EXCLUSIVE: New heaters have been promised by the middle of this month, as officials finally start to make changes for those living in ‘appalling’ conditions in South Norwood council flats. By STEVEN DOWNES
Families with more than two children living in overcrowded one- and two-bed council flats in Regina Road are to be moved to more suitable accommodation, in a major success for the campaigning work of local residents.
The “appalling” conditions of leaks and mould in the council-owned blocks in South Norwood caused a national scandal when exposed on ITV News in March.
The council has confirmed to Inside Croydon that the decision to rehome another 10 tenants has been agreed, in addition to the eight households who were found alternative accommodation earlier this year, soon after the TV news programme shamed Croydon Council into action.
The council has also undertaken to replace the inadequate storage heaters in all three blocks of Regina Road flats, works that it hopes to complete before the middle of this month, according to a Katharine Street source. The new heaters follow criticism from tenants that their homes are poorly insulated, and that they faced a winter of soaring heating bills.
In one case, a young mother was getting heating bills of up to £160 per month for her small flat.
“We’re doing everything we can,” a senior council figure said.
Before the damning exposé on television, residents said that they felt abandoned and ignored. Emails to council officials, to Axis, the repairs contractors, and the likes of Hamida Ali, the council leader, Alison Butler, the discredited former deputy leader, and local councillors such as Patsy Cummings or Clive Fraser, rarely getting an answer and never achieving any action.
Sources at the Town Hall suggest that some of the credit for the change in the council’s approach and pace of response is due to Patricia Hay-Justice, the councillor who took on the cabinet responsibility for housing just a few days before the Regina Road scandal hit the TV screens.
Over the weekend, the Regina Road Residents Support Group issued a statement in which they said, “It’s been a long, hard battle and it is by no means over yet.
“Last week Croydon Council agreed to rehouse families with more than two children, all of whom are living in cramped two-bed flats, suffering from damp and mould that is negatively impacting their health.
“The families will be given three-bed properties and will be moved in the next three to six months. This discretionary concession has been made outside of Croydon Council’s allocations policy. The council have agreed to review this policy and we hope this will result in adequately sized properties for all families across the borough.”
The support group also addressed the heating issues, stating that the provision “is completely unfit for purpose” across all three blocks.
“We have been informed that from mid-November all failing heaters will be replaced with new units.
“Whilst we are glad that some progress is being made, we know the battle is far from over. Rehousing families is not enough. Replacing uneconomical storage heaters with new uneconomical storage heaters is not enough.
“Croydon Council are now in possession of the independent survey into the condition of the blocks, and we keenly await both the results of the survey and the long-term plan the council have for the future of the blocks.”
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