Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Assurances given to residents that sale of estate for veterans to Chelsea FC will not leave them homeless

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

Armed Forces veterans who were facing potential homelessness and the break-up of their community with the sale of their homes to Chelsea Football Club have expressed relief after being assured no-one will be left without housing.

Residents living in Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions in Fulham had raised concerns about where they will be placed following the sale, and the impacts of breaking up the close-knit community, many of whom are suffering mental health problems linked to their service.

Stoll has however now said it is ‘in the process’ of securing new homes in Hammersmith and Fulham, and in South London, with a focus on housing in the borough, and promised support to all residents currently living in the purpose-built site.

There is also a commitment to rehome people together on the same sites, for those who want that, to ensure they still have each other for support and friendship. Those who choose to move elsewhere will still get 12 months of support after their move.

Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, which directly neighbours Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium, was established in 1915 to provide respite to those returning home from the front.

As well as the 157 flats, it includes facilities such as a communal space and medical centre, the latter of which serves 6,500 patients across the wider community.

Discussions are ongoing about ensuring the medical centre will not be lost, and the sale to the football club was pushed back to allow time to rehome everyone.

Stoll’s Board of Trustees agreed in October last year to sell the 1.2 acre site to Chelsea for a reported £80 million. The deal is yet to be finalised, although it is expected to be completed within weeks.

The charity’s chief executive, Will Campbell-Wroe, previously said the sale was necessary due to the cost of demolishing and rebuilding the properties, many of which are beyond repair.

Several veterans living on the site however aired doubts about the potential deal. Of the 157 flats, around 20 are to be retained under Chelsea’s plans.

Colleen Willis – seen here with Councillor Ben Coleman – has lived at Stoll Mansions for 17 years, and says the accommodation and community provided a ‘safety net’.

Those on secured tenancies – veterans who have lived there for five years or more – will be supported by Stoll to move elsewhere. The occupants of around 40 flats, however, were to be left to make their own arrangements.

One of those not on a secured tenancy, Guy Cholerton, who served for more than 20 years in the Coldstream Guards, previously said he was concerned about whether he would lose his job as well as his home over the sale, saying: “There’s no point overthinking everything. I would probably slip back into my dark mental health place but I can only do so much. And I refuse, I refuse to make myself ill over this.”

Rod Hood, 55, who served in the Royal Corps of Signals, said there was ‘a lot of anxiousness’ prior to the update. Communication from the charity had been lacking, he said, with veterans feeling as though they were an ‘afterthought’.

Mr Hood said the unique community at the complex is a key part of what makes it so special to residents. “We pulled together a lot more in the last four years due to the pandemic and then due to this whole situation with the sale,” he said. “It’s a good place to live. It’s a great place to live, a great place.

“For everyone I hope there’s some element of relief [after Stoll’s assurances], especially older ones and for people with really severe mental health issues. Stoll have to stand up to their promises, and they have to provide the necessary support for every resident that has to move.”

Colleen Willis, 85, has lived at Stoll Mansions for 17 years. She said her husband, brother and father all served, and also spoke positively about the experience of living in the complex.

“I’ve had all the help I could,” she said. “Not that I’ve ever asked for anythin, but it’s there if I want it. Having that support and knowing it’s there as a safety net.”

Deputy council leader Ben Coleman, who chaired meetings with Stoll and supported the veterans’ campaign, said he is ‘absolutely delighted’ that no veteran will be made homeless, and is also grateful to Chelsea for their role in pausing the sale until an option for the residents was secured.

“[The veterans] are an incredible group of people, and we’re really proud to have them here in our borough. And the fact that now looks probable is very encouraging.”

Mr Campbell-Wroe said: “We are continuing to progress the sale of the majority of the Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions site to the Chelsea FC ownership group. We are also well under way with securing new, higher quality properties with greatly improved accommodation for veterans in the local area, where our residents will receive enhanced support.”

Chelsea have been approached for a comment.

Pictured top: Rod Hood, one of the estate residents (Picture: LDRS)

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