Builder accuses town hall of leaving family in 'slum' conditions at redeveloping Barking estate

ceiling hole

A leaking roof caused a hole in Peter Duffy's ceiling at his home in Tasker House, Barking. - Credit: Peter Duffy

A council tenant has accused the town hall of leaving him and his family in "slum" conditions while an estate is rebuilt.

Peter Duffy described water leaking through the ceiling, damp walls, inadequate heating and dilapidated windows at his home in Tasker House, Dovehouse Mead, Barking.

tasker house window

A window at Peter's flat on the top floor of Tasker House. - Credit: Peter Duffy

The flat is on the top floor of an 11-storey building which is earmarked for demolition as part of rebuilding works on the Gascoigne Estate.

But Peter has accused Barking and Dagenham Council of not carrying out repairs or improvements because the building is to be demolished.

Tasker House

Tasker House is on the Gascoigne Estate and is earmarked for demolition. - Credit: Peter Duffy

He said: "Since the development started, we have been totally neglected. I understand there is development going on, but it's beyond a joke."

The 53-year-old has tried to patch things up, including by putting perspex over the single glazed windows to improve insulation in winter. He said portable heaters had melted the plugs.

"The fabric of the building is deteriorating around us," he added. 

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A town hall spokesperson said: “The council continues to carry out repairs as needed to Tasker House as well as other blocks scheduled for demolition. 

"We can confirm that officers are liaising with the tenant to inspect the property and identify the necessary repairs required."

Peter has written to two councillors and Barking MP, Dame Margaret Hodge, calling for help.

tasker house window

Peter, who is a builder, has made attempts to improve insulation at the flat. - Credit: Peter Duffy

His letter states: "It is an utter disgrace we are living in these conditions whilst the new flats go up under our noses. Flats we can't afford to live in.

"I am all for progress and development but surely not at the cost of ordinary families living in slums."

Peter - who lives with partner Jennifer Pringle, 41, and nine-year-old son George - described waking up three days after Christmas Day to find a leak left a puddle on the floor and the kitchen light burning.

"Things are difficult enough without being left living in appalling conditions and a flat that is unfit to live in", the letter states.

damp wall

A damp wall at the flat where Peter has lived for more than 20 years. - Credit: Peter Duffy

A letter to the council in 2013 from North East London NHS Foundation Trust noted the flat left Jennifer feeling isolated and worsened her mental health difficulties.

Peter said the conditions also affected George's and his own asthma.

The builder called on the council to prioritise re-housing people who are living in the worst conditions at the block.

A secure tenant, Peter wants to remain in the borough, but said he would be priced out of the regenerated estate. He currently pays £120 a week.

Peter said: "I'm not trying to gain leverage over the council. It's more that we have to have a better quality of flat to live in. Our circumstances need to improve. It's getting unbearable."

He added that a date for the demolition has been extended and people at the block do not know how much longer they will be there.

"The information is not coming across. It's very frustrating," Peter said.

The town hall spokesperson said: “The relocation of secure tenants and buyback of leasehold properties across the eastern side of the Gascoigne Estate started in 2011 and was planned to be finalised around 2021. 

"But unfortunately due to the availability of property and more recently the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will take a little longer.

“Once a phase commences and secure tenants are registered for a move, they are able to bid for a replacement council home and are now also able to opt to return to a new home in the area under the agreed policy."

He added the council continues to send regular newsletters to all residents informing them of the progress of the relocation phases.

More than 1,575 homes are due to be built on the eastern side of the estate by 2024.

The first phase of the new homes, known as Weavers Quarter, has been completed with swathes of the old estate demolished and replaced by flats, maisonettes and Greatfields School. 

Compulsory purchase orders and demolition orders have been issued for a number of blocks, including numbers two to 61 in Dovehouse Mead.

However, Tasker House is in the fourth phase of the redevelopment. The town hall is currently concluding visits to households affected by the third phase.

"We currently hope to commence decanting phase four in the first half of 2021," the spokesperson said.