Widower and war veteran Elijah Debnam has lived in his home in Derker, Oldham, for the best part of six decades. There is now a Compulsory Purchase Order on his terraced property under the town’s Housing Market Renewal regeneration scheme and he is being pressured to move out. Not one brick has been laid under the scheme so far in Derker. The one thing Eli – as his friends call him – dreads more than anything is ending up in an old people’s home. I am sure there are many other very elderly people around the region who share his sentiments, but many are afraid to speak out.
“1954 we moved in, so you can work it out for yourself. 17th of March 1954. And I’ve lost my son and I’ve lost my wife here. So there’s nothing much more left is there, at 89 years old? You know, I wanted to soldier on here…I don’t want to be buying homes at this stage of life. And I certainly don’t want to be going in a nursing home, do I?
“I’m originally from Oldham, born and bred. Went in the forces, you know. Registered on my 20th birthday. I served nearly three years at Gibraltar and served from Normandy right through into Germany.
“With this scheme, good houses are being pulled down just for their whim. There’s nothing physically wrong with it, to warrant it being demolished. It’s not because it’s condemned, it’s because of the whim of somebody that wants to build flats here.
“Then you go to the High Court and none of those judges know anything about Derker. I bet they’ve never seen Derker or known that it exists. You know what I mean? And that to me doesn’t seem right. How can you judge something when you’ve not seen it?
“Nothing will compensate me for losing this house. I’d sooner them keep the money. It’s my house. This house is worth 300 million to me. Because I wanted to finish my days here. And that’s all I’m asking. Leave me alone.”