffled by the policy itself.
‘What on earth is the council doing forcing people to sell their houses – and even an empty house is owned by someone – so that asylum seekers can live in them?’ asked Jose.
‘The answer to this is to stop them coming in the first place, not to force people out of their homes.’
The incident was seized upon by the Reform UK Party, whose candidate in Thursday’s (Feb 15) Wellingborough by-election, Ben Habib, heard about the couple.
Mr Habib, who is also the party’s co-deputy leader, told MailOnline: ‘I was horrified to hear the plight of Mr. & Mrs. Saunders, but my horror could not compare to what they experienced last month.
‘They were served with a letter from North Northamptonshire District Council seeking to possess their home. The accusation made was their home was derelict and the Council intended to use it to house single young men seeking asylum. Known to the rest of us as illegal migrants.
‘ I can confirm their home is most certainly not derelict. It was well appointed and cared for. They were distraught by the threat made by the Council. They feared not having title deeds and being incapable of defending their position. It was not until they visited the Council and after much pleading they managed to get the Council to desist.
The Saunders had just moved in to their new home when they received a letter from the council suggesting that could be the subject of a compulsory purchase order by the council
A spokesman North Northamptonshire Council apologised to the couple for suggesting that their home could be sold top house asylum seekers – and said it had been sent in error
‘It is utterly shocking that the Council would fire off a letter like that to two elderly people. And do so with the aim of buying a £200,000 house for asylum seekers. This from a Council that is as good as bust and has never filed consolidated accounts since it was established in 2021.
‘The local charity for homeless people, the Daylight Centre, spends £650 per head per homeless person per year. Think what that charity could do with £200,000! It would be able to provide care for over 300 British citizens. There are also veterans’ charities in the constituency struggling to care of soldiers who risked life and limb for the country. Instead of the money going to them, the Council was prepared to blow it on housing maybe 4 migrants, after forcing out of their home two elderly British citizens. Disgraceful.’
The Council is run by the Tories – for all their chat about championing local issues both the Tories and Labour are asleep about the damage being wrought on Wellingborough by a failed council and a complete failure to police our territorial waters. Heads should roll and the Saunders should be compensated!
‘The only party capable of preventing the dystopia into which our country is sinking is Reform UK – the Tories and Labour have lost the plot.’
Jason Smithers, Leader of North Northamptonshire Council, told MailOnline in a statement: ‘North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) is working with owners of long-term empty properties to bring their property back into use. Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) are not utilised to “oust” current owners from their properties, they are a tool used as a very last resort to bring empty properties, which are a valuable and much need housing resource, back into use.
‘The “empty property initiative letters” were sent out in a bid to assist empty property owners to bring their property back into use, and on the whole, the support from NNC was gratefully received. Since NNC formed in 2021, no properties have been purchased by CPO. This is a mechanism of last resort to bring problematic, long term empty properties back into use.
‘Unfortunately, in this case, records held by NNC were outdated, and the letter was incorrectly sent to a property which was occupied. For this I am very sorry for causing any undue distress and worry.’