Wednesday, 27 Sep 2023

Family left with no neighbours after council demolishes the rest of the street

A family in Wales has been left alone on their street as all their neighbours’ homes are being demolished.

Sophie Kendall lives in Cyfyng Road in the village of Ystalyfera, near Port Talbot, which was hit by a landslide in 2017.

Since then the local council issued residents with warnings banning them from living there due to the risk to their lives – but Sophie and her family have stayed put, as their insurers say their home is safe.

Her neighbours have since moved out, and wrecking crews have now moved in to demolish the other homes.

Sophie, 28, lives in the mid-terraced house with her four-year-old daughter Jorgie-May and stepdad Richard Morrison – and she says they’ve been left in limbo.

She said: ‘We are not moving because this is our home.

‘I’ve only ever really lived here. I’ve got all my memories from birthdays and Christmas in this house. It means a lot to us.

‘They have taken everything down to one side of our house and then they are going to start at the other end.

‘We didn’t have a clue that the demolition was starting. My daughter has asthma and there is dust everywhere.

‘There was a landslide to the rear of the gardens six years ago but the houses were not affected.

‘The insurers won’t pay anything because there is in not actually any damage to the house and the council hasn’t offered us anywhere to go.’

Step-dad Richard, who has lived there for 23 years, added: ‘It is not nice living in a street that’s being knocked down at the same time.

‘We are still in limbo, as we have been for the last six or seven years. With no offer on the table it’s just impossible to move.

‘The council are more powerful than me, so I just have to sit tight in limbo like we have been.’

Geological surveys warn there is a very high risk of more landslides in the area – with an ‘immediate risk to life’ on Cyfyng Road.

Neath Port Talbot council are now carrying out a phased demolition programme on all the empty homes.

Mr Morrison was fined £100 by Swansea magistrates in 2019 after breaching the order by returning home, but he insisted the assessments on his home have shown it to be safe.

He added: ‘The insurance company have deemed it fine. They said it was the grounds to the rear that’s the issue, but the house is fine.

‘We’ve had six risk assessments of the house and they’ve all come back clear.

‘That’s going against the one risk assessment that Neath Port Talbot did six or seven years ago.

‘With no offer on the table it’s just impossible to move. My daughter was born here, in this house. It’s her home.’

The council said the work was being carried out for public safety.

A council spokesman said: ‘The demolition orders in Cyfyng Road are being carried out for reasons of public safety.

‘The houses concerned, built on a slope, were affected by landslides in 2017 and after the council evacuated occupiers for their own safety, the owner and occupiers of three of the properties appealed against the action to the independent Residential Property Tribunal Wales.

‘The tribunal panel members rejected the appeals, ruling Neath Port Talbot council’s expert evidence showed none of the appeal properties were founded on solid rock and unanimously agreed the authority had shown there was a risk to residents from landslips.’

They said the council had worked with the people who had to leave to help with rehousing and insurance claims.

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