CROYDON IN CRISIS: Angry at being ignored and ‘left in limbo’, new residents’ group hints at a class legal action against their landlords as they claim that the council was considering demolishing the South Norwood tower blocks 20 years ago. By STEVEN DOWNES
Dozens of residents in council-owned blocks on Regina Road have demanded an urgent meeting with Hamida Ali, the leader of Croydon Council, telling her that they “have had enough”.
In a letter sent today, the newly-formed Regina Road Residents’ Support Group hints at taking a class legal action against the council and says, “We have suffered with these appalling conditions, some of us for 16 years.”
In their criticism of council staff and repair contractors, Axis, the residents say that they have been made to “… feel patronised and less than human in the way you talk to us.
“Many of us feel discriminated against. Many of us have been made to feel that we should be grateful for these intolerable conditions.”
The residents are among those whose water-damaged and mould-plagued council flats featured in ITV News reports last month that caused a national scandal. The sodden flats were condemned as “dangerous squalor”. The head of a housing charity described the council homes in South Norwood as “the worst housing conditions ever seen”.
Councillor Ali and the council have tried to suggest that the problems in the flats are recent and limited to a few properties in just one of the blocks.
But the residents’ letter, withering in its criticism of the council and its repair contractors, portrays an entirely different situation, even claiming that the council had condemned the buildings for demolition 20 years ago.
Now, 57 of the households from all three of the 1970s-built blocks on Regina Road have formed a support group. In their letter to the Labour-controlled council’s leader, they say that some of them have been complaining about their living conditions for 16 years but that they have been ignored.
They even accuse Ali of posing outside the tower blocks for self-promoting photographs: “We saw you taking selfies outside our block on Easter weekend – you didn’t enter the flats or speak with any residents but instead you used it as an opportunity to look like you were engaging with us. How do you think this makes us feel?”
They say, “We have been ignored or left in limbo and demand that you meet with us so that we can speak to you directly about the conditions of our homes.
“An ITV News piece showed you the horrific state that some of us live in. We hoped that this would change things but we are still being ignored and now we have had enough.”
In the immediate aftermath of Croydon Council being approached by TV journalists for an on-the-record comment about the state of the Regina Road flats, it took five days before Councillor Ali agreed to give an interview.
She claimed then that she had been unaware of the appalling conditions tenants of her council were forced to live in.
When she appeared before the cameras, Ali promised an urgent investigation into the circumstances which would be published within two weeks.
This week, Ali has agreed to keep the report secret and under-wraps until after next months council by-elections. There are by-elections in South Norwood ward, where the Regina Road flats are located, and in neighbouring Woodside ward, which Ali represents.
For the residents’ support group, this is clearly not acceptable.
As far as Ali is concerned, “You haven’t done enough since the ITV News piece went out. The problem is not limited to the flats that were on the TV. All three blocks are affected by terrible mould, damp, disrepair, leaks and hazardous electrics.
“What happened to the downstairs floor flats was the tip of the iceberg of the conditions we have been living in for years.”
The letter claims that there are known to be serious structural issue issues with the blocks – something which, if true, could be a mammoth, borough-wide problem for the cash-strapped council, which has another dozen, similar residential blocks among its depleted social housing stock.
“Many of us have to clean wet, black mould off our walls every month, bathe our children in the dark, throw away our curtains, clothes and bed linen when it is covered in mould, share a bed with our children because we have no bedroom of our own, watch our children suffer with asthma and older residents suffer with chest infections, put up with regularly bursting pipes and leaks damaging our homes and the smell of sewage for weeks on end.
“Would you put up with living conditions like this for your own family?
“You said you wanted to speak with the Regina Road tenants – we want this too… We demand an urgent meeting with you and your senior team so that our voices can be heard and resolutions can be found that are fair for all of us, not just the few.”
Read more: Ali accused of cover-up over findings on council flats scandal
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
Read more: ‘Is it because the council don’t care? Where is their humanity?’
Read more: ‘Why do you appear not to know the answer to anything?’
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