Water gushes from St Francis Tower as families hit with fresh housing drama

St Francis Tower in Ipswich has been hit by a water leak

St Francis Tower in Ipswich has been hit by a water leak - Credit: ARCHANT/CAROLINE HAYDON-KNOWELL

Families living in an Ipswich tower with unsafe cladding are facing yet another housing issue after water started gushing near the base of their building.

Footage shared with this newspaper reveals a substantial leak at St Francis Tower, in Franciscan Way, with water flooding areas outside the downstairs laundry room.

Tenants in the block, which is currently wrapped in plastic sheeting while cladding is replaced, say this is adjacent to the lift area at ground level - and that water has entered the lift shaft.

It has led to all lifts being turned off over the weekend for safety reasons, with those living inside concerned that water getting into the electrics could cause a fire.

It has previously been alleged that the cladding in place on St Francis Tower, of which 45% remained ahead of repairs starting, is even more flammable than that used on Grenfell.

Caroline Haydon-Knowell, who lives on the 15th floor, said a lift engineer from Block Management UK Ltd (BMUK), which oversees the day-to-day running of the tower, arrived on Saturday to investigate.

Water has been pooling around the laundry room

Water has been pooling around the laundry room - Credit: CAROLINE HAYDON-KNOWELL

She said the engineer felt sure the leak would not cause a fire safety issue - believing that only the lift shaft was affected, not any other electrical supply to the block.

“You can clearly see in the photos that water is pooling and flooding outside the laundry room,” said Ms Haydon-Knowell. 

“I don’t believe any property management has been called out to investigate, and we are all concerned about fire safety.”

Lifts in the tower are turned off for safety reasons

Lifts in the tower are turned off for safety reasons - Credit: CAROLINE HAYDON-KNOWELL

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Both Block Management UK Ltd and Anglian Water were contacted by residents on Friday evening. 

According to tenants, Anglian Water chiefs said they would start work to repair what appeared to be a burst main at the base of the block on Tuesday.

However, following contact with this newspaper, bosses now say they have dispatched an engineer this afternoon - who is attempting to fix the leak.

“We’ve been made aware of a leak due to a burst pipe in the vicinity of St Francis Tower," a spokesman said.

"Our engineers are working to resolve this as quickly as possible.

"We’re sorry for any inconvenience this has caused."

A BMUK spokesman said:  “The safety of our residents and leaseholders is our upmost priority and we have, and will continue to, inform them as the work on site progresses. 
 
“We are working closely with our partners including Anglian Water, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, our insurers, and partner contractors, to have the matter resolved as quickly as possible.”

Ms Haydon-Knowell, who represents a group of residents unhappy with current living conditions, said many people have been unable to leave their flats without lift access due to disabilities or frailties.

CAROLINE HAYDON-KNOWELL

Rand Moore and Caroline Haydon-Knowell - Credit: CAROLINE HAYDON-KNOWELL

The former PA added: “Unfortunately, (the water problem) means many residents are stuck in their dull, gloomy flats alone for the bank holiday weekend.

"It feels like we’ve been placed in solitary confinement on a 24-hour lockdown for the foreseeable…. it’s not very nice.”

Building contractors Oander Ltd and BMUK bosses have previously stressed that the plastic sheeting has been installed during cladding replacement work to protect workers and the tower from the elements.

Residents have been left in shock after the entirety of St Francis Tower in Ipswich has been wrapped in plastic

Residents have been left in shock after the entirety of St Francis Tower in Ipswich has been wrapped in plastic - Credit: ELLA WILKINSON

Tenants say it blocks out natural light and they have complained of “sweltering conditions” in hot weather and a lack of fresh air.

Earlier this month, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt requested a rethink of the material - which is due to cover the tower until at least next spring while unsafe cladding is replaced.

He is due to meet both firms again in September to discuss his proposal.

Tom Hunt MP

Tom Hunt MP said residents of St Francis Tower in Ipswich are "literally living in the dark". - Credit: Tom Hunt MP's office

- Read more coverage of the cladding crisis on the Archant Investigations Unit Facebook page

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