Local journalist Michelle Edwards reveals pressing fire safety issues at a newly built LBWF housing block, but from the Town Hall there is only silence

The respected Waltham Forest journalist Michelle Edwards has recently moved to a flat in a low-rise block at Pinder Road, Wood Street, completed by Countryside Partnerships in early 2022 and now owned and run by LBWF.

It is true to say that this has not been a happy experience, and she tweets about the issues she has encountered at https://twitter.com/NewBuildHell. 

Some of these issues are particularly worrying.

At home one day in November 2022, Ms. Edwards heard a commotion at the front of her block, and went to investigate. She found that the lock on the main entry door had failed, residents were unable to get in or out, and the Fire Brigade was at work rectifying matters.

This got her thinking about fire safety, and how she and her neighbours were supposed to react in an emergency. 

After some investigation, she has established that:

  • the failure of the main door lock had happened before, strongly suggesting that the consequent ‘repair’ was botched, hardly a good omen; 
  • some of the flat doors in the block are incorrectly fitted; 
  • one corridor door, though labelled ‘fire door, keep shut’, when opened takes an unacceptably long time to self-close;
  • there are no instructions posted anywhere in the building advising residents what to do in the event of a fire; and
  • aside from the main door, the only other exit from the block is via the communal garden, but to get out of the garden is almost impossible because of a wire fence (see picture, below), meaning that in a fire, residents have just one way to escape, and that one way involves a door that twice already has been found faulty!  

All this in itself appears shocking, but what makes it worse is how LBWF has reacted.

To alert LBWF to her findings, on 6 December 2022 Ms. Edwards itemised them in writing to LBWF Chief Executive, Martin Esom, and the next day was told: ‘This matter has been raised with housing to urgently look into and respond to you directly on behalf of Mr Esom’. 

On 15 December 2022, Ms. Edwards then made a presentation to the Housing Scrutiny Committee, though this time the response was less reassuring, with Deputy Leader and Housing and Regeneration Portfolio Holder Ahsan Khan demonstrating little knowledge of what she was talking about.

Subsequently, though no less than 28 working days have passed since she originally contacted Mr. Esom, Ms. Edwards has heard nothing more.

In correspondence with this blog, she comments:

‘Given my extensive work on fire safety in the borough over the years, the slapdash approach and glaring omissions in and around the block come as scant surprise. The council seems to care only about revenue’. 

Related Posts

Waltham Forest council is the sixth most complained about in all of England

Michelle Edwards launches a Twitter feed about her experiences in one of LBWF’s new low-rise blocks where, as she describes, ‘It has, and continues to be, hell’

New LBWF fire safety scandal: Northwood and St Georges Court towers have had high risk failings for years, and nothing has been done about them

Can the ordinary resident get justice in Waltham Forest?

LBWF launches a £40m. programme to upgrade the fire safety of its social housing provision, but questions remain as to why this wasn’t done years ago