30 May 2019
Lambeth Green Party have strongly criticised Lambeth Council for taking months to respond to a local pensioner living on the Fenwick Estate, after a neighbouring property was subject to severe flooding.
Conditions in the neighbouring property became so bad that mushrooms known as Peziza Domiciliana, known for causing the lung condition hypersensitivity pneumonitis, were found growing freely in the hallway on a bed of wet, rotting carpet and junk mail (pictured).
Gypsy Hill Green Party councillor, Pete Elliott was made aware of the property’s conditions on the 9th May while delivering leaflets in the area. He met the old lady’s son who informed him that numerous phone calls of complaint had been made to Lambeth Council about rainwater backing up from the drains in the neighbouring property, which routinely flowed through to his mother’s flat. All complaints had largely been ignored.
The lady’s bedroom furniture had been completely destroyed by the regular flooding and on this occasion, her kitchen had also been affected by flooding from the flat above which has also been abandoned by Lambeth Council. She informed Councillor Elliott that she had been forced to sleep on her living room sofa for several months due to the loss of her bed which was thrown away due to the damage caused.
Councillor Elliott commented: “I became aware of the problem at 5:30pm, and immediately raised a high priority call with the Council and was twice assured that somebody would be out to deal with the problem within 2-4 hours.
I had asked to be kept informed but at 23:45 I phoned a third time and was told that the messages had not been passed from the day staff to the emergency out of hours team. Sadly, the incompetence continued.
Despite twice emphasising the fact that the problem was coming from the neighbouring flats, someone arrived at three in the morning without any access to those flats. They woke the elderly lady who was tired and confused and who cut her finger on her damaged door - another repair that the council had failed to fix. Another similarly fruitless and disturbing visit was attempted at 7am.
It wasn’t until I arranged to meet the lady’s son at 11am the following morning outside her flat that we were both able to finally get Lambeth to take some action. After a further 90 minutes of phone calls council staff arrived and we finally got access to the neighbouring flat which had literally been left to rot - the smell was overpowering. On looking around the property, the sheer scale of the neglect hit us, along with that awful smell which you could taste for hours afterwards [pictured]. This wasn’t a sudden occurrence. This was the result of years of needless oversight and neglect.
If I hadn’t been made aware of the problem and shown persistence, I genuinely believe this issue would have continued for a lot longer. As it is, three weeks later the neighbouring property still has not been fully cleared out, none of the promised repairs have been done and nor has any of her furniture been replaced. Lambeth are quite rightly promoting the duty of care private landlords in the area should subscribe to , but have obviously fallen way short of their own tenants on the Fenwick estate and other estates that the council has targeted for demolition. This old lady is not alone with problems in her block, as other vulnerable tenants have had similar issues with an abandoned neighbouring home that has flooded causing widespread damage.
The suspicion amongst residents is that the council is deliberately running the estates down around residents to make lives so miserable that they are forced to move out. This is having a noticeable effect on the mental health of residents. Indeed, since raising this issue council staff from the ‘Regeneration’ team have been around to try to persuade her to leave.
There is never any excuse for leaving vulnerable members of the community sleeping on their sofas in inhuman accommodation. This lady has contributed to society her whole life and has been paying full rent on this flat for the last 27 years She deserves to be listened to and treated with considerably more respect.
The Fenwick Estate is one of six of Lambeth Council’s estates that has been earmarked for demolition , meaning that maybe half of the flats are presently empty. I have been trying to understand the scale of the problem for the last year but the council refuses to give the Green Councillors regular updates on the numbers of empty properties.
At the same time that the council is losing income and worsening the housing crisis due to this mismanagement of their property portfolio, we are still awaiting answers to dozens of questions about the Homes for Lambeth business plan that was voted for by Labour Cabinet Members on 4 March 2019  .”
Homes for Lambeth is the private company that the council has set up to complete the demolition and rebuild of its housing estates.