RESIDENTS and their relatives have described their distress after it was announced that a Grange-over-Sands sheltered housing scheme was to close.

South Lakes Housing (SLH), which operates Yewbarrow Lodge on Main Street, has confirmed the facility will shortly close its doors, but have advised that every possible assistance will be provided to residents in seeking new places to live.

However, relatives say the move has caused a great deal of distress, especially as Yewbarrow is the only remaining facility of its kind in Grange, and they claim residents are worried they will be moved out of the area away from their family and friends.

"I have a friend who lives there and they were in tears when they heard the news," said one local resident.

"Everyone is very upset."

Tracy Liasby, who lives in Grange, said her 87-year-old grandfather Steve Saunders was distraught when he was told of the closure.

"Many of the residents have been in tears and nobody is sleeping," she said. "My grandfather loves it at Yewbarrow Lodge and there's a real sense of community.

"They all meet for coffee at 3pm and there are clubs and societies.

"Everyone is very frightened and they don't want to leave the area, and it has caused so much stress for relatives too."

Cllr James Airey, leader of Westmorland Conservatives, also expressed deep concern at the situation.

“This is an extremely worrying time for Yewbarrow Lodge residents," he said.

"Before any final decision is taken, I want South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) and Cumbria County Council to look at how transport links to the site could be improved and other measures to support the long-term future of Yewbarrow Lodge.

“I will also be looking to SLDC, which already provides funding to South Lakes Housing, to commit additional resources if required to ensure all options to rescue the scheme can be properly explored before a final decision is taken.”

SLH said the decision to close Yewbarrow Lodge had been made with great reluctance and that a relocation plan was in place to assist each resident.

“I can confirm that we have recently spoken with residents to inform them about the closure of Yewbarrow Lodge," said a statement from John Mansergh, SLH director of business assurance.

"We fully appreciate that this is very upsetting news. We have not rushed into this or taken the decision lightly.

"The fact is that we have struggled to find new tenants to fill the vacancies for several years and a third of the scheme is now empty.

"We have conducted in-depth market analysis about future demand and have reluctantly reached the conclusion that Yewbarrow Lodge no longer has a long term future as a sheltered scheme.

"Our priority is to talk to individual residents and their families face-to-face and provide them with advice and information about alternative housing options.

"We understand that this is an unsettling time but we will ensure that there is support and a package of financial assistance available to help residents move”.

The organisation said vacancies at the complex, which contains 30 flats and one house, had been advertised regularly with estate agencies, on the internet and via local community groups, but there had been a very limited response.

SLH added that it was believed the location of Yewbarrow Lodge on the top of a steep access road also contributed to the lack of interest.

The group said a relocation plan was now in place with each tenant having a named officer to assist them in finding suitable alternative accommodation.

Financial assistance is also available including a 'home loss payment' of £6,300 and disturbance payments to help with costs associated with moving.