Residents object to Covid-19 testing site set up in Stamford Hill Estate
PUBLISHED: 14:27 04 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:56 09 November 2020
Protect Sandford Court
Hackney residents think it “is totally unacceptable” that a Covid-19 testing centre has been set up inside their Stamford Hill estate.
People living at Sandford Court, a small 55-flat residential council estate near Abney Park, claim Hackney Council gave only 12 hours notice before setting in motion plans to build the testing centre.
Campaign group Protect Sandford Court, launched to fight against the test centre, has asked the mayor of Hackney, Phillip Glanville, to work with them to find an alternative testing site in Stamford Hill.
Sandford Court resident William Gzowski said: “In Hackney, there are three testing stations up and running at the moment and they are all in municipal car parks, nowhere near residential areas, but this one is right in a residential area where elderly people, vulnerable people, children and mothers are using the walkways.
“It’s totally unacceptable.”
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William said the testing site has blocked some of the estate’s entry points, children’s playgrounds and a shared allotment.
The 70-year-old called the testing site a “travesty” and suggested several alternative sites, such as a “massive space” behind Wilmer Car Park, a car park belonging to synagogue Torah Etz Chaim on Lordship Road, an ex-Post Office depot building in Manor Road or the John Scott Health Centre in Green Lanes.
“None of these sites listed above will impact on residential use as is proposed at Sandford Court where the impact on life of the residents is major,” said William.
“I now have entry barriers outside my kitchen window.”
Protect Sandford Court launched a petition objecting to the creation of the testing site and it collected more than 150 signatures in three days.
The group has organised community meetings and led discussions with Hackney Council.
Chairperson and Sandford Court campaigner Keisha, who would prefer to only use her first name, said: “As a key worker, I know about sacrifice in these difficult times. But putting a Covid testing centre in a dense residential area, so close to the front doors of elderly people, is too big a sacrifice to ask.
“A new test centre is needed.
“Our petition has united our diverse communities, white, Black, Jewish, Asian and many more, in the belief that it must be relocated. Our campaign team has already found a number of potential new sites for Hackney Council to look at. We hope Mayor Glanville lives up to his commitment to us and protects Sandford Court.”
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But the council says Sandford Court residents were made aware of the proposals for the testing station as soon as they were confirmed with the Department of Health and Social Care.
It says it has engaged with them continually since then to address concerns and ensure the facility causes as little disruption as possible and does not pose a health risk to residents.
Cllr Chris Kennedy, cabinet member for health, adult social care and leisure, said: “Stamford Hill is already a coronavirus hotspot and has among the highest infection rates in London and the UK.
“A seven-day-a-week testing station in the area will ensure local people can get a test when they need it, support those who need to self-isolate to do so quickly and stop the spread of the virus, and – most importantly – help save lives.
“The decision to use space at Sandford Court follows in-depth consideration of every potential site for a testing station in the area, and thorough efforts to mitigate the impact on neighbours.
“This will be one of a number of testing sites across Hackney, all of which have been installed and operated safely, and we will use this experience to ensure the facility does not pose a public health risk to Sandford Court residents.”
The testing centre opened on November 2 and will be in place for a minimum of 13 weeks, but potentially longer if need continues.
However, the council says it will continue to search for an alternative location and if one becomes available, it will look to move the testing station after the initial 13-week period.
It says Sandford Court is the only option currently available which meets the criteria needed.
These include being local to Stamford Hill for easy access by foot; accessible seven days a week and throughout the day; able to accommodate separate entry and exit points; on a hard surface so as to not be affected by the weather; and not a risk to local residents or members of the public.
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Sites cannot open without NHS approval certifying that the testing station does not pose an increased risk to the safety of members of the public.
#ProtectSandfordCourt is a campaign group of Sandford Court residents, users of Sandford Court play area and Allen Gardens, and local neighbour and community organisations in Stamford Hill, dedicated to moving the Covid testing centre from Sandford Court to a location that is not in a dense residential area.
Follow the campaign on Twitter at @sandfordcourt
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