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Aylesbury Estate left out in the cold again following repeated heating failures

Aylesbury Estate residents are left shivering in ‘bitterly cold’ nights, with one in a ‘hell of a lot of pain’, after their district heating failed at the first sign of cold weather.

Every summer, the heating in the Gayhurst block on the Aylesbury Estate is switched off from May until September, when residents are told that it will come on automatically if the temperature drops below 17 degrees.

But when the temperature reached lows of 7 degrees last month, the heating failed to come on, leaving the residents with freezing cold flats, exacerbated by the lack of double glazing and draughty windows.

When the heating finally kicked in on October 1, it was the first time the block had heating since May. Residents have been left fearful about the reliability of their heating – and their flats are still cold due to poor insulation.

Gayhurst resident Shelly Jennings, 50, who is recovering from a spine operation, said: “It’s actually ridiculous, it really is.

“Because my place gets so cold, I have to sleep with six water bottles in my bed to stop my spine seizing up. I’m in a hell of a lot of pain.”

When she spoke to the News, Shelly had travelled to her sister’s home just to be somewhere warm.

“I’m in bed by seven every night because I’ve got no heating,” she added. “It’s bitterly, bitterly cold.

“The drafts are unbelievable, so I have to keep my curtains closed constantly. It’s doom and gloom all the time.”

Lorraine Hall, 62, said: “I’ve been knocking my head up the wall with it all.

“The flat is a hellhole. It’s affected me mentally big time. All my colleagues at work can tell.

“We’ve got water running down the windows from condensation.”

Residents have expressed a sense of being forgotten about as Southwark Council focuses its attention on new building projects such as the recently approved Lomond Grove infill development in Camberwell, and the Flaxyard infill development in Peckham.

“It’s not fair,” said Lorraine. “We work. We don’t deserve to live in such a dire situation. We pay our rent, we pay our bills, it’s just not right.”

Southwark Council currently has a compensation policy offering £3 to residents for each days’ heating outage.

As recently reported in the News, annual district heating costs in Southwark are set to rise fivefold over the next four years to £25 million a year.

Aylesbury Estate is listed on Southwark Council’s 20 ‘sites of concern’ regarding district heating, even after half a million was spent to fix the estate’s communal heating last winter.

Following this substantial investment the heating still broke down, and the estate relied on temporary boilers to avoid leaving residents completely without heating.

Aylesbury Estate is currently undergoing a 20-year long regeneration process involving the gradual demolition and rebuilding of the area across four phases.

The first phase, which involved demolishing all the Bradenham, Arklow, Chartridge and Chiltern blocks between Bradenham Close and Portland Street, was completed in 2020, and new homes are currently being built in their place. The process is set to be completed in 2036.

Lorraine and other residents expressed a feeling that their homes were not seen as worth investing in and improving while Southwark Council was in the process of carrying out its regeneration plan on the other parts of the estate.

Councillor Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: “The district heating at Aylesbury estate works on an automatic system that kicks in if the temperature consistently dips below a certain level for over five consecutive days.

“This may mean it can appear to be intermittent, particularly if it’s an unusually warm autumn, but it will come on when it is required. Sometimes, individual properties can experience loss of heat if the radiators in their flats need attention after not being used during the summer – we’d urge residents to let us know if they think there’s an issue.

“We accept that properties on Aylesbury are very old now, and definitely do not have perfect insulation in comparison with our new properties, which is why it is so important that we keep building new council homes across the borough to permanently address this issue.”


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