The Rushden Echo, 15th January 1965, transcribed by Jim Hollis
‘Unfit’ House Cost Life Savings
Old age pensioners, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Porter, spent their life savings of £500 on a house in Cromwell Road, Rushden, three years ago. Now it has been declared unfit.
The couple have received £75 “good maintenance”, compensation for the house and will probably receive a further £75 site value from Rushden Urban Council.
The house No. 96, has been valued at £75 for the site by the District Valuer, and the couple would have received this if a recommendation of Rushden Council’s Housing Committee had not been referred back at last month’s council meeting.
All the committee can now do is reconsider the matter to see whether a mistake has been made. Mr. A. G. Crowdy, clerk to the council, told the “Echo” that it was very unlikely a mistake had occurred.
Mr. and Mrs. Porter’s unfortunate circumstances began after they sold a small cottage in Wootton, Bedfordshire, for a good profit. They were told to come and live in Rushden, “where houses are cheaper.”
After hearing that it was possible that many houses in this area of Cromwell Road might be inspected with a view to redevelopment, Mrs. Porter said her solicitors approached the council.
This was in December, 1961, after the sale of the house had been confirmed subject to the contract being signed. She said the council replied that the house was in a terrace and that it was possible ultimate proposals would depend more on the general state of the terrace than on the condition of one particular house.
Mrs. Porter said it was suggested that the house should be inspected by a private surveyor to obtain advice about whether it was fit for living in under the 1957 Housing Act.
The house was duly inspected by an independent surveyor who, she claimed, said he did not think it would be condemned.
In August, 1963, the couple received notice from the council that it thought 96 Cromwell Road was “unfit for human habitation,” after it had been inspected by Mr. H. W. Ellis, the public health inspector, and the late Dr. P. X. Bermingham, Rushden’s medical officer of health.
Following this, Mrs. Porter went to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government through her solicitors and a public inquiry was fixed for September 5, 1963.
Rushden council made application for a compulsory purchase order for 34 houses, garages and storage rooms in Cromwell Road. Four objectors were represented at the inquiry.
Mr. Crowdy said at the inquiry the 75-year-old houses were divided into five lots. Twenty-nine on the list were considered unfit for human habitation.
He assured tenants that compensation would be paid in accordance with statutory provisions, and about ten would qualify for full compensation.
Mr. and Mrs. Porter attended and were represented by their solicitors.
After the meeting the Ministry Inspector, Mr. L. S. J. Buck, inspected the houses concerned and in due course Mrs. Porter received £75 “good maintenance compensation.” It was made clear that the Ministry inspector upheld the recommendation to the council that her house should be declared unfit.
Still Mrs. Porter did not give up hope that she would get back her life savings which she had paid for the house.
Mr. S. W. Monham, the District Valuer from Northampton, visited the house to value it for the council.
Mrs. Porter’s hopes were raised, only to be dashed when she heard that the valuer had agreed terms for acquiring the house at site value of £75 plus the cost of Mrs. Porter’s legal and surveyor’s fees.
A letter from Mrs. Porter to Mr. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, produced no result.
After it had been passed to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government she received a reply stating they could not intervene further. She was told the amount of compensation payable was a matter for settlement between her and the council.
Mrs. Porter is now living in a council house on King’s Road, Rushden, paying rent of £1 4s 6d a week.
She told a reporter: “That’s all our money gone, all our life savings, and we cannot get any National Assistance. We have even broken into the £75 we have received, and that will soon be gone.”
Mr. and Mrs. Porter have two daughters and a son. One daughter is married and the other is a widow living at Bedford.