Morland residents decry council’s ‘utter contempt’ over tower repair charges

Morland Tower. Photograph: Julian Blake.

Residents of a London Fields tower block have voiced their outrage at the level of charges quoted by Hackney Council for upcoming repair works.

Decorative brickwork fell 100 feet from 1-46 Morland Estate in November 2017 and landed close to the entrance of a primary school.

It was later discovered that “extensive corrosion” on supporting pins was to blame.

Whilst the council covers the costs of repairs for their own tenants, leaseholders face steep charges.

Morland Blanchard tenants and residents’ association (TRA) are now protesting the fact that leaseholders could face charges of thousands of pounds, despite an earlier programme of works to the block having been carried out under Hackney’s Decent Homes programme.

Leaseholder Lindelle Paul said: “I’ve lived in the tower since 1994. What’s being charged is basically what I’ve paid on my mortgage so far, so it’s a blow that could put me back ten years plus on my mortgage.”

Hackney Council has sent out Section 20 (S20) consultation letters quoting an estimated total of £755,749.67 for the works.

At a 17 October meeting of the TRA, council officers in attendance offered a week’s extension to the consultation period on the cost of the works, due to a dispute over potential delays over their delivery.

TRA chair Julian Blake said: “Why should leaseholders who had to fork out tens of thousands only eight years ago, to pay for ​repair and improvements including roof work to meet the decent homes standard, now be expected to fork out tens of thousands more to pay for the past oversight of the council?

“We think it is a scandal to ask them to pay again. Morland’s tower leaseholders are being treated with utter contempt by the council.

“These people are not wealthy landlords. They are homeowners, often on low incomes, with some now facing the prospect of effectively having to start their mortgage payments again from zero.

“Hackney Council is supposed to have improved, but this smacks of the paternalist bad old days, when only the housing department knew best. That no longer washes. Residents want answers, and now.”

Blake added that the TRA had a right to a separate investigation of the block, to be carried out by an “independent expert.”

Morland tower has been shrouded by scaffolding since the collapse in 2017 to guard against further falls and enable extensive checks of the building.

The scaffolding has reportedly come with its own problems to residents, including lack of ventilation, reduced light, and pest problems.

According to consultation papers sent to leaseholdersa Morland one-bedroom flat is facing estimated charges of £18,068.59 for the works to “make good brickwork corner piers”.

The quote for all the repair work includes £18,000 for a scaffold alarm system, £37,030 for asbestos survey and removal, and £103,610.84 for “preliminaries”.

The now-defunct arms-length housing organisation Hackney Homes also carried out works on the block in 2006.

S20s seen by the Citizen quote an estimated cost to the council of £440,808.67 for this earlier programme, including £27,312.04 for “brickwork, including carefully [raking] out existing brickwork & [making] good all work disturbed and cut loose or defacing bricks and replace with new bricks to match existing”.

Residents at that time were quoted an estimated £3,002.64 for an “internal and external survey”, the results of which the TRA has not yet seen.

Council officers present at the 17 October meeting said this work was focused on replacing windows in the block under Hackney’s Decent Homes programme, that the works themselves were not focused on the bricks which collapsed in 2017, and that the corrosion which caused the masonry to fall was undetectable.

A Town Hall spokesperson said: “The safety of our residents and the public is always our first priority, and the work taking place at the Morland estate includes vital repairs to the brickwork that will make sure that the building remains safe in the long term.

“We have been open and transparent with residents and the Morland Blanchard Tenants and Residents Association throughout, keeping them updated on the plans and sharing all relevant surveys for the building.

“While the repairs taking place are complex, we are committed to continuing to work closely with residents to ensure that they cause as little disruption as possible and provide value for money for leaseholders.”

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