Mould in baby's cot, mice infestation and damp-riddled flats leads to outcry from Hathersage Court neighbours
PUBLISHED: 13:34 18 September 2019
Newington Green neighbours say their estate is riddled with mould, damp and mice - and some demand it be "demolished" and rebuilt.
Earlier this month, the Gazette revealed Islington Council is carrying out precautionary works at Hathersage Court because it doesn't meet government safety standards and its structurally inferior 1970s "large panel system" build might not withstand a gas explosion.
But scores of people at the 72-flat block say a hypothetical gas explosion is the least of their worries.
Paul Woods said: "I have got a kitchen that's falling apart and I'm infested with mice. If I cook something using oil, by the time the oil goes hot there are footprints in it.
"We like seeded bread. I left a seeded loaf on the side for half an hour and when I came back they had burrowed into it and only the seeds were left."
Chabina Begum has lived in her flat for seven years, during which time she's had a broken boiler and big crack in her balcony through which rain water seeps into her house. She says she has no windows or ventilators in her bathroom despite her son being asthmatic.
"My carpet is rotten," she said. "My son has a rash with infected skin from mould spores. I haven't had anybody in my house for two years because I'm embarrassed."
She claims a housing officer said her family would be moved into temporary accommodation two or three weeks ago but this hasn't happened. A man came around to lay poison for the mice on Monday last week but allegedly refused to work in the bathroom because the mould was too dangerous. Since then, Chabina and her kids have been staying with a friend in south London and travelling back to Islington every morning for the school run.
"When the kids bathe they have told me to close the door so the moisture doesn't travel into the flat," she added. "But it's dangerous. They have asthma. All my furniture has to be thrown away. I have mould on my fire alarm."
Chabina says scaffolding was erected on her balcony four or five months ago but now workers can't remove it as it's not structurally safe for them.
Tracy Falcone shares a room with her three youngest children, while the older two have their own rooms. She said: "I had mould in my baby's cot. I turned her mattress every week and once there was a big black patch of mould where her body was. Because it was a travel cot I had to throw everything away."
She'd also had mould in her cupboard and her wallpaper is peeling off from the damp. She brought a dehumidifier and has been running it "20 hours a day", during which time it "sucks about a litre of water".
"I think it's disgusting they are not dealing with the problems," she said, "It's like they're putting plasters on and dealing with each flat individually rather than as a whole".
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Denise Daniels said she has problems with mould, mice and asbestos in her flat, where she's been living for 45 years.
She said: "It's wrong they are all falling down. I think they should be demolished and start again, like the Packington Estate."
Mohamed Turay said he's had problems with damp and leaks for the past two-and-a-half years and says every time the council sends someone to fix the problems it just happens again a few weeks later.
"Right now, as I'm talking to you, we have a leak coming into the kitchen," he told the Gazette. "It's disgusting. There is lots of mice too - that's common."
Afrim Spanca added: "The problem is the bedroom where my kids sleep - the floor is damp. If they put their socks [on the carpet] they get wet. All the clothes and the furniture smell."
Helen Aviles was moved into temporary accommodation in Holloway in April due to her flat's state of disrepair, and hasn't been told when she can return.
She said the leak in her flat was so bad at one point that "mushrooms were growing everywhere". She was wrongly charged council tax on both Hathersage Court and her temporary flat in Holloway, but the council has now fixed the error, and is clearing her account and giving her a month free to say sorry.
Helen said: "All my stuff is in storage. They said work would last six to eight weeks in April. I'm still there. I don't have a date for when I'm moving back."
Beatrice Bernard, who's lived there for 30 years, said: "For a year now there has been water coming from upstairs. [...] Every time [they] have a shower, soapy water comes into my kitchen. I pay my rent every month without fail."
Islington Council's housing chief Diarmaid Ward said: "We know that there are some ongoing damp and mould problems in Hathersage Court.
"We sympathise with residents and are doing everything we can to address the situation. "We've also been working closely with residents recently on some important gas safety works, and as part of that close engagement we are actively investigating all other repair and maintenance issues and looking at what improvement works can be done.
"We know that the ongoing work in the building is frustrating for residents and we are undertaking works as quickly as we can."
Islington Council encourages neighbours to contact its repairs team and pest control officers if they're experiencing issues. It claims it has only had one request for pest-proofing at Hathersage Court since 2017.
The council did not directly respond when asked if, given the issues of structural safety, damp, mould and mice, it would be easier to knock the block down and start again.
Hathersage Court is the only one of Islington's LPS buildings that doesn't meet government safety criteria.