Tenants on way out, bulldozers in
The last few remaining tenants of 22 maisonettes above a shopping precinct which is to be demolished have welcomed news that they will soon be moving out.
The occupants say their lives have been plagued by vandals since the maisonettes, above The Exchange in Eyres Monsell, Leicester, started to empty about 10 months ago.
In the most recent incident, residents of the five remaining homes in a row of 11 were forced to flee after arsonists set fire to a store cupboard at one of the empty properties on December 30.
The empty homes, many daubed with graffiti, are sealed with metal grates and wooden boards. All 11 properties above shops on the opposite side of The Exchange are boarded up.
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Demolition crews moved in to flatten the arson-hit former Invincible pub nearby last spring to build a shopping complex.
The Exchange shopping centre and council houses will be demolished and replaced with new homes.
Jackie Whalton, 54, who lives next door to the property set on fire, said: "It's been horrible living here among these empty properties.
"We've had nothing but problems since people started moving out last April.
"I've had two windows smashed, abuse, door knocking and the latest and most serious incident with the fire."
She said receiving the letter from the city council telling her the remaining residents would soon be moving out was "great news".
"The council said we'll be given priority for rehousing and they say they anticipate it will be before April," said Jackie.
"Everybody left here has been trying to move out for a long time. I'll be glad to leave and go somewhere I can get some peace and quiet – I need it."
Marlene Sutton, 26, who lives with partner Jamie Wain, 25, and three children, aged six months to 10, said: "The children were terrified when the fire broke out. It's not safe for them here. We need to move for the kids. We'll be glad to go."
Jamie said: "There's constant vandalism, the kids round here treat it like a playground and Marlene finds them quite intimidating."
A city council spokeswoman said: "We have sent letters to the tenants this week, informing them of our intention to re-house them and to demolish the two blocks of maisonettes.
"The letter also explains the rehousing process and sets out their options. It will also ask the tenants to complete a housing application form, which we can help with, if necessary.
"Their applications will then be given priority status.
"Once the application is registered, these tenants will be able to start bidding for properties straight away through our Home Choice system.
"The bidding process allows the tenant to choose an appropriately-sized property in their preferred area.
"Once all the tenants have been rehoused and the shops vacated, the blocks will be demolished, although a date for this is yet to be confirmed."