Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Walthamstow block 'living in hell' for years as vital repair delayed

The council's contractor has taken two years and still not finished the vital repair

Hero for Walthamstow block 'living in hell' for years as vital repair delayed
Unhappy residents from Walton House in Walthamstow
By Victoria Munro 02 November 2021

Tenants and homeowners of a flat block owned by Waltham Forest Council have spent two years either “living in hell” or forced out of their homes.

In September 2019, half of the 18 Walton House flats in The Drive, Walthamstow, were rapidly evacuated after a cracked external wall rendered their side of the building unsafe.

Those displaced have yet to return, while the nine households still living in the block say they feel “imprisoned” on a building site, with little sign of progress.

The Echo visited Walton House to speak to those affected and found no sign of anyone working on-site and a large hole where the broken wall used to be.

The empty space where the cracked wall used to be

Daniel Zawadzki, who still lives in the block, said: “For the first year, nothing was done. The council says it’s because of Covid-19 but this issue started far before the first lockdown.

“At one point, it was meant to be finished in June but then, in July, we were told it would be finished at the end of October. I’ve got a feeling we will be lucky if they finish before the end of the year.

“It just feels like they are laughing in our faces. I work in construction myself and a job like this shouldn’t take more than a year.”

His wife, Izabela, said: “There’s still no new wall, it’s just an empty space. We are so angry, tired and desperate.”

This summer, council contractor Morgan Sindall dug up the block’s back gardens in order to replace the foundation.

Daniel said that, despite no longer having access to the “completely destroyed” gardens, both those living in the block and those displaced were still paying full service charges.

Council tenant Perin Hakki added: “For those of us still living here, it doesn’t feel like any quality of life can be had in this building, it’s a feeling of complete imprisonment.”

The Echo also spoke to two tenants forced to move out of the block, one of whom - Antonio Pucci - said he was in a Travelodge for 18 months before being given temporary accommodation.

Displaced residents Antonio Pucci and Dr Christina Bracegurdle

Fellow displaced resident, Dr Christina Bracegurdle, said she had been told to leave her temporary accommodation three times so far, with no offer of anywhere else to live.

She added: “I was also asked to pay council tax on that property when I was still paying it on my old flat. It’s only when I was about to be taken to court that anyone did anything.

“During the last meeting in September, we were told the contractors might do a ‘face lift’ to the outside, which wouldn’t be covered by our insurance and had not been discussed before.

“We only found out because we saw workers taking measurements on the stairs. Decisions like that are being made behind our backs.”

Responding to a request for comment, the council’s cabinet member for housing, Louise Mitchell, said: “We completely understand the frustration of Walton House residents.

“It has been necessary to carry significant underpinning to strengthen foundations and, although this is complex work, it should not have taken so long.

“We are in liaison with our contractors to clarify the reasons why this work has been delayed and to get a final completion date we can give residents so they can properly plan ahead. We will continue to host monthly meetings with them to keep them informed.

“As soon as we have more information, we will share it immediately with all Walton House residents. We apologise unreservedly that their expectations have not been met in this case.”

Since this article was first published in our print edition, residents have been told the work will be done by the end of February, although Dan added they "sincerely doubt" this is true.