Myatts Field North residents reveal dismal state of new PFI homes

The Myatts Field North estate in Lambeth, South London, before the regeneration process started in May 2012.
The Myatts Field North estate in Lambeth, South London, before the regeneration process started in May 2012. Photo by: Michael Keane / Flickr

Myatts Field North was meant to be one of London’s success stories as far as regeneration projects go. “An outdated housing estate” riddled with crime would be remodeled into a “more open, greener and welcoming environment”, Lambeth council put it in 2012.

The old blocks would be demolished to make way for 808 new residential units, while a further 172 existing houses would be refurbished to a modern standard.

All thanks to a £150m Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract the Lambeth council had entered with a private consortium led by Regenter.

Two years into the construction programme, however, a rather different picture is emerging.

Far from high-quality homes they were promised, Myatts Field tenants have been battling with tethering problems ranging from water leaks to electrical faults.

Jeanne Corillon, a teaching assistant, has been living on Myatts Field for 25 years. In August last year she moved into her new one-bedroom flat located on the fourth floor of a social housing block.

“The problems start even before people moved in”, she says. “For instance, I have a leak in my bedroom that was there before I arrived.”

“A lot of tenants move into properties that have damp and mold and in which the heating is not running. They are still moved into properties that are not ready.”

As a member of the Residents Association PFI Monitoring Board (RAMB), Jeanne quickly realised that many other residents have been facing similar issues.

For some tenants the situation is so severe that they have had to abandon their homes due to flooding.

“There is lots of problems all across the estate. The worst thing the confusion created and the fact that they [the various companies involved] are just blaming each other.”

This is not the first time Myatts Field residents have voiced their dissatisfaction over the implementation of the PFI project.

Just over a year ago two academics, Dr Stuart Hodkinson and Chris Essen from the University of Leeds, published a report alleging poor performance and safety hazards on the estate.

Based partly on the confessions of a whistleblower who worked on site, it cited a series of alleged faults including loose hanging electricity cables, leaking pipes and sparking sockets.

In response to the report, the Lambeth council launched an inquiry into the allegations. When it published its findings in December 2014 many of the claims were dismissed.

What the Lambeth council did not openly say, however, was that it had also carried out a ‘comparative study’ in order to validate the views gathered by Dr Hodkinson.

The results of this second survey, which reflect to a great extent those of the Leeds University team, have never been made public.

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Tenants interviewed by the council reported once again instances of substandard work and a general dissatisfaction over the services provided by Regenter.

50% of the respondents complained about works not being carried out to a satisfactory standard and another 50% said they did not have full confidence in Regenter to maintain the estate for the next 25 years.

The study concluded that “the LBL [London Borough of Lambeth] client is disappointed at the high level of dissatisfaction experienced.”

Approached with a series of detailed questions on this matter, the Lambeth council declined to answer. Instead, a spokesman re-issued a statement originally published in August 2014.

It reads: “Lambeth council takes all allegations of breaches of any health, safety and well-being legislation seriously. The Health & Safety Executive has confirmed in writing to Lambeth council that there was nothing that warranted the concern of the HSE when they made a recent unannounced visit.

“The HSE have also confirmed in writing that they are satisfied with responses received by Rydon to their enquiries.”

We approached Regenter for a comment but so far no response has been received.

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