Hemel residents say it is like 'living on a construction site' as Hightown Housing Association carries out safety improvements to the building

Hightown Housing Association installed CCTV and security doors at Lord Alexander House after residents complained about anti-social behaviour

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 2:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th April 2021, 2:40 pm

Residents in Hemel Hempstead have criticised Hightown Housing Association over ongoing problems that have come to boiling point during recent construction work.

But Hightown says many of the residents' complaints stem from antisocial behaviour that happened two years ago - and that it has worked hard to resolve problems, installed CCTV and security doors and arranged regular patrols by a Police Community Support Officer.

Hightown is now carrying out work to improve the building for residents, including fire safety improvements.

Lord Alexander House

Charlotte moved into her flat Lord Alexander House nine years ago and says she has had nothing but problems since moving in.

She said: "We have had a lot of drug addicts in and out of here, there have been doors smashed, walls smashed in, loads of police raids. We had a police officer actually stationed downstairs before the pandemic as they were getting called out so often.

"Now, with this new work that is taking place, it is the final straw.

"We were left in the dark, there was no prior communication from Hightown. We got a letter a week before to say about the work, it's ridiculous. We got told that the men will need access to the flats to sort the work.

"I have two children. Since the work started, we have already had floods of water, and the water had to be turned off. It is really destructive work they are having to do and there is no consideration by Hightown for the residents.

"It is like living on a construction site. They have asked us to move out while some of the work is being done, but we are in the middle of a pandemic and we are in lockdown. Where are we supposed to go?

"I understand it needs to be done, but it should have had more planning and organisation by Hightown, who should have communicated with us. It is a massive job. They have got to be the worst flats in Hemel. We have had to deal with all those problems since moving in and then things started to improve - and now this."

Another resident, who does not wish to be named, said: "There are many issues with our building Lord Alexander House, which have been ongoing since I moved in - nine years ago.

"Hightown Housing Association has failed to do anything about the problems, we are all fed up, it is one thing after another, and nothing is ever done. The most recent problem with the construction work is the final straw.

"We have had fires, drug rings, people smoking in our gas cupboard, and homeless people living in the communal area - which Hightown have done nothing about.

"On the fifth floor the walls move in the wind, it is ridiculous, the place is falling down and it is not fit for service, and we are paying for this. The car park is falling apart, the ceiling is leaking, and I pay £90 a month to park there.

"What is really frustrating is the lack of recognition from Hightown, and the lack of respect for residents, they belittle us when we complain about things.

"Since Christmas the fire alarm has gone off over 60 times, and each time two fire engines have to attend. It is now beyond a joke and something needs to be done."

Hightown Housing Association says it has been communicating with residents since November about plans to carry out fire safety improvements to the building.

A spokesperson for Hightown Housing Association said: "We are sorry for the issues these residents have experienced. Many of the anti-social behaviour issues mentioned happened two years ago. As a result, we installed CCTV and security doors, arranged regular patrols by a Police Community Support Officer, evicted a tenant responsible and held drop-in sessions for residents to raise any issues.

"We have since had positive feedback about the reduction in anti-social behaviour. We always respond as soon as we receive a report of anything in the lift that needs to be cleaned up.

"We have been communicating with residents since November about our plans to carry out fire safety improvements to the building. The letter sent at the beginning of March informed residents that we would be phoning them the following week to discuss their circumstances, any support needed and to arrange a suitable date over the next three months to carry out the work in their flat.

"We have not carried out the work in Charlotte's home yet and she will not need to move out during the works; occupied flats on other floors have already had works completed without residents needing to move out.

"We are sorry the contractor accidentally caused a water leak and after providing bottled water, the water was turned back on later that night. The leak in the car park ceiling has been fixed.

"We have been in regular contact with the Fire Service and are working closely with them to try to reduce the number of false alarms and improve the way the fire alarm system functions. We also gave advice to residents in January on how to avoid accidentally setting off the fire alarm. As a result, there has been a reduction in incidents. We have staff on site every day to support some residents with their specific needs.

"Nationally, residents and the government have been keen to see landlords and building owners taking measures to improve the safety of people who occupy blocks of flats. Hightown wants to play its part and move forward with work that will benefit our residents. We always listen to our residents' views and will work with them to address their concerns as well as keeping them informed."

Dacorum Safer Neighbourhood Inspector Jeff Scott said: “Historically there was a period when we received a larger than expected volume of calls about anti-social behaviour and suspected drug activity at Lord Alexander House.

“Working in partnership with Hightown Housing Association, funding was provided by Hightown towards a dedicated PCSO for their local town centre properties which resulted in an immediate reduction in these reports.

“The PCSO is regularly in the building and has close contact with residents and addresses such concerns. We encourage residents to report any further incidents to us so we can build a picture and formulate a plan to solve any chronic issues identified.”

Residents can report information online or call the non-emergency number 101.

The Gazette contacted Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service but has not yet received a response.