Hackney residents fear serious injury or death before housing concerns are taken seriously
Julia Gregory, LDRS
- Credit: Julia Gregory LDR
Residents fear they will only be listened to if there is a death or serious injury at their block of flats in Homerton – which they claim is in a “desperate state of disrepair”.
People living at Gilby House on the council’s Wyke estate worry that some of the problems are “life-threatening”.
They say they have complained to the council and to the Wyke tenant management organisation (TMO) for several years.
In a letter to the council they warned: “The many risks that we are being exposed to are a health issue, some with long term effects and other hazards a potential threat to life.
“For example, a broken pane of glass from the walkway balcony on the seventh floor fell to the ground floor, which could have resulted in serious injury or death."
One resident said: “We are living in unsafe, unhygienic facilities and being ignored by the authorities responsible.
“There was a dead pigeon hanging from nets by our bike storage for over a week, [and] the council said it had been cleared even though it was still there.”
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She added that there are also concerns that the condition of the building is affecting would-be buyers’ prospects of getting a mortgage.
One leaseholder said: “We can’t sell the flat because of the state of the building.”
The catalogue of concerns includes damage to three communal fire doors designed to withstand fire and smoke for up to an hour, insecure internal locks, external drains which do not connect, damage to handrails, and broken netting which means pigeons can get in.
In their letter, residents stated: “After the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, it is clear to us that residents of social housing are potentially at severe risk and often ignored by authorities when concerns are raised, with catastrophic consequences.
“Is it only when someone gets seriously injured or killed that we will be listened to?”
The Grenfell Inquiry has considered the way residents of the 24-storey tower block in west London were treated by the Kensington and Chelsea TMO and the building’s owner, Kensington and Chelsea Council, when they raised concerns about the building.
The latest fire risk assessment from May 2021 noted that "a serious problem with anti-social behaviour" resulted in damage to fire doors in the building.
The LDRS showed photographs of three fire doors on the stairwells to fire engineer Jason Hill.
Based on these photographs, he said: “The doors while damaged would provide some purpose, however because they are damaged the claim for the duration of protection would be compromised.”
He said the doors should be on a register and they should be maintained and checked and any damage should be repaired.
The building has a ‘stay put’ policy which relies on the effectiveness of fire doors and instructs residents "not directly affected" by a fire to remain in their flats until told to evacuate by fire and rescue services.
A council spokeswoman responded: “Fire safety of our blocks is of utmost importance to us.”
Council staff from property and asset management, residents’ safety, antisocial behaviour, building maintenance and housing management teams did a walk-around in April and drew up a plan of action.
The TMO also worked with police over concerns about antisocial behaviour last year to try to resolve the issue.
In February, the council told residents it had dealt with issues including “a lack” of fire signs and had replaced or repaired “electrics which were in a poor condition” on a secondary means of escape from the building.
The council spokeswoman said: “The Wyke estate is run by a tenant management co-operative which is responsible for repairs.
"However, due to concerns raised with residents, and also as our responsibility as a landlord on the estate, we have been working closely with the TMO to fix the issues raised by residents.
“We have carried out a number of inspections of the estate and have put an action plan in place to monitor progress.”
She said the council is working with the TMO to get these issues completed.
She added: “The scaffold has now been removed which means we can progress reinstating the pigeon netting and removing the bird fouling.”