HEYGATE ESTATE–Heating and hot water system ‘permanently switched off’!

Heygate tenants and their families on a South-East London Council of Action demonstration starting from the estate, to keep council housing and stop the sell-off of Heygate and Aylesbury estates under the Southwark Council’s regeneration plans
Heygate tenants and their families on a South-East London Council of Action demonstration starting from the estate, to keep council housing and stop the sell-off of Heygate and Aylesbury estates under the Southwark Council’s regeneration plans

ANGRY tenants still living on the Heygate Estate in south-east London say the shutdown of the hot water and heating system last Friday is part of an ongoing campaign to destroy the estate and hand over the land to private developers.

They are ‘incredulous’ and ‘flabbergasted’ by the latest letter from Southwark Council, run by a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Tories, which informs them: ‘Dear Occupant – Re: Heating and Hot Water – It is with regret I must inform you that due to a major burst on the Heygate Estate today the district heating and hot water system will be permanently switched off.

‘You will be supplied with alternative forms of heating and hot water as soon as possible . . .’

The letter urges tenants to phone one of two telephone numbers ‘to make an appointment for the contractor to attend your property.’

It adds: ‘Please also notify the officers above if you wish to make a claim for compensation for the period between this disconnection and the installation of your new supply.

‘Once again, with apologies on behalf of the London Borough of Southwark.’

The letter was signed by Margaret O’Brien, Head of Housing.

But tenants told News Line that during the very cold Christmas-winter period they were also left without heating and water, and, in at least one instance, with no electricity.

In addition, lifts in the main blocks are not working even though there are still tenants living on the top floors.

Mr Jobate and his son Peter told News Line on Saturday that they had no hot water or heating, but hadn’t received any letter.

‘We haven’t had heat or hot water today,’ they said.

‘If they cut the heating and water off now, then that’s unacceptable. That’s harassment.

‘They shouldn’t have closed the Heygate Estate in the first place.

‘In fact, the ones they’re trying to move us into are older than this. They just want this estate because it’s prime land.

‘They’d probably make a killing if it was turned into a car park.

‘If they’re going to knock council estates down, they should at least build new ones and build them before they knock the old ones down, so people like us are not put in this position.’

Peter added: ‘I can’t believe they’d be saying it’s for our benefit, because obviously it’s not.

‘That’s just got to be a joke.

‘This isn’t the first time the heating has been cut off,’ he continued.

‘On several occasions we have been with no heating, including during this winter, when it was freezing.

‘We were sent fan heaters, but they are very expensive.’

Michael Cole was also angry.

He said: ‘I received a letter when I came home from work on Friday evening, telling me that the heating and hot water have been “permanently’’ switched off.

‘I’m totally devastated, flabbergasted. It’s unbelievable.

‘But not only that, they’ve been doing this before, but now they’re going even further and saying it’s “permanent’’.’

He added: ‘I’ve got a daughter who’s asthmatic, I’ve got a father-in-law who lives here, who’s got a heart condition and has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder).

‘So there’s no water, no heating and I’m asthmatic as well.

‘The neighbours along here, they are all incredulous and they are getting very depressed as well because they are advancing in age.’

In his view, ‘It’s totally a bullying tactic, totally uncaring, and they tell you you’ve got to wait until at least May 5th to get an electric boiler.

‘They say they will put one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom, but it won’t be circulating throughout the house and it will be electric as well, so who’s going pay the bill?

‘There’s nothing wrong with the heating system, and we pay for that as well, it’s disgusting.

‘The case officer, Andrew, says he’s gone on holiday and he’s supposed to be in charge of the relocation team for remaining tenants.’

(A letter dated April 12 to Heygate residents, from Walworth Area Housing Office, from Housing Manager Tracy Keane-Jackson, informed tenants that Andrew Ashaye ‘has now taken over all issues relating to your move from the Heygate’).

Michael said: ‘This has been systematic.

‘We had heating cuts in the middle of winter, no hot water, no heating, continuously, and we’ve had more since then. They’re always doing it.

‘And every time you phone them up they say: is it the same for your neighbour. Always rude.

‘It’s atrocious in this day and age and we’re not squatters, we pay. It’s not acceptable.’

‘It’s terrible,’ said Mrs Baduna. ‘At least they should keep the hot water on.

‘You cannot have a bath, you cannot do the dishes.

‘And they say they’re going to come and put in a boiler and I spoke to somebody and they said they’re going to charge £600!’

She added: ‘They said to us the boiler burst.

‘One of our neighbours said that the engineers said they fixed the boiler but the council said not to put it on.

‘Who knows how many people live on the estate.

‘Now instead of trying to find us a place, they’re trying to hurt us on top. I don’t know why.

‘We’re paying our rent, we’re paying our hot water charge, we’re paying everything.

‘They’re supposed to find us a suitable place: I have asthma and bronchitis, my husband is very ill and my son is due to have an operation.

‘Where is the place? I don’t know who these people are working in the council. They don’t think how are the people going to live, what are they going to do.’

She added: ‘We’ve been living here 36 years, since 1974.’

‘I don’t think it’s legal, it’s ridiculous,’ said Jackie Saunders.

‘I’ve been informed that the boiler’s working, but they’ve still been asked to keep it off and it’s not an accident.

‘People have been talking about this for the last two weeks, that it was going to be turned off this weekend,’ she alleged.

‘There’s a lady round the corner who cares for her father, who has dementia, and they’ve got no heating or hot water either. No one has. My son is really upset.’

She commented: ‘They have no integrity whatsoever.

‘The project director’s disappeared, no one knows what’s happened to her, she’s just been replaced by Andrew. Where is she?

‘They don’t care, everybody knows they don’t care and they should give up trying to convince people that they do.

‘People died in their accommodation,’ she added, referring to last July’s fire at Lakanal House on the Sceaux Gardens Estate in nearby Camberwell, in which six people died (three women and three children).

‘When they say, “We know best’’, they know absolutely nothing, these people on their fat salaries who don’t live in these areas.

‘It’s “do as I say, not as I do’’, as far as they’re concerned.

‘We’re 10 days to an election and really what difference does it make.

‘We haven’t been canvassed by one of the parties.

‘No one has come here to ask us what are our issues, because they know what our issues are and they don’t want to know.

‘Where are all the people who started all this? Where is Kim Humphrys? Where is Ola Agbomoni.

‘It’s just like the 60s with Rachman. You just wouldn’t think in this day and age that they could do it.

‘They’re talking about electric water heaters and fan heaters. How dangerous are they? They’re not safe,’ she said.

Tenants still occupying the top floors on Claydon, one of the main blocks on Heygate, said they hadn’t had any working lifts since last December.

‘What happens if there’s an emergency,’ asked one of them, adding: ‘The other lifts closed down in July 2009.

‘How about if a fire broke out in this block? How would the fire brigade handle it, that would be horrendous.

‘I think you should contact (local Liberal Democrat MP) Simon Hughes and say, What happened about the lifts, you promised you would get them back.

‘Tenants are being offered unsuitable accommodation, not comparable to what we have here, and the council has broken its commitment to build us new places.

‘Originally there were 18 locations. They were supposed to build and then move people out gradually into the new buildings.

‘The Volvo Showroom closed down in September 2006 – four years ago – and what has happened since? It’s all scrub land now.

‘They’re doing nothing there and that’s what will happen here.

‘All the places have been boarded up when they could refurbish this estate.’