Family on 'horrendous' toll of living above building site for two years
- Credit: Polly Hancock
A family living above a building site for more than two years in South Hampstead say they have been stuck in a housing “nightmare”.
In 2017 plans were approved to excavate the basement of a property in Maresfield Gardens to build four homes.
During the construction works, which began in 2019, Gavin Bryan, 35, and his family have lived directly above in their first-floor property.
They say they have had to live through “constant” drilling and disruption, major cracks in the property, and no access to the garden.
The family’s grandmother, who was temporarily living there, had to move out due to the noise, Gavin said.
Maresfield Gardens No 9 Ltd, the freeholder, has agreed to conduct repair works to the Bryans’ home.
Gavin, who works as an estate agent in Islington, said: “This has been going on for the past two-and-a-half years and I’m exhausted.
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“I've actually just been signed on to anti-depressants because my doctors are saying that I'm under immense stress and everything.
“It’s put a whole strain on all of us. My six-year-old son has been sleeping with us in our bed for the past year-and-a-half now because when a crack went through his room he was too frightened to sleep there, as he thought the wall would fall down.”
The neighbouring flat could be seen through the largest crack, and Gavin says the structural issues caused by the works beneath have made it “impossible” to keep his home warm during the colder months.
“My gas bill gone up over £1,000,” he said. “I’m having to increase my direct debit to clear that all off.
“During that time there's been times when we had no electricity. There was a time when we had no gas because of a burst gas pipe.
“There were water issues when we had no water. Some of them were longer than 24 hours so we had to move out and stay with family because there was no gas.”
In October the 35-year-old year-old said his resolve was finally broken after personal belongings which had been stored in a loft for years were removed and discarded into a skip as part of the building works.
Camden Council had told the family to remove the possessions from the loft as they were not covered by the lease, but Gavin said no timeframe was given.
“I was literally devastated,” the father-of-two said. “The items that were in there were photos from my childhood.
“There was a video cassette from my grandfather’s funeral and I’m the only one who had a copy. All those things have gone.”
The site’s freehold is owned by Maresfield Gardens No 9 Ltd but the family are tenants of Camden Council, as the local authority owns the leasehold.
Gavin, whose wife grew up in Hampstead, says his family’s “horrendous” troubles have seen them “shunted” between the freeholder and leaseholder, leaving them feeling ignored and “disregarded”.
“We're exhausted of the complete battle going back and forth and fighting and not hearing, of nobody getting back to us,” he said.
In a joint statement the directors of Maresfield Gardens No 9 Ltd (MG), Esther Mandell and Elaine Curtis, said: “The development at Maresfield Gardens is actively project managed by QR Architects (QR) on behalf of MG.
“QR have confirmed that ‘all the required communication with residents, council tenants, party wall surveyors and engineers related with the ground and lower ground floor works, were all the time issued on time and followed up accordingly. All engineers involved in this project assessed closely the cracks, although structural, the building was never considered unsafe for the flat occupation’.
“We would also point out that the project was managed meticulously during the Covid pandemic having regard to all health and safety requirements.”
A Camden Council spokesperson said: “The freeholder has now offered our tenant alternative accommodation while they carry out repair works.
“We will be talking to our tenant about next steps – we are here to assist them with their move if they take up this option, or to work with them to find an alternative to improve their current living situation.”