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Islington’s historic St Mary’s Path Estate could be flattened ‘because of damp issues’

PUBLISHED: 14:07 11 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:57 11 October 2017

Residents of St Mary's Path Estate, from left: Patrick Rodwell, Jean Rodwell, Yadilene Vallejo, St Mary's vicar Rev Simon Harvey, Sidney Rodwell, Jackie Hughes and Maureen Roberts. Picture: Polly Hancock

Residents of St Mary's Path Estate, from left: Patrick Rodwell, Jean Rodwell, Yadilene Vallejo, St Mary's vicar Rev Simon Harvey, Sidney Rodwell, Jackie Hughes and Maureen Roberts. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

People who have lived on an Islington estate their whole life have been told they may be forced out of their homes.

St Mary's Path Estate resident Jean Rodwell. Picture: Polly HancockSt Mary's Path Estate resident Jean Rodwell. Picture: Polly Hancock

Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA) says it has drawn up five options to rid the St Mary’s Path Estate of persistent damp problems – including demolishing it completely.

Some of the 103 homes have been lived in by the same families since they were built 70 years ago, and many social tenants are fearful of the plans.

They have until November 9 to pick a preferred option, but say they have no idea which ones will force them to move out.

The estate is in a hugely desirable area, yards from the trendy shopping district of Upper Street.

Jean Russell, 75, has lived there her whole life. “We don’t know what’s going on,” she told the Gazette. “We don’t know what these options entail or whether they mean you have to move out. It could just be replacing windows and doors, but it could be a lot worse.

St Mary's Path Estate resident Jackie Hughes. Picture: Polly HancockSt Mary's Path Estate resident Jackie Hughes. Picture: Polly Hancock

“We had one meeting in July and now there’s three sessions at the church to pick an option. But most people don’t want to pick an option until they have more information.

“There’s damp problems on the ground floor of this block but they’re intermittent. I’ve been here since the war. My flat overlooks the church and the park and that’s my daily view. I don’t want to be put somewhere else strange now. My husband is in his 80s and I’m 75 – we thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives here.

“We all know one another and quite a few of us have been here since we were kids. It would be breaking up a community if they move us out.

“They say there’s no guarantee you will get your flat back.”

Norma Vasquez, 69, who has lived on the estate for 30 years, thinks damp problems are being used “as an excuse” for ISHA to redevelop the estate.

"My husband is in his 80s and I’m 75 – we thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives here"

Jean Russell

She said: “It’s all unnecessary. I had damp in my flat across the way, and I had it here. It took them two years to sort it, but they did a good job.”

“They know this is a nice area, especially with the shopping centre opening, and they could make nice expensive flats here.”

ISHA did not respond to the Gazette’s requests for comment, but its website states: “Over the years a number of customers have made complaints about damp, defects and general wear and tear.

“ISHA has previously responded on a case by case basis. However, with the persistence of damp and the age of the buildings ISHA Board thought it prudent to review the entire estate. This will involve financial investment to address damp as a whole and eradicate it completely, as well as to provide the properties with at least a further 30-year lifespan. This consultation is putting the customer voice at the centre of informing the decision.”

The first option being consulted on by ISHA is to simply refurbish the whole estate, which would cost £6.1million over 30 years.

Rev Simon Harvey has said the estate residents need more information.Rev Simon Harvey has said the estate residents need more information.

Two options would see the estate refurbished but add new homes, the first including nine new-builds on top of the existing flats – none of them affordable. That would cost £9.1m. The second includes 23 additional homes with half affordable, at a cost of £12.2m.

The last two possibilities would see the whole estate flattened and rebuilt. The first would see 137 new homes built but not with the same mix of home types, and would cost £26m. The second would rebuild the estate with the same mix of housing, creating 116 homes and costing £23.5m.

Other people the Gazette spoke to on the estate, whose homes were riddled with damp, were more welcoming of the plans. But Revd Simon Harvey of St Mary’s Church, a stakeholder in the consultation, agrees ISHA needs to be clearer about what each one involves.

He said: “We are talking about not just the future of the estate, but people’s lives.

“It’s really important the residents are listened to and given good information so their comments are informed. There’s a lot of anxiety.”

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