Mum claims son struggles to breathe properly after flat developer 'broke ventilation promises'

  • ITV News Meridian's Mel Bloor has met two families who live in Lilly May Court

A mother living in a block of flats in Berkshire says her son has severe breathing problems and needs an inhaler, because the properties were not built with enough ventilation.

Elise Maslen says she has been left frightened for her young son's health.

The mum, her partner Kai and their son Archie moved into Lilly May Court in Woodley near Wokingham in 2017, but three years later Archie was diagnosed with asthma.

The couple bought the shared ownership flat off-plan, and say they weren't made aware of multiple haulage yards located next to the block.

Elise said: "Our living rooms back on to pretty much the haulage yard and behind us is a private road where the hauliers are a lot of the time queued up down the road with their engines running.

"All of the pollution with the wind blowing, it's all just blowing into our homes and because he's at a lower level as well, he's then directly taking that into his lungs.

"It's more than upsetting, it's absolutely devastating and I'm scared."

Lilly May Court was built in 2017 next to multiple haulage yards in Woodley, Berkshire.

"When we first moved into the property in October 2017, we noticed after a few weeks that the noise outside from the hauliers was intolerable", she added.

"Then when we had the windows open, we couldn't hear the television over the noise. When it became warmer, we noticed black dust settling on our windowsills."

Elise contacted Environmental Health to express her concerns over her son's health, and asked them to investigate.

Unfortunately she was told they were only responsible for the noise levels.

"By April 2020, I'd absolutely had enough, as we were in the middle of lockdown and the weather was really warm. We were all locked into our homes. All of us here were comparing our situations, and we realised quickly that all of our children have got these irritating dry coughs, and have now been prescribed with inhalers."

  • Elise Maslen says all she wants is to be able to move

Lilly May Court was built in 2017 by Bloor Homes, and was named in memory of a little girl from Woodley who died from a rare heart condition.

Lilly-May Page-Bowden, 4, collapsed at her school in May 2014. The development was built three years later on land next to haulage company BDT Transport Ltd, off Loddon Bridge Road.

Because of the location of the development, as part of the planning conditions set out by Wokingham Borough Council, the flats were supposed to have high performance glazing and internal fans so that windows could be kept closed.

But these were never installed and residents claim they weren't told by Housing Solutions that they would have to keep their windows shut.

Elise reached out to her local MP, Reading East Labour MP Matt Rodda. He said, "I think the residents here have been treated terribly. They've been mis-sold these properties. It's very noisy, there's serious air pollution and I really think they should never have been put in this position."

Damaris Sende's family is also concerned for their health

Damaris Sende and her family are also scared about the impact pollution from the nearby yards could be having on their lungs.

"What we've been exposed to is something very bad for our health and we know that," she said.

"My son is having to use an inhaler at such a young age. It's so evasive having to give that mask to him and I've been doing that since he's six months old because he's had ongoing cough issues.

"I don't want to be here and I just want this situation to be over with."

Councillor Shirley Boyt of Wokingham Borough Council said, "There was a whole meeting which took place, discussing the loud noise that these lorries were making, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and not one person during that entire planning committee meeting asked whether it would have an adverse effect on future residents.

"Not one person considered whether these lorries would give off noxious fumes.

"I'm so angry, words fail me."

  • Councillor Shirley Boyt believes the residents have been treated unfairly

Housing Solutions which operates the flats, said, "Lilly May Court is a shared ownership scheme consisting of 9 flats in Woodley, Reading. It was built in 2017 as part of a larger development that Housing Solutions purchased from Bloor Homes as developer of the scheme. The homes were developed adjacent to an industrial site with a haulage yard.

"Wokingham Borough Council, as the local authority planning department, therefore imposed three planning conditions on Bloor Homes, as the developer, to reduce noise levels from the haulage yard. These included the installation of high performance glazing and an internal fan, similar to an extractor fan, to support the windows being kept closed when needed due to noise.

"As purchasers, the residents would have been aware of the yard itself as well as the planning conditions that had been imposed by the local authority through the legal information supplied during the conveyancing process. The existence and location of the haulage yard would also be obvious on any viewing. The planning conditions were not intended to address air quality at the site.

"The issue of local air quality and/or pollution is not under Housing Solutions’ responsibility or control and the local authority did not impose any conditions on the developer in terms of air quality. Irrespective of this, we naturally share our residents’ concerns around the potential impact of the haulage yard on themselves and their families. This is why we asked Wokingham Borough Council’s environmental health team to undertake specialist air quality testing in the area.

"We are pleased to see that this is now being undertaken and we very much look forward to receiving the results of those investigations. Last September Housing Solutions became aware that the measures to mitigate noise levels inside residents’ homes had not been installed by the developer in accordance with the planning conditions. We have made a number of interventions to try and get this matter resolved for residents, and we have been in regular, ongoing discussions with the developer, the planners and the environmental health department, alongside residents, to get the measures implemented.

"Due to these efforts, the developer has agreed to carry out the work needed (at its own cost) and we have, since then, been working with the residents to facilitate access to their flats so it can be carried out. We have offered support to the residents to remove as much of the inconvenience as possible including offering the services of a professional mediator (at our cost) to support them in the process.

"However some of the residents are reluctant to engage with the developer to progress the work that is needed to address the issue of noise. We have stood shoulder to shoulder with our residents in our efforts to resolve the situation and we will continue to support the residents affected however we can."

In a statement Bloor Homes said, "Bloor Homes was made aware of issues at Lilly May Court by Wokingham Borough Council and has been in regular contact with the Council in order to resolve the matter.

"Bloor has recently reached an agreement with the Council and the owner of Lilly May Court as to the extent of the works (which will require a very short period of access to each individual flat).

"Bloor is now waiting for access to residents' flats so that the works can be completed, which will be carried out at Bloor's sole cost."

The families say they are now crowdfunding for a solicitor to take Housing Solutions to court.

In their appeal they say "Please help us to get justice, move away and move on with our lives."