Elderly people living in 'freezing' block say they feel forgotten as Bristol City Council works delayed

  • Watch Ellie Barker's full report

People living in sheltered housing block in Bristol which is "freezing" and suffers from mould and damp say they feel let down after work to improve their living conditions has been delayed again. 

People living in Walwyn Gardens in Hartcliffe say they have been plagued by issues for more than a year.

Now Bristol City Council says work is due to begin in August and will include new roofs, staircases, walkways and insulation, extensive window and door replacement throughout, a new laundry room and community room as well as wide-ranging external work.

But people living in Walwyn Gardens say they feel depressed and they believe the work will never happen, with life having become even more difficult this winter.

The washing machine inside the building kept leaking, so a new one was set up in a temporary structure outside. It has one washing machine and one drier for all 27 flats, with residents given a two-hour slot to use it once a week.

The blue structure contains one washing machine and one drier, shared between 27 flats.

"It's awkward and there are people here in their 80s." said resident Jackie Birdman.

He added: "Well most of us here are between 70 and 95 and some of the people in here, they can't even walk up the ramps, it's terrible."

"The metal windows don't help." another resident Dave Radford said:

He added: "The kitchens and the bathrooms are absolutely freezing. We have had trouble with black mould and everything else.

"Every night you daren't open the door because it really does freeze."

Residents first showed ITV New the poor conditions in 2019 Credit: ITV News

ITV News West Country first filmed the people at the sheltered housing in October 2019, they said they felt forgotten as they showed us damp conditions and spoke of how concerned they were about the roof.

At the time, Bristol City Council said in a statement: "We have taken immediate action today to address some of the maintenance issues and architects will be submitting detailed design drawings for approval on the wider refurbishment work next month."

In January 2020 residents still felt conditions were bad Credit: ITV News

In January 2020, residents told us the conditions had continued to get worse. They showed us more leaks, and said the quality of any work which had been done was not satisfactory.

Bristol City Council did not give ITV News West Country a response.

By March 2020, rain was dripping through the ceiling and residents said a drain in the hall had exploded. Councillor Paul Smith from Bristol City Council said he was sorry and insisted Walwyn Gardens was then a priority. He has since left his position. 

In May last year Bristol City Council work was still due to begin in October, but as October rolled around the block's toilets were overflowing and the floorboards were rotting. Residents said there was an infestation of rats.

"We've had them before but this time it was lots and lots," said resident Glenis Chard at the time.

He added: "I've picked up 10 dead rats."

Bristol City Council issued a statement saying work was still on track to begin early in 2021. 

Residents at the sheltered accommodation feel like they've been forgotten Credit: ITV News

But now residents have received a letter from Bristol City Council telling them the only bid the authority has had for the work is not suitable.

"How do I feel? Well really let down" said Jackie. "I don't think we are going to get the work done. We all feel that in here now."

Despite all this time, the promises and the hope, they say they are still living in these conditions and they say they still believe they are the forgotten people of Walwyn Gardens.

In a statement issued on Tuesday 2 March, Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet member for Women, Families and Homes, said: "We completely understand the deep frustration felt by some residents over the length of time taken to bring the extensive Walwyn Gardens renovation to fruition, but while any scepticism may be understandable, the council remains fully committed to this project and the improvements it will bring.

The council has now released these plans of what it says the block will look like when work is complete. Credit: Bristol City Council.

“This extensive scheme includes new roofs, staircases, walkways and insulation, extensive window and door replacement throughout, a new laundry room and community room as well as wide-ranging external work and the timetable originally outlined to residents during a meeting last year saw with specific designs finalised and surveys completed before the tender for the work was released late last year.

“Unfortunately, the challenging conditions caused by the pandemic meant only one bid for the work was received and it was significantly beyond our budget for the scheme. While we were unable to accept this, the funding for this project is secure and we are prioritising retendering as quickly as possible, including simplifying the process to boost interest in new bids by early June and for works to start on site in August.

Bristol City Council's plans for the block. Credit: Bristol City Council.

“The pandemic has prevented further face-to-face meetings, but all residents have been sent update letters on preparations for this project, which will offer a solution to some recurring problems previously highlighted at Walwyn Gardens.

“We continue encourage residents to report specific maintenance issues and repairs, which continue to be dealt with as promptly as possible, working with the site warden. These include completed maintenance on the temporary laundry that was installed last year and will also be used during the major refurbishment project and we are ensuring that council staff and any external contractors are adhering to Covid-19 safety measures at all times.’’

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