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‘Dirty protest’ against faeces and urine problem in SE1 housing block

An Elephant and Castle resident who has spent a decade cleaning up faeces and urine from his stairwell is urging the council to do something about his estate’s bog-standard security.

Due to a lack of security doors, non-residents are free to access the communal corridors and stairs at Newman House – or ‘Pooman House’, as residents have nicknamed it.

This means that rough sleepers regularly use quiet areas in the block as make-shift toilets, providing residents like AJ Hilditch with an unenviable addition to their morning routine.

AJ's pet dog getting into the spirit.
AJ’s pet dog getting into the spirit.

The 37-year-old told the News: “I find cowpat-type splatter and pools of urine once a week. It’s disgusting and not the way you want to start your day.

“There are young kids living upstairs who use their hands going down the steps. I have mobility issues so I need to use the handrail which is often messy too. It is unacceptable.”

AJ has been appealing to the council for help since he moved into his flat in 2005. After a decade without a solution, he began a sit-down protest earlier this week as a final push.

Armed with rolls of toilet paper and protest banners and accompanied by his trusty pet dogs, AJ has vowed to continue his ‘clean protest’ outside the council’s Tooley Street headquarters for as long as it takes.

AJ Hilditch Newman House poo protest Pooman 4

He said: “It’s ridiculous that it has come to this. I’ve sent multiple letters and even organised a petition at one point which was signed by a lot of residents. I feel like the only way to get a response at this point is to sit out here and embarrass them into action.”

He added that he was sympathetic to the homeless people forced to use the stairwell for shelter and would often bring them cups of tea or blankets during cold weather.

But he said that clearing up faeces himself – and often having to protect his dogs from used needles or gangs of youths who congregate in the stairwell – was a step too far.

AJ Hilditch Newman House poo protest Pooman 3

“In the last place I lived, the cleaners were amazing and the place was spotless. Here, it can take a week to get something cleared up – and after that, like at the moment, there are often remnants still flecked over the walls.

“I am going to withhold paying my security and cleaning service charge until improvements are made to Newman House.”

Councillor Richard Livingstone, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, said: “No-one should have to put up with such unpleasant behaviour on their doorstep, and our cleaning teams respond swiftly to any reports of this sort.”

Cllr Livingstone added that Newman House residents previously voted against installing a security door in a ballot but the council would look into the issue again if a majority now wanted a security door in place.

AJ in his Newman House stairwell.
AJ in his Newman House stairwell.

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