Council leader issues Noel Park Estate apology

Council admits communication with affected leaseholders not good enough, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A rear bathroom pod on Noel Park Estate affected by damp and asbestos

The leader of Haringey Council has apologised for the “quality of communication” with leaseholders on an estate due to undergo major repair works.

Peray Ahmet said the council had tried to “find a new way forward” after she took over as leader and set out improvements to its offer to leaseholders in Noel Park Estate, Wood Green.

The work, which includes replacing bathroom pods, as well as repairing or replacing roofs, brickwork, doors and windows, is designed to bring the buildings up to the government’s decent homes standard. Fitted in the 1970s, the pods are affected by structural movement, dampness and asbestos in the wall panels.

Estimated costs sent to leaseholders last year ranged from £56,000 to £118,000 – far higher than previous estimates of around £25,000.

The council and its housing arm, Homes for Haringey, have previously apologised for a “lack of sufficient communication” when the major works notices were sent out, admitting it took “additional time” to respond to some comments from leaseholders.

Earlier this year, several leaseholders complained they were not told about asbestos risks in their homes until more than a year after they were flagged up in reports.

Opposition Liberal Democrats also called for an investigation into councillors’ concerns that there appeared to be “political interference” with responses to Freedom of Information requests made by leaseholders. The council said it was confident the “appropriate processes” were followed.

During a meeting on Thursday, 22nd July, cabinet members agreed to cap bills for replacement bathroom pods at £25,000, including for non-resident leaseholders who can demonstrate hardship.

The council will also provide more certainty over the costs and pay for an independent surveyor to challenge the scope of the works it has identified.

In the cabinet report, Cllr Ahmet apologised to leaseholders for the quality of communication and engagement on the project. She told the meeting: “Since I became leader, we have worked closely to find a new way forward, and this is reflected in the proposals, and hopefully [the leaseholders] felt there have been improvements to what we are offering.”

Cllr Ahmet added that the council was committed to further engagement with leaseholders following the cabinet decision.

Robbie Erbmann, the council’s assistant director for housing, admitted there had been “so many false starts” on the works project but gave assurances that tenants and leaseholders would not be waiting “too much longer” for work to begin.

Liberal Democrat councillor Dawn Barnes told the meeting former council leader Joseph Ejiofor had said bathroom pods were “actively unsafe” and asked if the council was assured that it had fulfilled its legal duties regarding the maintenance of the homes.

Robbie replied: “Those properties have received responsive repairs and maintenance over a period of time, and where there have been problems with the pods or windows those have been fixed. We don’t accept that we have not taken our legal duty to leaseholders in this matter.”

The council confirmed the report’s recommendations were approved during the private session of the meeting.