A couple born and raised in Bracknell have been left homeless after not realising they wouldn’t be allowed on the council’s housing register following a long stay away.

Richard and Zena Plenderleith both lived in Bracknell for the first three decades of their lives, and still have family here – but say their attempts to find housing have been ‘soul-destroying.’

After coming home from working away as a gardener for some 32 years, Mr Plenderleith hoped his local roots would make him eligible for housing through the council.

But Bracknell Forest Council rules say a resident needs to have lived in the borough for four continuous years before they can get on the register.

READ MORE: Silva Homes tenant says £50 energy bills voucher is a ‘joke’

Mr Plenderleith told the News: “It’s just a bit soul destroying. I was born in Bracknell – probably third or fourth generation. I worked in Bracknell, was educated in Bracknell, married in Bracknell – my wife comes from Bracknell.

“I just can’t see that living here for 35 years, being born here, and you get no kind of recognition for that.”

Mr Plenderleith said that he and his wife moved away when he was 34 years old as gardening work in the area dried up.

They’ve been living in accommodation tied to his work as a gardener in various locations ever since. Now, aged 66, Mr Plenderleith decided it was time to come home.

But a council spokesperson told the News that – like many other councils – Bracknell Forest needs applicants to have lived in the area for a certain period of time directly before applying.

The spokesperson pointed to government guidance that says social housing is a ‘scarce resource’ that should be restricted to people who have a ‘close association’ with their local area. The government believes this should include a period of at least two years residency.

Bracknell Forest Council did not explain why its requirement is for a stay of four years. But it noted that the council is considering reducing this to two years.

Mr and Mrs Plenderleith are now staying with his sister and her partner, on the sofa in their one bed flat. They say they have been given access to a home-finder for homeless people – but that options include accommodation as far away as Liverpool or Edinburgh.

And they say they can’t afford private renting – and are worried that this wouldn’t give them secure accommodation.

READ MORE: Teenagers on Bracknell housing list could be made to share bedrooms

Mr Plenderleith said: “We don’t want to jump any queues, we just want to be able to bid.”

The council spokesperson said: “The council has statutory duties to help households and persons threatened with, or those who are actually homeless.

“The council has an excellent record on homelessness prevention, with over 56 per cent of homeless prevention applications prevented from becoming homeless in the year to date.”

They added: “The lack of social housing is a national issue. However, accommodation in the private sector can often provide high-quality long-term homes, with other options available to households. These include low-cost home ownership schemes and shared ownership homes.”