Bad tempered Council meeting ends in uncertainty and frustration for residents.
Cheshire House and Shropshire House are 18-storey tower blocks on the Shires estate in Edmonton. The blocks were built in the 1960s and house 204 families. People living in the blocks have experienced ongoing problems such as persistent mould, due to decades of under investment.
Cheshire House became national news in December when its gas supply was disconnected for safety reasons. This meant residents were unable to heat their homes properly and had to take showers in outside temporary cubicles in freezing temperatures. The Council was criticised for its response by residents and by the local MP Kate Osamor, who said that many residents felt forgotten.
An emergency meeting was held last night (23/02/23) to discuss the building’s future and the Council’s treatment of its residents. Councillors said that the Council had decided to ‘decommission’ (i.e. demolish) Cheshire House and Shropshire House. This came as a surprise to the residents who had attended the emergency meeting; less than 10 days ago the Council had issued a statement to residents which said different options were being explored and they would consult residents before a decision was made.
We spoke to residents who attended last night’s meeting and they were left feeling uncertain about their future and some questioned the intention of the forthcoming consultation exercise, given the Council appeared to have already decided to demolish the blocks.
Some residents were annoyed about the amount of money the Council has invested in the regeneration of Meridian Water (which is just 400 metres from the Shires estate), when there has been a lack of investment in the Shires estate. Residents have been living with problems for years and these have not been addressed.
The meeting did not begin well. The residents who had travelled from Edmonton to attend the meeting were not allowed to enter the Civic Centre until after the meeting had started, leaving them standing out in the cold and missing the beginning of the meeting.
The Council meeting itself was bad tempered and unconstructive. The Council’s Cabinet member for Estate Management (Cllr George Savva) attempted to downplay the problems at Cheshire House in December, saying that ‘not a single life was lost’. He also said the outdoor showers were only 15 feet from the door of the tower block. (By our measurements, the walking distance would have been over 90 feet from the door of the tower block to the shower units – a journey that would have to have been made in freezing weather, and at the time when there was snow and ice.)
The Council had multiple warnings about the potential safety issues at Cheshire House.
- 2018: the Council said it would carry out an inspection of the block’s structural safety, however it is unclear whether this took place, or what the findings were.
- 2019: the campaign group Tower Blocks UK logged concerns with Enfield Council about the gas supply to Cheshire House and the buildings structural safety.
- 2021: the fire risk assessment for the building classified the risk as ‘substantial’ which means that urgent action should have been taken.
- 2022: the gas supplier, Cadet, warned the Council about issues with the gas and said the gas would need to be disconnected due to safety issues.
- December 2022, the gas was disconnected to protect residents’ safety.
We think the Council has some questions to answer:
- Has the Council already decided to demolish Cheshire House and Shropshire House? If so, why weren’t residents consulted before the decision was made and what are the objectives of the forthcoming consultation exercise?
- Where will residents be relocated to, and when, and what help will they be given?