In the dark

Most home on Marlowe Road Estate have now been demolished
Most home on Marlowe Road Estate have now been demolished (credit Penny Dampier)

Marlowe Road Estate resident Michelle Edwards sees her patience worn thin as power cuts blight council tenants still living there

The ground floor; one, two, three, four, five, six, a neighbour, me, seven. The first floor; a neighbour, one, two, three, a neighbour, four, another neighbour.

I’m counting the number of empty versus occupied properties on my side of the estate. Of late, households are simply disappearing at a moment’s notice. One minute I can freely see windows and the main entrance to a dwelling; the next a single sheet of caramel-coloured, zinc-coated, perforated steel covers the entire window and frame coupled with a security door.

Clearway, described as “the UK’s most successful, innovative and rapidly expanding property security and environmental property services company” on their website, holds the contract for securing empty properties on the estate. This is after Orbis lost the contract last year. I only acquired this mundane piece of information because I was disturbed by the rare silence of the company’s banging and drilling one evening in December, after they were called by the Metropolitan Police to secure an empty property that had been burgled.

The previously ‘cuckooed’ drug den property to my immediate left – sealed since April 2018 after my face-to-face plea with the borough commander – was one of many empty properties subject to the switchover.

There was a series of major power cuts at the end of 2019. All Northwood Tower, Walnut Court and Marlowe Road properties were left without heating, hot water and electricity after five outages lasting several hours between November and December.

When it looked likely I would be cooking Christmas dinner on my gas hob wearing thermals in the dark, I escalated matters with UK Power Networks, but they could only churn out the usual “please do accept my sincere apologies for the disruption and inconvenience caused” platitudes.

Most of the outages occurred because of faulty fuse operations at the local substation, but one was caused by “third party damage” to a cable. I later confirmed the damage occurred during demolition work. A project manager with Countryside, the estate’s private developer, told me I should be grateful that his company was making the area look better.

With full power restored, my patience was tested again when my entire property began flooding through my concrete floor. Such is the daily stench, I have to wash, fold and store my clothes in those huge waterproof clothing bags you get at the Primark tills and stick a “refreshing gel air freshener” in each. I’m spending a small fortune on bottles of multi-surface cleaner and Vanish bars to rid my burgundy carpet of water stains. I have lost a significant portion of my possessions through water penetration.

My belief is that a gang has been stealing copper pipes from empty properties on the estate. The demolition works conducted in close proximity to my property last year are also causing my building to shake. Yet Waltham Forest Council deem it appropriate for me to remain in a soiled property that causes me headaches and breathing difficulties.