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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 16:06 GMT
West: Council house anger
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
The Politics Show West

Cheltenham grandeur
Cheltenham grandeur
It is a quarter of a century since Margaret Thatcher encouraged council tenants to buy their homes. In the South West of England it has had a big impact.

130,000 houses have been sold, while far fewer affordable homes have been built, even as the population of the region rises quickly.

Protestors are to lobby Parliament.

The "Defend Council Housing campaign" is also angry at "stock transfer" - councils handing over their homes to independent housing associations.

They believe tenants are losing out to what they call privatisation, in an area where the open market has pushed prices to record levels in recent years.

St Pauls estate
St Pauls estate ... homes demolished?

Take Cheltenham, where a fierce battle is on to stop some of its remaining council homes being handed over to private ownership.

Four streets in St Paul's are due for demolition.

They would be replaced by a mixture of private housing and new, affordable homes, for rent - or sale.

"I have spent thousands on my house," says resident Shawn Wright.

"I have put new floorboards down, replastered the walls, new ceilings, new doors.

"I have asked the council for nothing.

"It will break my heart if it goes."

Shawn Wright
Shawn Wright will put up a fight

Shawn Wright has become the tenants' leader.

He has built up a campaign, badgered politicians , and is collecting money to take their case to Downing Street.

"Our faces don't fit round this area anymore," he concludes, "they want posh people on this estate."

Standing on a nearby hillside, estate agent Gavin Catlow-Hawkins can see what he means.

"House prices round here have doubled in the last five years," he says.

"Across the golf course there is the nice Albermarle Gate estate where houses regularly sell for 250,000 or 300,000."

But the council insist that they have residents' best interests at heart; most people who are moved out will be able to move back to the same area if they desire - although there are NO guarantees.

Councillor John Webster
Councillor John Webster wishes to improve environment

"It is true that only 10 minutes away is one of the poshest town centres in the country," says Councillor John Webster.

"What we want to do is to improve the environment for the local community.

"We don't believe that you can have stable, sustainable communities where there are high concentrations of poverty and deprivation."

A final decision may be taken in April 2006.

If it goes ahead, it will be another small landmark in the decline of council housing in the West.

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Politics from around the UK...

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