In her latest column, resident Michelle Edwards reveals truths, untruths, and opens up about disputes over her bathroom’s conditions
“My name is Sonia. I was born and raised in Waltham Forest and I’m a 40-year-old Black African.”
Said aloud, I sound like I’m on one of those awkward X Factor auditions waiting to be ripped apart by Simon Cowell. In fact, I’m reading my pseudonym profile in a new housing book called Estate Regeneration and Its Discontents by Professor Paul Watt, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies at Birkbeck, University of London.
I’m one of 13 quoted resident interviewees. Watt finds authentic interest in the lives of London social tenants and homeowners who have lived through the demolish and rebuild of their estates over years and even decades.
Regular readers of this column know that the Echo has been doing exactly that since the end of 2016. I would say we’ve also acted as a rallying cry for a change of direction in the degeneration, displacement and fragmentation of existing communities.
Just to dispel any doubt – only one of the five points in my opening is true.
Why, you may wonder, have I elected to blow my own cover? Well, it’s all to do with truth. And the telling of it when it comes to my weekly/monthly/yearly dealings with Waltham Forest Council.
As part of a research project I’m working on about residential buildings in the borough where a permanent ‘Waking Watch’ is in place due to fire safety concerns, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request earlier this year. I noted their response to a question asking for copies of incident reports of any fires in the buildings.
The response drafted by their voids and litigation manager stated: “We do not hold reports.” Yet, when I asked the press office for a line, they said: “The council holds records of major incidents, including those recorded by Waking Watch.” Pointing out that their responses did not match fell on deaf ears. Which is it? Both accounts cannot be true.
Another matter produced similar contradictions. For months, I have been asking for a copy of the report produced by a building surveyor who attended my home to carry out an inspection of my soiled property in the aftermath of flooding. Even though the visit took place on 12th February 2020, the head of building services insisted he needed two weeks to come up with it, after chasing them last month.
When I did get the document, it was full of untruths. Chiefly, the claim that he hadn’t been able to view “ingress of water” in my property because my belongings were blocking him. Er, I live in a studio flat, with barely any room to swing a cat.
He went on to pronounce that my “bath appeared to look like it had not received some attention for some time. However, Miss Edwards advised that it is due to a chemical she had used hence the discolouration of the bath.” No: the surveyor refused to look at the ingresses claiming he was in a rush and had another appointment to attend.
The discolouration of my bath was caused by the installation of the wrong type of bath during the council’s flawed ‘Decent Homes Programme’. I complained almost immediately after the change occurred. The council contractor at the time told me I was stuck with it. I’m told the material – which wasn’t fit for purpose – reacted to my weekly use of Westlab Epsom Salt and Absolute Aromas Pure Essential Oil.
Up until now, I’ve avoided sharing pictures of the inside of my property. But, acting under legal advisement, I’ve been told to let the public see the shitty standards I’ve had to endure over the years. Decide for yourselves.