Haggerston tenants 'in the dark' after scaffolding left up for a year

A obstructed view of a City Mills resident's balcony.

A obstructed view of a City Mills resident's balcony. - Credit: Caroline Little

Tenants have been living without sunlight in their flats for about a year, after scaffolding was installed by their landlord. 

Residents living at the City Mills development, comprised of several Haggerston buildings around Laburnum Road and managed by housing association L&Q, are living with the scaffolding obstructing balconies and windows, unsure as to when it will be removed. 

One tenant, Caroline Little, who lives in South Mill apartments told the Gazette hundreds of residents have been affected.

"It's absolutely awful here. 

"We are not allowed to use our balconies, I haven't been able to see the sky or get any sunlight in my flat for a year and I can't open my bedroom window," she said.

Housing Association L&Q is aware of concerns by residents and the impact it's had but maintains any scaffolding is as a "health and safety measure."

Scaffodling obstructs window.

Haggerston resident Caroline Little has not been able to open her bedroom window for about a year, due to the scaffolding erected outside her flat. - Credit: Caroline Little

But the leaseholder of a shared ownership property says people in the buildings, which also include Lock Mill, Capitol Mill and Canal Mill, feel ignored by their housing association which has not been able to tell them when the scaffolding will be removed. 

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Caroline added: "We are at a loss as what to do next. We are not being heard, they won't talk to us or tell us what's going on. We keep getting promised newsletters which we haven't seen."

She says the problems started last spring when, after a period of hot weather, the glazing on three top floor balconies shattered and fell down to the ground below. 

"Luckily, no-one was hurt," she said, adding that the scaffolding was put up as a precaution. 

Caroline understands why it was put up but believes solutions have been delayed as the building's developer, Taylor Wimpy, L&Q and other parties dispute liability.  

She said: "In the meantime you have hundreds of people like me that are literally in the dark."

A Haggerston flat and balcony obstructed by scaffolding.

Haggerston tenants at City Mills development have had their sunlight blocked during the pandemic by scaffolding installed about a year ago. - Credit: Caroline Little

It is alleged that as well as not being able to use balconies, windows or see the sky, residents' service charges and rents have increased and there are fire safety concerns about some decking on their balconies.

The issues have left some flats worthless with leaseholders unable to sell until remediation has taken place. 

Such concerns have led to the creation of a Twitter group called Homeowners of L&Q which now has thousands of followers from across London.

Leaseholders like Lucie Gutfreund have also been vocal about defects in L&Q buildings such as leaking balconies leading to damp and mould; and a malfunctioning door entry system.

She contacted the Kilburn Times in March after a window came loose from the fifth floor of her building and crashed on the pavement below: "I don't know when these blocks will ever be fixed and when flats will become saleable.

"It is a huge burden on all of us here.”

But L&Q maintains it is supporting leaseholders and shared ownership owners in selling their homes or obtaining mortgages by providing letters of assurance that actions are being taken.

The letters, L&Q says, have been used for sales and mortgage purposes for many residents, but is "aware each lender will make their own decisions".

Scaffolding on the outside of a building.

The scaffolding was installed on several L&Q buildings in the area after glazing fell from multiple balconies. - Credit: Caroline Little

An L&Q spokesperson said it is working with developer Taylor Wimpey to agree a programme of works and timeline to remove the scaffolding and fix potential fire safety issues. 

They apologised for the length of time the scaffolding has been up and explained that the structures were installed as a health and safety measure, to remain until the glazing on the affected buildings' balconies has been replaced. 

The spokesperson added: "We understand the impact this has on our residents not receiving natural light, but the health and safety of our residents must be paramount."

“We send regular written communications to update our residents in these blocks and are due to send the latest update out in the next few weeks.”

The company says it follows rules set by the government when calculating changes to rent each year and the rules are dependent on the type of property. 

L&Q also states that it does not make a profit from service charges, the estimates of which are based on contracts and costs from previous years.  

A Taylor Wimpey spokesperson added: “At Taylor Wimpey we take our responsibilities seriously and have been working closely with L&Q to resolve this issue as effectively and efficiently as possible to ensure the safety of residents.”

A view of a City Mills resident's balcony.

Taylor Wimpey built the City Mills development which was then handed over to the freeholder, L&Q, in 2016. - Credit: Caroline Little