RESIDENTS in two sheltered homes in Wellington were given the bombshell news on Tuesday (April 23) that their properties were to be closed after the eleventh hour collapse of talks to save them.

Representatives from the Abbeyfield Society spoke to residents in consecutive meetings in Ivy House and The Old Vicarage to break the news that a prospective new owner had pulled out of the deal.

They were then joining an online conference to brief Somerset and town councillors and local MP Rebecca Pow.

The announcements caused visible distress among some residents, the oldest of whom was 99 years old.

One woman said: “I have lived here 11 years and I love the place.”

Another said she feared becoming ‘a stateless person shoved from pillar to post, not knowing anybody’.

Ivy House, Wellington
The Abbeyfield Society’s Ivy House, in Corams Lane, Wellington. (Tindle News)

Janet Moore, whose 91-year-old mother-in-law lives in The Old Vicarage, said: “All residents were given letters and told that help would be given to find suitable accommodation.

“Most said they wished to stay in Wellington, but as we know the local authority do not have sufficient suitable housing to meet the needs of residents.”

Abbeyfield, which is suffering financial stress, said there was no fixed timescale for the closures and the process would ‘take as long as it takes’ before the two properties were sold on the open market.

The charity had been consulting on the possible closures since May of last year but announced in November that it had found a potential purchaser to take them on.

However, tenants were told on Tuesday that after ‘in depth discussions’ an offer was accepted from another housing provider which later pulled out after doing its own detailed appraisal and finding the ‘financials did not stack up’.

Abbeyfield told the Wellington tenants it was left with no choice but to move to close the homes, which was something as a charity it ‘never, ever wants to do’.

Tenants were told Abbeyfield was under a legal duty to find suitable alternative accommodation which would meet their individual needs and that the charity was already working with the local authority to do so.

However, the representatives accepted that there was a shortage of appropriate housing not just in Wellington but in the wider Somerset area.

The Old Vicarage has 30 self-contained apartments and Ivy House has 25 flats, making them the largest Abbeyfield homes in the Westcountry.

The Wellington Weekly understands that all 13 Abbeyfield homes across the Westcountry which were subject to the same consultation exercise are to close, and that nationally 40 properties were earmarked for closure with the fate of another four or five yet to be announced.

One town councillor told the Wellington Weekly the council would be ensuring residents were given proper advice on their tenancy rights.

They said: “What Abbeyfield do not seem to have properly explained is that none of the tenants can be forced out without going through a very lengthy and expensive court action to try to get a judge to make an eviction order.”