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'We all feel trapped' - Couple hits out at 'horrific' council flat conditions

PUBLISHED: 10:40 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:31 25 January 2019

Jason Hewitt, who along with his partner Kathryn Earl, is unhappy about the state of their flat in Great Yarmouth.

Jason Hewitt, who along with his partner Kathryn Earl, is unhappy about the state of their flat in Great Yarmouth.

Archant

Kathryn Earl's three-year-old son, Aaron, can't play outside because of the broken glass and needles which line the corridors of the communal areas in the block of flats he is growing up in.

A couple have described the living conditions in their council flat in King Street, Great Yarmouth as horrific. Picture: Joe NortonA couple have described the living conditions in their council flat in King Street, Great Yarmouth as horrific. Picture: Joe Norton

Even as the three-year-old crawls around his bedroom he is surrounded by black mould which grows up the walls surrounding his bed.

For several months, Miss Earl, 18, and her partner Jason Hewitt, 27, have been calling on Great Yarmouth Borough Council to sort out the ‘horrendous’ living conditions they have been made to endure in their council rented flat in King Street, Great Yarmouth.

A spokesperson for Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “The communal areas in blocks of flats are inspected regularly and anything dangerous, including any drugs paraphernalia, is removed urgently.

“The caretakers who sweep and clean communal staircases all have training and equipment to remove any needles.

Mould on their children's bedroom wall. Picture: Joe NortonMould on their children's bedroom wall. Picture: Joe Norton

“The communal area at this council property in King Street was inspected last week and the area was found to be clear.”

The couple say they have to spend numerous hours a week cleaning mould off the walls which surround their children’s beds.

Mr Hewitt said: “The living conditions here are absolutely horrific.

“We all feel trapped but the council will not do anything.

The couple have to fill the corridor of their flat with clothes because they do not have enough room to store it. Picture: Joe NortonThe couple have to fill the corridor of their flat with clothes because they do not have enough room to store it. Picture: Joe Norton

“Just after Christmas, Aaron became really ill because of the mould which continually grows on the wall.

“We are both really concerned about the health of our two children living here.”

The borough council said it inspects flats routinely and that it tries to deal with any issues that are reported.

But the couple claim despite several inspections nothing has been done to resolve other issues including a hole in their bathroom ceiling, numerous cracks in their walls and a 29-year-old boiler which works ‘infrequently’.

Mr Hewitt reported a hole in his bathroom ceiling when he first moved into the flat two years ago. Picture: Joe NortonMr Hewitt reported a hole in his bathroom ceiling when he first moved into the flat two years ago. Picture: Joe Norton

Their five-month-old daughter, Isabelle, has also had to suffer growing up in these ‘inadequate’ conditions.

Aaron’s condition - who Kathryn had in a past relationship - saw him taken to hospital just after Christmas due to having croup and not being able to breath.

This lead to a health visitor from the Norfolk Healthy Child Programme Team coming to inspect the property at the start of January.

She deemed the accommodation inadequate.

The couple say their 29-year-old boiler works 'infrequently' leaving them without hot water to clean their children. Picture: Joe NortonThe couple say their 29-year-old boiler works 'infrequently' leaving them without hot water to clean their children. Picture: Joe Norton

A spokesperson for Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “Social housing is allocated according to the specific needs of the applicant. However the needs of a tenant might change over time, especially when the family size grows.

“If this happens, tenants can apply to move to a property that better suits their needs, however demand for social housing remains high and so the timescales for transfer relate to priority and to the availability of a property that meets those specific needs.

“Where people have a medical need, they are asked to provide evidence to the council so that it is taken into consideration in the allocation.”

The health visitor said the poor living conditions were having a significant impact on the two children’s physical health and Miss Earl’s mental health.

A health visitor from Norfolk Healthy Child Programme Team inspected their flat and described it as inadequate. Picture: Joe NortonA health visitor from Norfolk Healthy Child Programme Team inspected their flat and described it as inadequate. Picture: Joe Norton

Great Yarmouth Norse is responsible for the repairs and asset management of community housing properties.

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “Where a tenant reports a repair or maintenance issue within their home, depending on the nature of the issue a surveyor or surveyors will attend as soon as possible in order to assess the situation.

“The dates for any work required are scheduled on a priority basis in liaison with the tenant. The relevant priority for a water leak being determined by the severity and nature of the leak.

“If a tenant is due to move to another property in the near future, some works within the property may be scheduled - with the agreement of the tenant - to take place only once they have vacated the property as part of preparing it for the next tenant.

“In some cases, non-urgent repairs and replacement works required within communal areas are scheduled to be completed as part of a wider programme of maintenance to the building.”

Mr Hewitt was first moved into the flat two years ago after he came out of 24/7 care at Astley Cooper Place in Great Yarmouth.

There he received support for his mental health problems which include bipolar, anxiety and depression.

Upon leaving, it was recommended by his GP for him not to be based in the town centre as it would intensify his mental health issues.

The 27-year-old said the council gave him the option of three flats - all of which were based in central locations.

He said he reported all of the problems within a month of moving into the flat but despite several visits from inspectors, none of the issues have been resolved.

His partner Kathryn moved in with her two children eight months ago and the pair have claimed living conditions are becoming progressively worse.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council said all tenants are encouraged to help keep the communal areas free from rubbish and obstruction.

The borough council added the areas are inspected routinely and fly-tipping is dealt with.

The couple said they are unable to afford to move out of the flat as they cannot work because of mental health problems.

“We just want to be moved by the council to somewhere which is adequate for us,” Mr Hewitt said.

“It is a horrible place to live but the situation we are both in means that we are stuck here.”

Great Yarmouth Borough Council said they annually invest £5m in the council’s tenanted properties through a range of works that encompasses individual component replacements through to whole house refurbishments.

The council has recently introduced a selective licencing scheme in the Nelson Ward of Great Yarmouth which aims to root out unethical and rogue landlords.

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