Wigan resident blasts council over £15,000 loss on home sale

A furious Wigan resident has blasted the council after he lost thousands of pounds selling his home on a street blighted by anti-social behaviour.

Thursday, 15th August 2019, 10:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th August 2019, 11:37 pm
Boarded-up houses in Sandalwood Road, Beech Hill

Darren Haywood says he was forced to accept £15,000 less than he wanted for his property on Sandalwood Drive in Beech Hill after a three-year ordeal involving the town hall trying to convince him to part with the house.

In recent times Sandalwood Drive has suffered with criminal activity and many properties on the street are now empty.

The council, which says it is responding to local problems, has arranged for a contractor to demolish empty houses and plans to regenerate the area with a housing scheme for older people.

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Mr Haywood, though, says it is the town hall that has caused the issues in the area by making some properties empty and then leaving them when plans stalled due to homeowners not being willing to sell up.

He says the aim of the work has been to open up a wasteland between Forest Avenue and Ashcroft Avenue for development.

And he has accused the local authority of bending its own housing rules to get people out and wrongly claiming the whole area was full of problems.

Instead, he says streets which were not targeted for rebuilding in Beech Hill have had nothing like the same levels of anti-social behaviour as Sandalwood Drive.

However, the council has strongly rebuffed some of Mr Haywood’s accusations and challenged his claim that problems on Sandalwood Drive only began once properties were standing empty.

Mr Haywood, 36, said he was first approached by the town hall in June 2016 and has had a long period of wrangling with the council over the price offered for the house, during which he says residents in the area received inconsistent valuations for similar properties.

Mr Haywood said: “It’s been traumatic, to be honest. It has taken a full three years for them to acquire my property and all the while I have suffered the financial burden resulting from the blight brought upon the street by Wigan Council.

“This had nothing to do with anti-social behaviour and everything to do with the council over a period of years making solid, decent houses empty.

“Anti-social behaviour has somehow managed to turn an entire street into a scene from The Walking Dead yet neighbouring and identical cul-de-sacs off Forest Avenue remain completely unscathed.

“Anti-social behaviour was not mentioned in those early letters from June 2016. The fate of Sandalwood Drive was due to council policy and not the residents of Beech Hill.

“Dell Avenue, Redwood Avenue and Spruce are normal streets, so how come Sandalwood wasn’t?

“If you drive in and look at the size of the plot they’ve opened up you’ll see your answer.”

Mr Haywood says he was forced to accept an offer of £45,000 for the property he first lived in and then had been renting out, having told himself he would not settle for less than £60,000.

He says he was offered a price in March 2018 but rejected it after discovering another property owner in the same street had been offered 20 per cent more simply because that house was needed earlier in the development work.

He claims he also lost his tenant in dubious circumstances.

Mr Haywood said: “The council has never been able to provide proper justification for the price difference they offered for two ex-council properties of the same size and construction in the same cul-de-sac.

“If you go on Rightmove you won’t find a three-bedroom house on sale in Wigan borough for £40,000. It’s ridiculous.”

After his tenant’s departure Mr Haywood said he was left for 13 months paying mortgages on two properties and also, to his astonishment, being told he still had to pay the council tax on the empty house.

He says properties left empty with no-one in them and no work happening made the street a magnet for thieves, with copper being stripped from houses and lead flashings stripped from the roof.

Mr Haywood has now lodged an official complaint against Wigan Council for its treatment of him and has requested the issue is taken to stage two of the town hall’s internal proceedings.

The council has strongly defended its conduct and challenged Mr Haywood’s claim that problems on Sandalwood Drive only began once properties were standing empty.

It said bringing a developer in to give the street a fresh start was a last resort after other attempts to improve the situation were unsuccessful.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing, said: “As a public body the council is only able to acquire property by agreement based upon its Open Market Value (OMV), based on a valuation carried out by a Royal Institution registered property surveyor, and the price offered is considered a fair OMV.

“Since 2016 there have been significant problems of crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour at Sandalwood Drive, which have had a severe impact on the properties and those who live in them.

“We were becoming increasingly concerned about the safety and security of residents, particularly as more properties became empty as residents were asking to be rehoused.

“The decision to seek to acquire private interests in order to redevelop the area was not taken lightly.

“However, after many years of failed attempts to turn around the area this was considered the only option to bring about regeneration and long-lasting change.”