CROYDON IN CRISIS: The council is effectively bankrupt, after lending £200m to a house-building firm that delivered just three purpose-built council homes in five years. Yet some of the council’s existing housing stock has been shamefully neglected, according to a TV report tonight
The living conditions in a couple of council flats in a tower block off Regina Road in South Norwood have been condemned as “dangerous squalor” and “appalling” in a devastating television news report due to air this evening.
“Before you even see the black mould and the damp inside the flats, you can smell it in the corridors,” ITV News reporter Dan Hewitt says.
“Not even the pictures you can see do justice to the dangerous squalor residents, some of them young children, have been forced to endure for months.”
One young mother, who is living in the flat with her two children, says that she has been ignored by her landlords, Croydon Council, for months despite repeated complaints and appeals for help.
ITV News will be broadcasting its report from Croydon at 6.30pm and in the News At Ten, claiming the flats to be “the worst housing conditions ever seen”.
But when the film goes out, it will have no one from Labour-controlled Croydon Council to offer any explanation. The council refused requests to put up someone for interview.
According to the ITV News report, the leaks in the flats have made family homes dangerous and uninhabitable. Complaints have been made since October 2019.
“The floors of the flat are now soaking wet; black mould has taken over the kitchen, rendering it unusable,” the ITV News report states.
Fransoy Hewitt lives on the ground floor of the council block with her two sons, aged five and seven.
To prevent the risk of electrocution, the fridge has been unplugged for more than three months. The ITV News report states, “She has no light in the bathroom, her sofa has been destroyed along with many of her children’s shoes and toys.
“The only room in the entire flat undamaged is the small bedroom the family of three cook, eat, play and sleep in.”
The young mum believes the state of the flat is making her children and herself sick. She has to put vapour rub on her youngest son’s chest to help him breathe at night.
She says that the way she has been treated by the council “makes me feel like I am not even human”.
At one point in the TV report, she says, “I’m not coping.
“There is only so much I can get angry, and pull my hair out – I just feel like I’m going to kill myself if I continue like that.”
Hewitt has kept a careful log of the calls she has made to Croydon Council. She says she has called the council at least 20 times since December, to no avail.
Then, on Friday, just hours after the council had been contacted by ITV News with an interview request over the appalling conditions the young mother and her children were having to endure, Hewitt and her boys were moved by the council to a hotel.
According to ITV News, the damage to the flats – Hewitt’s and that of her upstairs neighbour – is so bad it has been described by both the chief executive of the UK’s biggest housing charity, Shelter, and the former chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive as “the worst housing conditions they have ever seen”.
And environmental hygienist Jeff Charlton, called in by the television producer to pass his verdict on the flats, said, “It’s hard to believe this is Britain in 2021.”
Charlton’s report found, “Serious health hazard and danger to occupants”, “Risk of electrocution”, “That the long-term water ingress from the flat above is negligence on the part of landlord”, and several potential legal breaches including “landlord failure in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018″. There was additionally an unconfirmed “Potential exposure to asbestos”.
In a statement issued to the broadcasters, a spokesperson for Croydon Council said, “We were very concerned to learn of these issues at these properties, and the photographs we have seen show conditions that are clearly not acceptable.
“We are sorry that these residents have not had the level of care for their homes that they rightly expect, and we will be looking into what has happened as a matter of urgency.”
Tomorrow, exclusive to Inside Croydon: Read Fransoy Hewitt’s own account of her struggles to get Croydon Council to do something about the appalling conditions in her home
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