Tower block residents have had to put up years of with leaks, mould and fungus – and are furious nothing was done until they highlighted that the cracks which caused them might be a fire risk.
Families living in high-rise flats on the Ledbury Estate in Peckham are complaining about poorly maintained housing and lack of council action. But they hope that will now change, after they pointed out the cracks mean any fire in the high-rise will spread easily – because flames can burn through them.
The blocks were designed so that all the heat from a blaze is blocked from spreading to other flats because they are sealed, self-contained compartments – othewise known as “compartmentalisation”.
The council has improved its work on the four 13-storey buildings in recent years, residents say but is let down by response times and quality of work. Milton Clarke, 54, said: “It was terrible. People used to use the stairs as toilets.
“Overall I don’t think it’s a good place to be living in, because there’s too much to be done.”
Filler in the walls designed to keep moisture out and insulate homes was replaced just six months ago but people are still noticing leaks in their walls and ceilings, especially when it rains. “It’s still a problem now, It’s getting mouldy. Sometimes you wonder if the ceiling’s going to collapse.
“When new people moved in and they complained to people on our floor, thinking we overflowed the sink. But it’s not us – it’s above us.”
Families are also concerned about the hygiene of the buildings, built in the 1960s. Frank Reed, 63, said: “I have a mate who lives in Peterchurch House and you could see he had fungi growing and mushrooms in the bathroom.
“I’ve seen it in the corner, they look like toadstools.”
There are now wardens in all four buildings tasked with alerting other members to a fire, after London Fire Brigade experts inspected the building last week to see what work needs to be done to make it safer in the event of a fire, following the Grenfell Tower fire which killed at least 80 people. Consultants Arup were providing structural expertise for Southwark council inspectors in the blocks.
Not all residents are dissatisfied – Gerry Clark, 59, has lived in Sarsfield House on the estate for 27 years.
He said: “We’ve had major work done over the last four years. There’s been a lot of work. “I love living there. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t stay.”
Councillor Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing, said: “Leaks and repair issues are not uncommon in any of our larger estates, and our repairs services respond to each individual call-out, as well as our major works team looking at longer-term solutions to ongoing issues.
“We were aware that there were historic leaks and dampness to the blocks on Ledbury Estate which has been contributed to by wear and tear of internal pipes.
“This has been addressed by the council during the major works contract which included the renewal and modernisation of waste pipes.”