Sunday, 15 December 2013

The tale of a gammy knee and preparing the house for sale

Since my last blog, life has hobbled by at an amazing speed. I have had a problem with my left knee for a few years now, but with regular visits to the osteopath I have used since 1999, I have managed to stay on top of things, but since falling over my shopping trolley in the snow outside Lenton Flats a couple of years ago, I have needed to see an NHS physio twice and every morning I do some exercises he gave me to keep my knees supple, but a couple of months ago, my left knee started to become very painful and prone to locking. After this happened to me in the middle of the Derby Road, I decided it was time to visit a doctor again.

I saw the doctor in a few days, had my knees x-rayed the following day and a letter from the Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group a few days later. Up to this point, it was pretty impressive. Then nothing. After four weeks I telephoned to enquire what was happening and was told that 'the Nottingham City Clinical Assessment Service… Specialist Team is assessing your referral' and that this would take 'up to six weeks'.

Since Susan and I were working our way through a long list of little jobs and giving our house a major clean in readiness to putting it up for sale, I waited… and waited… Nothing, so I telephoned again and was given a telephone number I could contact direct. They claimed to know nothing about me. The system had lost me. I was not a happy bunny and, in fairness, it took only one telephone call to the CCG to get a telephone call back offering me an appointment at the Mary Potter Health Centre in Hyson Green to see a senior physiotherapist a fortnight later. This happened on Friday and I got sixty minutes attention, including a lengthy examination plus explanations of my x-rays and what the options are. It was five star attention by any measure and I came away a lot happier.

So tomorrow I will be back at the community gym in The Lenton Centre, where I was going 2–3 times a week until my knee went a couple of months ago, with a couple of extra exercises to do. Going there has helped me lose nearly three stone, but in last two months I have put 10lb back on, so you can see why I am glad to be starting again. I report back to Mary Potter on 10 January 2014 to see how I am progressing.

I tell you all this because my knee problem (or should I say 'knee cap' problem) has become acute at a time when the media is full of stories about how the NHS is cutting back on knee operations as part of its efforts to save money.

The experience leaves me wondering how regularly patients are lost by the system? Then I wonder if everyone gets treated as promptly as I did? NHS employees are, I suspect, under a lot of pressure and they all cope with it differently.

I have recently taken part in a couple of Nottingham City CCG surveys and the questions have been badly framed, giving the option of only 'yes/no' answers, then if you answer 'no' asking if you thought this was to do with age/gender/sexual orientation/race/religion and little or no scope for other answers. I have made this point at the end of each survey, but since this is something I have complained about for a long time, I am of the view that NHS surveys are probably constructed to obscure, rather then enlighten.

I suspect that the NHS managers and number crunchers are so obsessed with outcomes that they fail to comprehend (or care) how seemingly trivial ailments and conditions impair the quality of lives, and that their failure to address them will ultimately add to the money the NHS has to find for that person in the long-term.

The NHS is a great organisation, but to work well it needs to be part of a social framework which includes decent housing and social services for all, as well as decent jobs and pay. Our society is fragmenting at an alarming pace and all this from one gammy knee!

They say house moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. How I agree!
At the top of the narrow column to the right is a link a blog I have put together about our house. Someone might find it. Our first estate agent, Frank Innes, lasted seven days. They were  truly awful. They could not spell 'Lenton' correctly, draw a house plan of our house correctly lor describe it correctly, despite having the errors pointed out to them on several occasions, verbally and by e-mail.

We have now gone to a local estate agent, who is already proving to be much more efficient, and I will add a link once we are on their website.

The plus side of all the housework we have done is that lots of little problems have been fixed and we have cleared out our basement after hiring a van for a day — it was that easy.

The only problem we have is that because of new Nottingham City Council planning controls our large Victorian house cannot be turned into student accommodation and this has knocked about £30,000 off its value. Of the 23 houses on Devonshire Promenade, 20 are student lets in multi-occupation owned by private landlords. These are controls we first argued for twenty-five years ago when houses in multiple occupation made up only 25% of the total in New Lenton. Now they make up over 80%. and 87% on Devonshire Promenade. No family will want to buy our house and no private landlord either.

The coming weeks and months will be interesting. In the meantime I have e-mailed the City Planners as follows:

My wife and I are putting our home at No.3 Devonshire Promenade up for sale after thirty-thee years because we want to downsize. We are aware of the new Article 4 Direction with regard to student housing, but we would like to know how it actually impacts on a road like ours, where there are only three owner-occupiers out of twenty-three houses?

