Last residents refuse to sell up on derelict housing estate
Homeowners on the the Deans South estate in Livingston are living in a ghost town.
The last residents of a ghost town housing estate earmarked for demolition 15 years ago are living in limbo as some homeowners refuse to sell to a developer.
Of the 240 houses on the Deans South estate in Livingston, West Lothian, just ten are occupied.
The handful of residents still living on the estate have refused to sell up to West Lothian Council, insisting that they are not being offered enough cash for their homes, which were built in the 1960s as council houses.
A developer has offered to rehome residents if they agree to sell to them so that their houses will be demolished, however the deal is dependent on all the homeowners agreeing - which has not happened.
The 15-year fight began when it was found that the homes were built with aerated concrete, Siporex, considered to be inadequate for heavy loads.
Two empty houses were torn apart to establish whether the concrete had been used, before all 240 homes were condemned.
Council tenants were moved out, leaving most of the estate uninhabited.
But some homeowners refused to accept cash for their houses, insisting they either wanted the market rate or a house swap.
Nearly two decades later, a handful of people are still living on the derelict estate.
Joe Baxter, 78, and wife Isabel, 79, bought their four-bedroom home from the local authority through 'right to buy' and have paid off their mortgage.
The couple said they love the house where they have lived for 53 years and where they raised their children, and believe it should never have been condemned in the first place.
They say it was valued at £105,000 15 years ago and that the situation is leaving them vastly out of pocket, as they have been offered £47,000.
Joe said: "We have had this house for 53 years - for 20 years we rented it.
"We bought it in 1986 through 'right to buy', and paid off the mortgage.
"The situation is demoralising. We love our house - there's nothing wrong with it."
'We call it 'Beirut' - it is like a ghost town.'Joe Baxter, homeowner
Joe says the couple do not want to move and were "gobsmacked" when they were told their home was to be demolished.
"It has just been demoralising over all these years - we have lost all our neighbours," Joe adds.
"We had great neighbours and a great community.
"We call it 'Beirut' - it is like a ghost town."
The couple, who have one great-grandchild and eight grandchildren, have been offered a bungalow on the site of their current home, by developers Springfield Properties.
They have welcomed the prospect of a solution, as it will allow them to continue living near relatives, but the deal is dependent on the offer being universally agreed to, which has not yet happened.
If some homeowners refuse to agree to a deal with Springfield Properties, the local authority could be forced to seek a compulsory purchase order (CPO).
A previous CPO attempt in 2011 was unsuccessful.
Kerry MacIntosh has lived on the estate for 17 years and shares the Baxters' hope she could be given a new home rather than cash.
The mum-of-two, who has a daughter aged ten and a 13-year-old son, thought she had bought her dream home back in 2002 when the house was sold on the open market.
But two years later, she received the news that the homes were set for demolition.
Kerry said: "There wasn't anything wrong with them except a defect with the roofs - they could have put in tiles and proper drainage and double glazing.
"It is not about money, it's about doing the right thing.
"A fair deal would be current market value, or a house for a house.
"We want like for like. My kids are isolated, they've got no friends here, they've got no neighbours.
"For 15 years, the only solution we've been offered is a council solution.
"Why are we getting less money than the house is worth?
"They condemned them, so we couldn't move - we've been left in limbo.
"We've worked hard and it's like having the rug being taken away.
"There's many days you want to pack up and go."
'We...will continue to work to find a positive solution that will lead to the redevelopment of the whole Deans South estate.'West Lothian Council
She said the money offered by the local authority for the three-bedroom house would have been between £22,000 and £35,000, or shared equity.
Kerry hopes this will be the last winter her family spends living in their house.
She added: "There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
"Hopefully justice will be done."
A spokesman for West Lothian Council said: "We have recently made an increased offer to the few remaining homeowners and will continue to work to find a positive solution that will lead to the redevelopment of the whole Deans South estate."
Springfield Properties declined to comment.