A consultation on whether to refurbish or demolish Croydon’s Regina Road council housing, labelled the “worst in Britain“, will finally go ahead.
The Croydon Cabinet’s decision on November 16 came after the revelation that the death in Rochdale of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, in 2020, was the result of “the prolonged exposure he had to mould in his home environment”.
Councillor Rowenna Davis described the death of Ishak, which happened in social housing, as a “heart-wrenching reminder” of the need for action on the life-threatening conditions in Regina Road.
South Norwood resident Emma Gardiner tweeted in response to the inquest into Ishak’s death: “Residents in #reginaroad feared for their children’s health for decades and were gaslit by Croydon Council and their contractors every step of the way. I hope the face of Awaab is imprinted on their minds every time they tell a family their home is safe.”
A report submitted to the Cabinet last week said of the mould growth in the blocks: “An appropriate conclusion might be that the tower blocks are no longer fit for purpose and that the most effective remedy may be to demolish.”
It added: “[The council must] commit to significant refurbishment works or demolish and rebuild the tower blocks at Regina Road.”
An independent investigation in 2021 following ITV News’ exposure of the flats as “the worst in Britain” found that a water leak in Regina Road housing had been ignored for four years, causing a significant health risk to residents.
The report for the cabinet meeting said that the flats “have suffered in recent years from a variety of issues including water penetration, condensation and mould that have proved difficult to rectify.”
It also said the conditions had developed because complaints by residents “were not addressed in a timely way.”
Councillor Lynne Hale told the meeting: “The view coming back from residents is just get on with it, whatever you are going to do, just get on with it.”
Residents will be consulted on the proposals over 6 weeks in December and January, ready for an outcome to be reported back to the Cabinet in early 2023.
She added: “After many months of very little being done by the previous administration, progress is now being made.”
Mayor Jason Perry emphasised that they “need to ensure tenants are treated with respect in every interaction with the council.”
Councillor Chrishni Reshekaron, Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes, asked the Cabinet how they would ensure that residents are “well informed” of the consultation. She pointed to concerns over the time frame of the consultation process: “it is quite a busy month.”
Councillor Yvette Hopley responded by emphasising the importance of doorstepping and said that this process had already been initiated.
The report said residents have emphasised “they would appreciate new homes in preference to the continuous process of patching old homes.”
It added: “Some residents said they would be happy to move away from Regina Road.”
On his election, Mayor Jason Perry described improving conditions at Regina Road as “a key pledge for my administration going forward”.
At the previous council meeting he deflected the blame onto the previous Labour council for the continuing inadequate conditions at the housing.
He said: “The previous administration left these people to live in squalor, they wouldn’t even take on the residents’ charter that said we’re going to treat people with respect, they couldn’t be bothered to even do that.”
Hale told the meeting that a resident’s charter would be coming imminently.