CROYDON IN CRISIS: An estimated £100,000 has been spent so far repairing council flats in South Norwood. But tenants and their representatives are concerned about the poor standard of the works.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Nearly 18 months since the appalling state of council flats in Regina Road caused a national scandal when exposed on national television, and some of Croydon’s tenants there report that their accommodation continues to be seriously sub-standard.
This is despite Croydon Council spending around £20,000 to fix the problems of leaks, damp and mould in just one of the flats.
The council has gone ahead with these works across the blocks, despite a report from independent surveyors last year that suggested that two of the three Regina Road tower blocks would struggle to meet Decent Homes Standards.
The council blocks on Regina Road, just off South Norwood High Street, were built in the 1960s by Wates; there are another 10 similar Wates blocks elsewhere in the borough.
The Regina Road blocks are 11 storeys tall and originally provided 44 flats in each.
Earlier this summer, one Regina Road family was rehoused – transferred from one damp and mouldy flat in block 58-108A to what was supposedly a refurbished flat in block 1-87, in a what council housing wonks describe as a “temporary decant”.
Despite assurances that all necessary work had been carried out in a £20,000 programme of works on the property, the family have already had to report broken window catches, water leaks in the kitchen and a faulty hot water system.
The flat has been subject to a visit from council staff in the housing repairs department together with Les Parry, a council tenant who serves as the vice-chair of the independent tenant and leaseholder panel that was established in the wake of the scandal last year.
“When visiting the refurbished flat, it was apparent that yet again both contractor and council had failed,” Parry told Inside Croydon.
During his visit, Parry also inspected another flat in the block, where contractors were still at work. He says that he found the contractors had created unsafe conditions and “a hazardous situation”, with power tools, sharp equipment and building materials left in the block’s foyer, blocking access to the homes.
The works have gone ahead despite an independent surveyors’ report last November, commissioned by the council to look at the condition of the buildings.
Rodge and Partners’ report said, “The assessment has concluded that a programme of repair works is required to key components across all three blocks, including roofs, external walls, windows and doors.
“Ridge and Partners believe that all three blocks would not meet Decent Homes Standards,” the report said.
Parry has raised his own concerns with the council. “I have made strong representations to the council on the issues of mould and damp treatment in the blocks and have asked what this entails,” Parry said.
“I have also asked what products are being used, do they have guarantees or warranties, and who is carrying the work out as this work will affect people’s health.”
Parry says that the council has told him that the work being done is for mould treatment only and “there were no guarantees or warranties on the products being used”.
With residents in the Regina Road blocks having been failed by the previous Labour administration, Parry is concerned that the new council under Mayor Jason Perry has “failed to involve tenants in the decisions made on this programme”.
Parry said, “There’s no clear lifespan for the treatments being used, so it’s very likely that the mould will return. The council has not commissioned any treatments for damp.
“At an approximate cost of £20,000 per flat, I approximate that current repairs expenditure is standing at in excess of £100,000 from the Housing Revenue Account. This is the people’s money, but there’s been no consultation of the tenant and leaseholder panel about this expenditure.”
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This is terribly disappointing news. The Council has at least demonstrated its willingness to fulfil its duties under the recently adopted Residents Charter, but it has laid bare its own crass incompetence to take properly thought-out action.
I repeat comments that I have made here before … that the Council should appropriate blocks of recently and almost completed flats (and especially those owned by Brick by Brick) in order to rehouse immediately residents of Regina Court whose properties are in a dire state. Surely they have emergency powers to do this? But if not, then surely the investors who own the new blocks will co-operate with the Council by giving their permission?
I worked in the building industry for over forty years, which included carrying out repairs/upgrading to council flats. This involved a schedule of work needed for each flat, a specification for the standard of work required, and checks before payment was made that works have been carried out in accordance with the contract. Omitting any of these stages results in shoddy workmanship, which has to be repaired again and again, costing far more than doing it correctly first time.
Have the Council got these procedures in place?