Fears over future of block of flats in Market Harborough

Edwin Court. Photo by Andrew Carpenter
Edwin Court. Photo by Andrew Carpenter

Furious residents have slammed a massive fire safety scheme set to start in the next few days at a troubled 10-year-old block of flats in Market Harborough.

Owners and tenants at Edwin Court in Kettering Road have accused landlord Waterloo Housing of dropping a “bombshell” on them as they will be forced out of their homes for up to two months.

They will be given the choice of moving into one of seven empty units at Edwin Court or in with families or friends while their belongings are put into storage.

The stunning rebuilding package, which could take up to 18 months, is going ahead at 75-flat Edwin Court after a routine risk assessment found safety measures do not meet new regulations.

An outside contractor is being brought in to work on six to eight bedsits at a time, floor by floor at the four-level building.

Waterloo Housing has told shell-shocked residents: “To be clear, the building has ALWAYS been safe. It is just not appropriate for a ‘Stay Put’ policy.”

But an outraged woman tenant told the Harborough Mail: “What the hell does that mean? It’s absolute gobbledygook.

“It’s either safe or it’s not.

“This has hit us like a bombshell.

“I’m very angry as is everyone else who lives here – it’s come out of the blue and we’ve been given just days’ notice.

“We’ll have to move out of our homes for up to eight weeks – and it could easily turn out to be even longer than that.”

The 33-year-old woman, a carer in Market Harborough, said rumours and speculation had been swirling about Edwin Court since they received a letter from Waterloo on Tuesday last week.

“Many of us attended a meeting with Waterloo staff about this at the Oat Hill pub last Thursday.

“My hands were shaking, I’ve been that shaken up by it,” said the woman, who pays £400-a-month rent on the one-bed flat she shares with her boyfriend.

“A lot of our questions about our futures here weren’t properly answered.

“Workmen are going to take down ceilings, remove walls and replace our doors and plug points.

“No-one wants a repeat of the Grenfell Tower inferno in London two years ago.

“But I don’t want to be kicked out of our home for weeks on end either.

“We don’t want to be squeezed out into an empty unit here and our parents just haven’t got the room to put us up.”

An incensed professional man trying to sell his flat at Edwin Court said: “Anyone like myself about to sell their flat or in the process of selling can no longer legally do so until all the work is

complete.

“So now all my plans are put on hold for 18 months while I have to pay full rent/mortgage (£600 a month) while not being able to legally sell my property.

“It’s outrageous and this is ripping people’s lives apart.”

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said: “I understand residents at Edwin Court are very upset about this work. But it’s essential the building is made completely fire safe and we are not taking risks with people’s lives.”

Cllr Phil Knowles, Liberal Democrat leader on Harborough District Council, said: “The most important thing is safety. The work needs to be carried out without delay.

“From there questions, and I’m sure there will be many that need to be asked, can and will be asked.”

He added: “It’s a deeply concerning time for residents and it’s crucial they are kept fully informed and their anxieties not overlooked.”

A Harborough District Council spokesman said: “HDC is being kept informed about this.”

A spokeswoman for Solihull-based Waterloo Housing said: “We absolutely understand how disruptive the improvement works will be but completing it is the only way to ensure complete

safety for the residents living there.

“We will be working with each household individually to find a temporary move solution that best suits each of them and we will be there to support them every step of the way.”

She added: “We are committed to a comprehensive approach to fire safety and to doing this level of internal work as it is the only way to ensure complete safety for the people living there.”