Who can buy our house? If a landlord did, would he have to rent it out as a single tenancy, or can he sub-divide the house into flats, or rooms, up to a specific number? What about the relatives (ie. son/daughter, niece/nephew) of someone who buys the house. Can they live in the house with 'friends' as 'lodgers' and, of so, how many?

All the initial evidence suggests that no family is going to be interested, despite our prime location, because of the the fact that almost all the houses on Devonshire Promenade and surrounding streets are student houses. In the case of a street like ours, where 87% of the houses are student houses, is it City Council planning policy to impose the new Article 4 Direction strictly, or with the support of the other two resident owner-occupiers, can it be adjusted in some way? If and when they come to sell, they will face exactly the same problem as ourselves.

Three estate agents have told us that the value of house has been reduced considerably by the new Article 4 Direction and it will be 'hard to sell'. We have also been told by our councillors that there is a scheme where the City Council will buy hard to sell houses like our own, but we have seen no details of this policy or which City Council department manages it. Can you please provide a copy of the policy/procedure or tell us who to contact?

Please send us any information you have. Like so many pensioners and long-term residents, our house is our only asset, and we are sure it was not the intention of the City Council that we should suffer financially because of the new Article 4 Direction.

I will post their response when I receive it.

My next post will be back to lighter things I promise.


James said...

Recent events in Nottingham such as the reopening of the Lenton Road gate at night and the introduction of the Article 4 Directive (which doesn’t just concern students) have achieved little more than to make Nottingham a less attractive place for people to live.

First, in relation to the gate at Lenton Road, I cannot see who will actually benefit from the ruling, other than perhaps those whose primary goal is to cause anti-social behaviour during anti-social hours (i.e. 11pm -5am). The Park Estate is one of the very few remaining areas in the city which are still considered attractive for professional workers and families to live, many who could quite easily choose to live in a picturesque village in Leicestershire or further a field and commute into the city. The recent ruling may well lead to a surge in crime in both Lenton and The Park Estate and make both areas less attractive; this will no doubt drive even more respectable people away from the city. As a long-term resident of Nottingham, I find it saddening to see the city fall into further decline. You may have won this particular battle against the Nottingham Park Estate Limited, but in my view you have put your personal hobby and ideology before the people of Nottingham.

Likewise, in relation to the Article 4 Directive, I cannot see who is currently benefiting from this policy. Lenton is considered by students to be the most attractive place to live outside campus, and given the proximity to both campus and the city centre, this is unlikely to change. Obviously, the story is quite the opposite in the more peripheral student areas such as Radford and The Meadows. Generally speaking, so long as a house in Lenton is in good condition and has decent furnishings and looks secure, it will be easy to let out. The main reason why there are some empty HMOs in Lenton is mainly because some landlords are too greedy and make no effort to deal with maintenance. It is unlikely that Lenton will ever be a place for respectable middle-class families again, and in your case I think it will be difficult to find a buyer unless you obtain the necessary planning permission to convert the property for C4 use – from speaking to people in the local property market, I understand that the Council has rejected virtually every single application for properties in Lenton. You could of course subdivide your property into individual self-contained flats which can be rented out. The irony is that your house is no doubt far better maintained than those HMOs along Devonshire Promenade, but worth considerably less. Furthermore, over time the value of those HMOs is likely to increase, as there will be a lack of supply against a continued demand from students for off-campus housing.

With their recent gain in Wollaton West, Labour could potentially win every single seat on the Council come 2015. But will this be because it is a reflection of the Council’s performance, or is it simply because many respectable Conservative voters have simply moved into nicer areas elsewhere?

Dan said...

Well James, I would benefit - take the following example, I live in the Park and attended a dinner party at a friend’s house on Harlaxton Drive last year, she has lived there for many years and it is a route I have used regularly to visit the area. I left the party soon after midnight, and had a much longer walk all the way up Harlaxton Drive to Derby Road, towards Canning Circus, then back down North Road to get half way into the park to get to my house. I had to walk round 3 sides of a square.

With regard to the Article 4 - I think many people will benefit in the long term (bity perhaps not if you take ’benefit’ to mean ‘get the most money for their assets’. I wanted to buy a house in Lenton, at the time I was gazumped by a landlord who could offer cash, whilst I could not get a larger mortgage. I was lucky to then find a house in the park that I could afford, although it was half the size of the house in Lenton I’d hoped to buy. Now landlords have started to buy up houses near me and others are priced out in just the same way. A reduction in some of the house prices, whilst bad for Robert personally to use this example, will make some houses more affordable to people who want to put down roots in the area. That will include graduates who know the area, like it, and want to stay. They are mostly middle class - juts the sort of people you say will not want to live there.

I think you are wrong on both counts.