Southwark halt heating works amidst safety concerns
On Monday 12th September at an Overview and Scrutiny meeting held at Southwark's Tooley Street headquarters, Ledbury Estate residents raised concerns over Southwarks planned works due to start on Monday 18th September to install a new diesel-powered district heating system into the estates four tower blocks, following the emergency removal of the piped gas supply. The residents echoed concerns of chartered surveyor Arnold Tarling and architect Sam Webb; independent experts working pro bono on the estate, who had commented that the holes planned to be drilled through the Ledbury towers to install new piping may potentially cause further damage to the structure. Southwarks technical team assured residents that engineers at ARUP had been consulted closely and had given Southwark the go-ahead.
On Tuesday 13th September, Sam Webb and Arnold Tarling, along with housing Consultant Tony Bird met with Southwarks management team to impart these concerns in person, along with an in depth presentation on Large Panel System built blocks such as the Ledbury Estate and the dangers in their form of construction. The following day, solicitors acting on behalf of Ledbury residents wrote accordingly to Southwarks legal team to request to see documentation demonstrating that the proposed heating works were safe ahead of the works beginning on Monday 18th.
On the evening of 14th September, Southwark sent the following letter to all residents in the four tower blocks, informing them that works would be delayed due to their structural engineers at ARUP informing them that safety works needed to be done ahead of the proposed drilling.
Resident were left angry and frustrated, questioning why Southwark would not have carried out all the necessary safety checks, assessments and works prior to the installation being planned. Many residents had taken time off work to accommodate Southwark's contractors, following just 7 days notice that they'd be forcing entry to install the heating system if residents did not provide access.
Residents are now facing further delays as the weather turns colder. The instruction from Southwark not to use fan heaters is still in place as residents have been told this will overload the electricity supply.
Southwark assure residents that the works should only be delayed by a week, but some residents are sceptical of this. Many are asking that private temporary accommodation be made available as conditions in the towers become more and more unbearable. At the time of writing, Southwark have only agreed to look at each households' needs on a case-by-case basis but refuse to confirm that any accommodation other than bed & breakfast hotel rooms will be offered.
Residents are also expected to pay full rent, despite the cracks still posing a fire risk, multiple recent electrical outages, no heating and for some (who've not yet had immersion heaters installed) no hot water as well.