More than 800 people have signed a petition in support of a breast cancer survivor who is facing having to leave the home she has lived in for more than 50 years.

Heather Gray, who has lived in the same property in Pickford Hill, Batford, for 53 years, has been told by St Albans District Council she has to move out.

The council says Miss Gray "has no automatic right of succession" to stay in the home following the death of her mother last year - and there is a long waiting list of families in need of a home.

Miss Gray, who works as a full-time receptionist for the NHS in Sandridge, has lived in the council-owned three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Harpenden since she was eight.

She lived there with her parents, and continued living there with her mother after her father passed away in 1987.

In recent years, Miss Gray's mother became housebound after she was diagnosed with Parkinson's.

Miss Gray juggled her job with being her mother's carer until her mother passed away in October 2020.

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Heather Gray's home in BatfordHeather Gray's home in Batford

Since then, Miss Gray has remained in the home with her two "absolutely beautiful" Golden Retrievers, Darcy and Summer. But for months, she has known that the council intends to evict her from the property, for which she says she has been treated "appallingly" in the process.

Miss Gray said: "I totally understand there are families in need of a home like this, but because I'd lived here for 53 years, I thought the council would show discretion.

"I am being treated terribly, appallingly. The council is void of any compassion or empathy."

Miss Gray faced a "horrendous" challenge when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She underwent surgery and reconstruction and has thankfully made a recovery. Later, she would become her mother's carer while trying to keep down her job in the NHS.

The receptionist, who lives in the property with her Golden Retrievers, who she adores, says it is not an option for her to privately rent close to where she works, and she is also concerned that a property she has offered may not be suitable for her pets.

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Golden Retrievers Darcy and SummerGolden Retrievers Darcy and Summer

In a bid to gain support, Miss Gray started a petition aimed at St Albans District Council titled 'NHS worker - forced to leave her home of 53 years'.

She urged those who think it is "unacceptable" action by the council to sign, and more than 800 people have. She has also received support from a local councillor, Pip Liver, MP Bim Afolami, neighbours, and from a doctor.

Miss Gray said: "I've got absolutely nowhere to go. I can't live in a flat with two big dogs. I've continued to pay rent here and I thought the council would look at individual circumstances. The housing shortage is not my fault but I am being penalised for it.

"I applied to succeed the property but that failed and so did the appeal. It's morally wrong to uproot someone after 53 years. But perhaps worst of all, the lack of communication from the council absolutely stinks. They called me up a month after my mother died and the housing officer only calls up mentioning court proceedings.

"They are void of compassion".

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Heather enjoys gardening and the garden is full of lovely bright flowersHeather enjoys gardening and the garden is full of lovely bright flowers

The council's head of housing says she "sympathises" with Miss Gray but said the council has a waiting list of families in need of a three-bedroom home.

Karen Dragovic said: "Our Housing Review Panel considered this matter carefully at both their May and July meetings. When it comes to succession rights to local authority housing, these do not continue in perpetuity. Where succession rights have already been exercised, there is no automatic right of succession after that, and we always have to look at the housing needs of the people involved, as well as their circumstances.

"Family-sized council accommodation is scarce locally. We currently have over 150 families in housing need for 3 bedroomed accommodation on our waiting list, many of whom have been waiting for some time, and are living in difficult circumstances.

"While we sympathise with the lady concerned, and understand her point of view, we also have a duty to make the best possible use of available housing locally. Living in a smaller property does not stop people keeping pets - pets are allowed in council properties of all sizes."