Noel Park Estate residents in Wood Green continue living with asbestos, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Leaseholders on a council estate were not told about asbestos risks in their homes until more than a year after they were flagged up in reports.
Surveys carried out on the Noel Park Estate in Wood Green during late 2019 and early 2020 showed a high risk of asbestos in some flats – but council housing arm Homes for Haringey only released them in March this year following direct requests from leaseholders.
Electrical surveys undertaken at the same time, which concluded that existing systems failed safety standards, were also not released to leaseholders until they were requested.
The leaseholders only found out about the surveys when they responded to Section 20 notices notifying them of major works due to be carried out on their homes.
Asbestos, which is now banned in the UK but can still be found in many older buildings, can cause cancer and lung disease if it degrades and the fibres are not safely contained.
On the Noel Park Estate, it has been found in bathroom pods fitted in the 1970s – which the council plans to replace – and could be present elsewhere in homes. One leaseholder said asbestos was found in a fuse board in his hallway.
Haringey Council said the asbestos was fully encapsulated and there was no risk of danger to public health if it was not disturbed. The council apologised for any delays in responding to requests, adding that there is no requirement for it to share asbestos information.
But residents’ group, Noel Park Leaseholders Action Group, claimed the council had a moral obligation to share the reports with them.
Noel Park leaseholder Fatma Aslan said she was “quite shocked” to receive the asbestos report more than a year after it was drawn up.
“I am quite worried about my health,” she said. “The high-risk areas are in the kitchen and bathroom I normally use most. Once they found out, they should have let us know immediately.”
Nagla Stevens, who manages a home on behalf of her mother, who is the leaseholder, said she was only made aware of the survey carried out in 2019 after responding to the Section 20 notices.
“As a responsible freeholder, they ought to have informed me as a matter of course,” she said.
Leaseholder Tom Jensen said some residents may still be in the dark about the asbestos reports because they did not respond to the Section 20 notices.
Liberal Democrat opposition leader Luke Cawley-Harrison has raised urgent questions with Homes for Haringey about the revelations – including why the reports were not released earlier and whether any of the urgent work the reports recommended had been carried out.
Cllr Cawley-Harrison said: “The way these leaseholders have been treated by Haringey Council over the past year and a half is a disgrace.
“It is unbelievably negligent that residents were not told about asbestos and unsafe electrics in their flats for over a year, and a thorough independent investigation about what has gone on here is urgently needed.”
A Haringey Council statement said that when a leaseholder purchases a property at the point of sale, the purchaser’s solicitor should ask for standard information on fire risk and asbestos.
“As a freeholder, we would respond to the purchaser’s questions on the property, but there is no requirement to disclose locations,” it said.
In response to concerns raised by the leaseholders’ group that checks on asbestos had been “sporadic”, a council spokesperson said all leaseholders are written to each year by a contractor with a request for access, and where this is given inspections are carried out.
They added that it had been through detailed records on the properties and confirmed Homes for Haringey had been following the correct procedures and actively managing the asbestos as part of a management plan.
The council spokesperson said: “We apologise if any leaseholders received any kind of delay in responding to a request to see a report and will be reviewing our policies to ensure this does not happen again.
“There is no requirement for us to share asbestos information. However, we would make recommendations for any follow-up activity if necessary.
“The asbestos is fully encapsulated, and there is no risk of danger to public health if it is not disturbed.
“These properties need to be brought up to a modern standard, and this is part of the reason that the council is determined to bring forward major works on the Noel Park Estate.”