Orchard Estate mould
Homes on the Orchard Estate are in a poor state, residents say

Greenwich Council has admitted to damp and mould problems on one of the borough’s estates after tenants demanded quicker action to repair their homes – with one saying problems had been going on for more than four years.

Residents of the Orchard and Coldbath estates, off Lewisham Road, petitioned the council to say that they were struggling to report repairs and that it then took a long time for work to be carried out.

The petition said over 500 council tenants and residents lived in the estate and that many had “outstanding repairs” in their homes. A council newsletter from last year said that the authority planned on improving its repairs programme, and while work had begun it could take until 2026 to finish.

“We are particularly concerned to read that a repairs improvement programme could take three to four years,” they said in the petition. “Such a timescale is wholly unacceptable.”

Orchard Estate mould
Council officers have said it could take four years to repair the homes

Greenwich admitted there were “a number of leaks and cases of damp and mould” in the four 1960s tower blocks.

Sarah Saitch, who started the campaign, called the council’s response to the petition “glib” and questioned why there was no apology for their living conditions.

She told last week’s Greenwich Council meeting that the petition was sent shortly after the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) criticised the council last summer for not meeting health and safety requirements.

Saitch told councillors: “Four years? Many tenants have been waiting years longer than that already, and yet the final sentence of the response says, ‘We can’t do things overnight.’ Is that what the RSH is happy with?”

Orchard Estate towers
Work is already taking place on the estate, the council said

Pat Slattery, the cabinet member for housing, said at the meeting that the council had reported itself to the RSH after officials felt they were falling short on standards. The cabinet member also said the response from the regulator was not directed to the council’s housing repairs team.

She said: “The bulk of these repairs and improvements will be delivered by the end of four years, but they’re already being delivered now.” Slattery said the repairs team were monitoring the timescale of the improvements, and that the waiting time when reporting repairs had been reduced since November last year.

Regarding the petition, officers said in council documents that the council was carrying out surveys for flats in the Orchard Estate to see if more investment was needed for the buildings.

They said: “Residents will see a gradual improvement to services and will not wait four years to see a difference, however transformation of systems and culture will not take place overnight and it would be misleading to suggest otherwise.”

Council officers said that residents of the Orchard Estate would be told the outcomes of the surveys in the coming months.

At the same meeting councillors voted to increase council rents by 7 per cent, although Slattery noted they would remain the cheapest council rents in London. Last year she said she feared the borough was “killing people with kindness” with such a low level of rents.

Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain

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Joe Coughlan is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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