Residents of Snuff Court, in Devizes, were left “humbled and touched” after a show of solidarity from the town council.

Sovereign Housing are in the process of selling properties at Snuff Cottages, just off New Park Street.

Their current inhabitants have to accept new homes within 18 months. At a meeting of Devizes Town Council this week (June 8), residents spoke to councillors about the stress, both physically and mentally, the decision had caused them.

The uncertainty about where they will be placed has led to sleepless nights, job woes and anxiety.

It was decided that Sovereign would be summoned to a further meeting, to meet with councillors.

“We want them here and blushing,” said councillor Roger Giraud-Saunders.

Cllr Jonathan Hunter added: “It is a very very sad day that these residents of Devizes are here as a result of this situation. I’m concerned that residents will be asked to be moved to another location outside the town.

“I think the residents of Snuff Street should have a strong hand to hold, and I think that hand at the moment should be Devizes Town Council.”

During the meeting, Cllr Iain Wallis explained that Sovereign have a market value of £11.9 billion, assets worth £1.8 billion and had a turnover last year of £411 million.

Cllr Judy Rose said she was left “absolutely horrified” at the housing provider’s actions, adding: “ I can’t believe they would have the brass neck to do this.”

Concerns were also raised about the lack of social housing in Devizes this would cause, and if it would set a precedent among similar providers.

Sovereign have previously said that there won’t be any immediate changes unless they find an early move that residents are happy with.

Cllr Ian Hopkins said: “A key problem is that we are losing that huge amount of social housing right in the centre of town, you need a mix of housing tenures, you don’t want it to all become gated communities like other areas. I think it send a red light to other particular housing associations to view social housing tenants in this particular light.”

The councillors all agreed the council must support the residents and that Sovereign should be asked to a full council meeting to explain their position.

The Gazette approached Sovereign Housing for a response to the council’s comments. Helen Hann, regional director of Housing for Sovereign, said she welcomed the interest from the town council.

She said: “We wrote to all stakeholders, including town councillors, to make them aware of the plans and invited them to engage with us at the beginning of March, but we’d had no response from them until now. Since then, we have worked with our residents to find new homes, with more than half of the people living at Snuff Court having moved already or currently considering alternative accommodation offers.

“We understand that moving home can be stressful and as such, we have a support package for each household this includes a £6,500 ‘homeloss’ payment plus an additional disturbance allowance of up to £2,500, depending on the size of the property.

“We would like to flag again the reason that selling these properties is that we were unable to provide safe, secure and affordable accommodation at Snuff Court and as such the accommodation was undesirable for existing and future residents.”

How did we get here?

The issue was first brought to light before the local elections in May.

Cllr Iain Wallis, working alongside residents, had put pressure on Sovereign to explain how residents were being treated.

“How is it fair?” Zoe Bailey had said. “They say they are giving us like for like, but that’s just not the case. Most of us have no idea where we’ll even be offered.”

Richard Kimber added: “We are not just losing a house, but we are losing a home.”

Due to a lack of progress, Cllr Wallis brought the issue to town council this week.

He said: “This item is not about demonising Sovereign or any other housing association as these organisations provide a vital service to those who need them. It is simply about fulfilling our duty as a council to look out for our residents and offer them support when they ask for it. In this case a number of residents have come forward asking for help and I think it is important that we do what we can.”