Veterans Welcome Assurances Over Stoll Mansion Sale

Promises given that no existing resident will be left homeless

Rod Hood is a resident at Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, having served in the Royal Corps of Signals
Rod Hood is a resident at Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, having served in the Royal Corps of Signals

March 28, 2024

Armed Forces veterans who were facing potential homelessness and the break-up of their community with the sale of their homes to Chelsea FC 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.

One veteran the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) spoke to said Stoll now has ‘to stand up to their promises, and they have to provide the necessary support for every resident that has to 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.

Video: LDRS/My London

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, though it is expected to be completed within weeks.

The charity’s Chief Executive, Will Campbell-Wroe, previously told the LDRS 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. 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.”

Guy Cholerton, 58, served for more than 20 years in the Coldstream GuardsGuy Cholerton, 58, served for more than 20 years in the Coldstream Guards

Speaking at Stoll Mansions on Wednesday (27 March), 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’. “If people aren’t told things they tend to make things up themselves,” he said.

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.”

Mr Hood added that while it’s a shame the situation progressed the way it did, he hopes there is relief following Stoll’s assurances. “For everyone I hope there’s some element of relief, especially older ones and for people with really severe mental health issues. Hopefully they find some relief.”

He said: “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 anything…but it’s there if I want it; having that support and knowing it’s there as a safety net.”

She also commended the work of Ben Coleman, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, who is also Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Chelsea and Fulham, who has chaired meetings with Stoll and supported the veterans’ campaign. “[I] didn’t feel good when Stoll explained it to us because it wasn’t explained properly. Now that we’ve spoken to Ben Coleman, [he has] been so helpful.”

Colleen Willis, who has lived at Stoll Mansions for 17 years

Speaking to the LDRS, Cllr Coleman 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.”

He said he is already speaking with Chelsea about the future of the site’s medical centre, and that locals who use it need not worry about losing the service.

“I will continue to be involved,” he said. “I’m not walking away from these veterans, and I’m not walking away from this fight.”

Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions was established in 1915, to provide homes for soldiers returning from the front.
Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions was established in 1915, to provide homes for soldiers returning from the front

Also in attendance was John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary. He said, “These are tough times for everyone, but today’s a rare moment of celebration because the residents here in Fulham and Chelsea have managed to win a campaign to stop them being evicted, made homeless, and have secured a promise that they can be moved together so they hold together this community of veterans and ex-forces families that are here.”

The top of Stamford Bridge is clearly visible from inside the complex
The top of Stamford Bridge is clearly visible from inside the complex

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 and expect to share more information on this in the coming weeks. 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.

“If residents choose to move somewhere other than a Stoll property when they leave the Fulham site, we will continue to provide 12 months of support to them. Veterans are the heart of our organisation, and we are fully committed to ensuring all residents are supported during the sale of the site.”

Mr Campbell-Wroe added the sale of the site to Chelsea will mean the charity can do ‘everything that Stoll does, better’, with the expectation it will be able to provide more than double the homes it currently does at the Mansions. Chelsea FC was also approached for comment.

Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter

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