Stoll Veterans Accuse Greg Hands of 'Going Missing in Action'

Residents dispute claims made in MP's letter

The entrance to Stoll Mansions (left) and Greg Hands MP (right). Picture: UK Parliament

April 23, 2024

Veterans living at Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions have resolved to ‘set the record straight’ after their local Conservative MP claimed he had been ‘continually’ fighting for them to be rehoused amid potential evictions. Greg Hands, the MP for Chelsea and Fulham, has been accused of going ‘missing in action’ while residents at feared they were to lose their homes.

Others however have refuted the claims made about Mr Hands’ involvement, with one resident describing the MP as being “very involved with the veterans” during their time living in the Mansions.

The charity which owns the site, Stoll, recently announced it would ensure no veteran will be made homeless following the sale of the complex to neighbouring Chelsea FC. This followed months of wrangling between residents and Stoll, with some concerned they were going to end up on the streets due to the deal.

Mr Hands, who has been the MP for the area since 2005, distributed a letter dated 16 April to residents at the Mansions in which he wrote he has ‘continually sought assurances’ from Stoll that they will be rehoused locally. He added he is ‘very pleased that a solution has been found’, before noting towards the end of the letter that ‘my priority is, and always has been, the wellbeing of veterans at Stoll’.

Mr Hands’ letter has, however, evoked a strong response from some of those living in the Mansions. An email sent to the MP, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), expresses ‘profound disappointment and distress regarding some of the claims made therein, which do not accurately reflect the reality of our situation’.

The email continues to note that for over two years, the author, who wishes to remain anonymous, does not recall any instance when Mr Hands met with residents to discuss their efforts. “While you may have ambled around distributing party political flyers within SOSM (Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions), it is essential to note that many residents, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, felt they lacked meaningful engagement from you during a critical time.”

The letter from Greg Hands to Stoll Residents
The letter from Greg Hands to Stoll Residents

The resident added they have reached out to Mr Hands on numerous occasions, with more than 15 emails sent, receiving ‘no substantive feedback’.

“Although I don’t want to hear from you again, I hope your future communications will more accurately reflect the realities of your interactions with our community.”

Another veteran living at Stoll, Rod Hood, told the LDRS he was ‘shocked’ to receive the letter from Mr Hands. He said, “As the Vice Chair of the Stoll Residents’ Association, (at the time) Mr Hands visited us on one occasion, then his interaction with us was very limited. For him to send this letter is a disgrace to people who have worked tirelessly for a good outcome for the residents of Stoll at the Fulham site.”

Also included in the email sent to the Tory MP was a wish to ‘set the record straight’. The veteran wrote that rather than Mr Hands, it was Cllr Ben Coleman, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Labour parliamentary candidate for Chelsea and Fulham, who provided ‘the most consistent and effective support’ during the campaign.

Cllr Coleman said, “I’m honoured to have championed the vets during several meetings with Stoll and Chelsea’s senior teams. I asked Chelsea to suspend the deal until Stoll agreed not to make any veterans homeless and to keep the community together at a new site in Fulham where they belong.

“I’m grateful for Chelsea’s support and delighted to have helped achieve this concrete result. I’m now focusing on ensuring the promises to the veterans are delivered.”

Not all residents however agree with the claims about Mr Hands’ involvement. One veteran said, “Mr Hands has been involved in this property in all the 22 years I’ve lived here. He’s been very involved with the veterans. He actually, nine years ago, got us Grade-II listing to protect the front of the building and he did it as quickly as he could possibly get it through. He’s constantly in touch with some of the residents here, and he’s constantly available.”

Mr Hands told the LDRS,“I have been the MP for the Stoll veterans in Fulham since 2005. Over the years I have not only met with the charity’s Chief Executives, I have also taken up many, sometimes complex, cases for Stoll residents. I have met with the MoD and Defence Ministers, including with Stoll management and veterans at my side.

“When I was told by Stoll’s Chief Executive that all veterans, who wish to stay local, will now be offered housing in Fulham, I was delighted. This is a very good solution for my constituents after a long period of uncertainty.

“Especially over the last few years, I have engaged regularly with the changing management of the Stoll Foundation on the sale of their land to neighbouring Chelsea FC. The veterans’ wellbeing has always been my priority and I am genuinely pleased to see this outcome.

“This should be an outcome to be celebrated, not turned into political point-scoring.”

The sale of the majority of the site to Chelsea FC was completed earlier this month. Stoll also confirmed it was in the final stages of purchasing 128 affordable homes in the Kings Road Park estate, with the hope residents can start moving between January and June next year.

Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter

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