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‘It’s like living in the 1940s’ Ledbury Estate family’s account of life in the blocks without gas and the stress of moving home

A family on the Ledbury Estate, where residents have been advised to leave over safety fears, have said being forced to wash their baby in a bowl is “like living in the 1940s”.

All the households in the four tower blocks by Old Kent Road, were told by Southwark Council that major works will be needed on their flat, after the authority disclosed that the blocks may not be safe to carry gas, and switched off supplies.

Vaunda and Stephen Hill, and their sons nine-year-old Zachary and seven-month-old James, are in the throes of bidding for a new home that will meet their disability needs.

Since the disruption, the council has given out hot plates as a temporary measure before new electric cookers are fitted. Immersion heaters will also be distributed to allow for hot showers, whilst residents have been invited to bathe at leisure centres.

______Ledbury Estate residents Vaunda and Stephen Hill, with their son Zachary and baby James

Vaunda said: “We are actually quite lucky that we’ve got an electric shower, and an electric cooker. But we do have to clean our little one [baby James] by boiling a kettle and bathing him in a bowl. It’s like being in the 1940s, my nan said that’s how she was bathed.”

Stephen, 39, told the News: “Zachary and I are both autistic, and I’ve got a history of having strokes. We need an adapted flat with a ramp and a wet room. There’s a lot of vulnerable people in the blocks and a lot of young children.”

Stephen has had five strokes; four were in 2014 and his most recent was in July, shortly after the disruption at the Ledbury began.

“The doctor said it was stress related,” Stephen said. “The other things about it is that my three-year-old from a previous relationship likes to come and stay with us, but with this situation they can’t.

“In fact my son is stressing the most. He has autism and I don’t know how this is going to affect him at school.  We’ve got to wait and see, but it feels like we’re in limbo.”

The council confirmed on August 10 that “strengthening works” – carried out on estates in England under government order, following the deadly Ronan Point tower block collapse in 1968 – may never have happened on the Ledbury. The revelations meant that the thirteen-storey blocks could collapse in the event of a gas explosion.

“It was a shock. It’s very surreal. It’s tiring more than anything,” said Vaunda, 42.

Stephen said: “It’s the sort of thing you would never expect to happen. It’s the sort of thing you would read about in the paper.”

Despite the upheaval, the family said they didn’t feel angry, because it “won’t help resolve the situation.

“I think everyone is trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Vaunda said. “A lot of people want a solution and they want it now. But they [the council] are still working on a solution.”

A Southwark Council spokeswoman told the News that all tower block residents will most likely need to move into new homes temporarily to facilitate future major works that need doing to their flats. The details of those works will be explained in a report produced by structural surveyors, Arup. This report has not yet been completed, though it is due soon.

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