OPINION: The treatment of St Francis Tower residents has been appalling
- Credit: ARCHANT
Ipswich recorded its hottest ever temperatures on Monday and Tuesday. Fires started, travel was once again disrupted, and a red level health warning was announced for the near 40C temperatures felt across Suffolk.
On top of this Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has been inundated by many fires, largely caused by the conditions created by the heat, that a major incident has been declared.
My thoughts and efforts have been with those in St Francis Tower. The tower block is still undergoing important remediation work and continues to have protective sheeting that makes living in the tower almost unbearable.
The effects of this wrapping have been exacerbated by the intense heat, raising temperatures inside residents’ flats, and adding to the distress already felt by many.
I wrote to all residents before the extreme weather to notify them that my team and I are here to support during this particularly difficult time.
Some residents have contacted me directly regarding these difficult living conditions and I have tried my utmost to communicate these to the managing companies of St Francis Tower, and those carrying out the remediation efforts.
Block Management Ltd deny responsibility for the remediation works and so I contacted Oander Ltd and Guildmore Ltd. Despite almost hourly calls, as well as frequent emails, absolutely no response was forthcoming from either company.
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I have been left incredibly frustrated and appalled that throughout these record temperatures, no company seems to be taking any form of responsibility or consideration for the residents of St Francis Tower.
One individual who has shown immense care and concern is Rev Tom Mumford, Vicar of Ipswich Civic Church.
Rev Mumford, like myself, has called for the intolerable conditions that the residents live in to end. In addition to writing to the leading organisations, Rev Mumford has also offered pastoral support to all residents and the use of his church in the day to provide a cooler alternative to the unbearable temperature of the flats.
This commendable work from Rev Tom and his message of co-operation from those responsible for St Francis Tower should be heeded.
I personally continue to be appalled by the way residents are treated and the conditions they face. With none of the managing companies answering any communication from my office, I can only presume that this is echoed throughout their day-to-day correspondence with residents.
The conditions in the tower were already difficult but with the added heat I think it is inexcusable for those in charge to remain silent during what could be a very dangerous situation.
I have always been incredibly vocal and resolute in my opinion of the cladding works at St Francis Tower. I was initially pleased that St Francis Tower was one of the first beneficiaries of the Building Safety Funds as I understood completely how necessary the works are.
However, after several visits, including one with the Minister for Building and Fire Safety, and numerous communications with residents, it was clear to me that there were some real issues in the process.
I remain adamant that the works should be carried out with the dignity and wellbeing of the residents living within the buildings at the forefront of all decision-making.
When the detrimental impact of the type of plastic wrap became evident, I was quick to act and secure a Westminster Hall debate.
In this debate I highlighted my concerns and scrutinised these works within Parliament. I was keen to see that the mental health of my constituents is taken into consideration.
I want to ensure that their wellbeing is no longer negatively affected and that companies responsible act quicker and with greater clarity. Unfortunately, as recent events show, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
I continue to push for legally-binding statutory guidance to ensure that when these companies let residents down, swift and firm legal action can be taken against them.
This might come in the form of stripping accreditation to sector bodies or fining those responsible. I am resolute in fighting for the strongest action possible to ensure that residents in tower blocks across the country are not left feeling isolated and in distress.
My colleague Stephen McPartland MP has suggested that this could come in the form of a compulsory Code of Practice for those carrying out remediation work on residential buildings.
This would identify key criteria for the wrapping used, including the length it is up for, hopefully reducing the stress and impact on residents as well as minimising delays.
I wholly support this approach and will continue to work with Stephen to see this created as soon as possible. We cannot afford inaction on such an imposing and important issue.
Throughout the difficulties in communication with the companies in charge of St Francis Tower my frustrations have unfortunately shown.
I am angered at how it appears that residents have been left during such an unbearable period. This weather has affected everyone, and I can only imagine what those in St Francis Tower have been going through.
It is imperative that the companies involved with these remediation works heed the advice of the Rev Mumford and begin to co-operate for the good of the residents.
- Tom Hunt is the Conservative MP for Ipswich.