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A homes shortage but flat is left empty for 18 months

05 July, 2019

Holly Park estate: ‘Instead of improvements we’re seeing negligence and decline’

• ON December 2, 2017, a large window fell from the bathroom of a flat above ours on the Holly Park estate, crashing onto our patio and narrowly missing a neighbour who was cleaning his car. We, of course, reported it to the council immediately. The block caretaker was also present.

We have since been told that the council has no record of our report, that it is not the job of the caretaker to report it, and it is not the job of the estate services manager (on his regular estate inspections) to notice missing windows.

The flat in question has been empty since that New Year – 18 months to date – and the window was only recently replaced, leaving the bathroom open to the elements for two winters.

The council has admitted that windows on our estate have been failing since 2013. But it was only in October 2018 (an unconfirmed report suggesting it was when a councillor’s car was damaged by a falling window) that “emergency scaffolding” was hastily erected in front of several blocks on the estate, including our own.

A letter informed us that it was there as a safety measure while windows were inspected and repaired, and that it would remain in place for 14 days. Inspections and repairs took place that month, but the scaffolding then stayed up for the whole of the winter, with no other work done, and despite the repairs team telling us that our windows were safe.

Four months later, in February this year, leaseholders received a section 20 notice of “cyclical works” on windows. In a meeting at Brickworks on February 27 we were told that work would begin on tenants’ windows immediately, and that once the leaseholders’ consultation period was up on March 27 there would be an eight-week programme of works.

We are now nearly six weeks beyond that eight-week programme: our patio plants are dying or have died from lack of sunlight. Sitting on the patio to the front of our flat to enjoy the evening sunshine when we get home from work is not an option.

At the rear of our flat we look onto a communal grass area. This was fenced off last October and now sports weeds five feet tall. For two of those eight weeks, the phone number to arrange appointments for visits was unobtainable because someone was on holiday.

The scaffolding spans just seven flats on our block. There are another seven flats above us. So the council has made us endure this scaffolding for all that time for the sake of making safe the windows of just 14 flats.

Leaseholders have been told we are liable to pay nearly £1,700 for the work on our properties, but the visit to inspect and make good our own home took just two hours, during which two workers from Mears replaced just seven hinges (the new ones cost under £4 each online), and one handle (the new one is so cheap and nasty it’s already sticking).

On June 8, residents from all seven of our flats signed a petition asking for action to remove the scaffolding. This was sent to the project manager and to our ward councillor, Richard Watts, Islington Council leader, who we invited to come and see the condition of our patios and the communal area at the rear.

The project manager responded with a partial and misleading response to our questions, but he did promise to remove the majority of the scaffolding “over the next week”. That promise was made nearly three weeks ago, and there has been no action, and no further information.

No one appears able or willing to tell us how the scaffolding is being paid for despite various requests. Cllr Watts has not even given us the courtesy of an acknowledgement or reply, let alone the requested visit.

Holly Park estate was promised money for improvements when the council built new private homes in place of a car park and community centre. Instead of improvements we’re seeing negligence and decline.

Window maintenance which should have occurred as needed over years is now being passed off as major works to fleece leaseholders like us who have already paid for our windows to be maintained through our service charge.

The private development on the estate was foisted on us because the council said it was desperate for new homes – Cllr Watts was very persuasive on this point. But that very same council has left a three-bedroom council flat above us vacant and with a missing window open to the elements for 18 months. I have heard of other void properties being left for more than a year nearby. How can this happen?

I’m sure if Cllr Watts had expensive scaffolding blocking the light and infringing his outdoor space at the front of his property for eight months, and he was paying a gardener who was growing 5ft weeds in his back garden, he’d have a lot to say about it. A pity then he has had nothing to say to residents who’ve signed a joint petition to him complaining about the same.

RIKKI BLUE
Holly Park estate, N4

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