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Residents organise to take over control of 'nightmare' Orchard Village estate, Rainham

PUBLISHED: 10:00 11 November 2016

Orchard Village, Rainham

Orchard Village, Rainham

Archant

Residents at a problem-ridden housing association estate have taken the first steps towards running it themselves.

Responses

Housing association Circle, which runs the Orchard Village estate, told the Recorder it supports the idea of establishing a resident association.

A spokesman added the housing giant is “keen to help residents to achieve this”.

He admitted again homes on the estate “were not to the standard we expect”.

“While the first two phases were delivered successfully, there have been some issues with the most recent phase,” he added.

Residents were urged to contact Circle if they have concerns over service charges.

A council spokesman said the council’s building control team was involved in ensuring the development complied with building regulations.

He added: “Spot checks on various elements of the construction including the foundations, below ground drainage, damp proofing and the roof structures were carried out by Havering Council surveyors.

“They do not act as a clerk of works for any construction project and did not inspect every element of all the many hundreds of units that were built.”

More than 80 people attended a public meeting at the Orchard Village estate, Rainham, last week to discuss a series of on-going problems at the three-year-old site – previously dubbed a “nightmare” estate.

Representatives from housing association Circle, which runs Orchard Village, and officers from Havering Council were invited to attend but did not turn up.

But councillors representing South Hornchurch – Cllr Graham Williamson, Cllr Michael Deon-Burton, who lives on the estate, and Cllr Phil Martin – were present.

With Circle due to merge with housing giant Affinity Sutton, residents fear repairs will not be carried out and they are concerned they will have little say in the way the estate is managed.

Circle admitted there were “issues with the quality of some homes”.

Over the past year, the Recorder has reported problems on the site including falling metal poles, lack of insulation, vermin infestation and high energy bills.

Residents attending the meeting voted unanimously to start a referendum process to launch their own residents’ association, which would not give them any responsibilities but oblige Circle to acknowledge and respond to them as a formal collective.

They need 75 per cent of votes in favour in order to present their plan to Circle.

This comes after Circle residents in Tower Hamlets have taken the lead to disassociate from the housing association because it “has gone back over its promises” to keep the running of the estate “resident-led”, the meeting heard.

Residents told councillors a resurgence of mice had been reported in certain blocks, and claimed service charges were too high – with one block paying an annual £28,000.

One woman said she had fallen into debt because of high energy bills.

Cllr Williamson told residents the asset of the estate – previously the Mardyke estate – was sold for a symbolic £1 by the council to Circle.

He added: “A lot of people involved don’t want to talk to us because there is a cock-up. The building is actually the biggest problem. We don’t know who is responsible for signing it off. We are investigating this at the moment.

“We suspect the council has a role in signing this off and is embarrassed.”

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