An elderly Ledbury Estate resident has vowed to stay in his home, despite facing months of disruption due to fears about the blocks’ safety.
Peter Edwards, an amputee, has for 35 years lived on the third floor of Skenfrith, one of four tower blocks on the estate just off Old Kent Road.
Since the Grenfell tower tragedy, some 200 households in the thirteen-storey blocks have seen each passing week bring new headlines about flaws in the blocks’ safety.
On August 10 it was revealed by structural surveyors Arup that “strengthening works” – which should have been carried following the deadly Ronan Point tower block collapse in 1968 – may never have happened on the Ledbury. The revelations meant that the thirteen-storey blocks could collapse in the event of a gas explosion, and so supplies were cut.
Amid the turmoil, Peter said he would rather stay in the community he knows despite many residents taking up the council’s offer to be rehoused. The 76-year-old, who worked at Spitalfields Market and for the Department of Environment, now has to wash himself by boiling a kettle and filling the sink.
“Lucky I don’t have any children to wash, and I’m in no great rush,” he said. “It brings back memories, the things my mum and aunt used to do to keep clean. I’m happy to stay, having been here so long. The worst thing for me is being on the third floor in a wheelchair – if the lift breaks down. Apart from that I’m alright.”
“I suppose I’m being a bit awkward from the council’s point of view because I don’t want to move. I’m holding out that I will be able to move to Harry Lamborn House [sheltered accommodation] because it’s close by and I know people who live there. But it would depend on someone else dropping dead quite frankly. I don’t particularly want to leave this area having been here so long.”
Peter’s flat was chosen by Keep Moat for a refurbishment to make it wheelchair friendly, as part of the firm’s “service to the community” programme. It offered him new furniture built to a lower level, and turned his bathroom into a wet room.
He added: “I used to have a friend in the off licence [on Old Kent Road] who helped me, but he had to go because his landlord wanted to change the use [of the building]. Then my old neighbour who used to do my shopping moved away. I have a member of staff at Asda who helps me, but other than that I don’t socialise much. So that would be another advantage of moving to Harry Lamborn House. Otherwise I’m a bit up the creek without a paddle with all of this Grenfell stuff.”
Peter also had problems arranging for contractors to have an immersion heater installed, after two no-shows, and later receiving a letter saying he “hadn’t made himself available” for a visit. He will continue to rely on the kettle for his water until three more appointment can be arranged for the heater to be installed.
A Southwark Council spokeswoman said that 25 flats have had immersion heaters installed, and 50 more are “in progress”. Three households have moved from the estate, ten more have received offers and are awaiting viewings. Another eleven have applied and “finished in first position”.