Night-time water leak evacuation is latest hitch for Catford block dwellers

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Catford residents were woken in the early hours of the morning and told to evacuate their homes after a flat in their building suffered a leak.

Some people living in the apartment block in Deslandes Place had to make a 40-minute journey to Greenwich and check-in to a Travelodge after being told to leave their homes at around 3am on Thursday of last week.

But residents were left confused after their landlord, Southern Housing, told them it was safe to return to the building just hours later that same morning.

Kimberley Epps-Stow, 33, who was one of the residents who had to leave her property in the early hours, said: “We had to go to Greenwich Travelodge. We thought we would have to spend another night in a hotel but they said it was safe to come back because they had turned the flat’s water off. It was very confusing.”

The decision to tell residents to evacuate came just hours after people living on the third floor had their water cut off without warning.

Ms Epps-Stow added: “When they turned floor three’s water off, they didn’t tell us. They turned the water off at six in the evening. It’s not right.”

John-Michael Hemple, 87, who ended up remaining in his home despite the advice to leave, said: “They [staff] said ‘if you have got a car, could you drive to a hotel?’ but I said ‘I’m on morphine’ and I was taking sleep tablets.”

The leak is the latest in a long list of maintenance problems to have affected the block of flats since it opened around a decade ago.

Residents have previously complained of overheating homes in summer and faulty lifts and communal doors for years.

Lewisham East MP Janet Daby said residents “should only be forced from their homes under the most dire of circumstances”.

She added: “I have been working with residents since September 2022 to resolve multiple issues with the building so it is disappointing to hear that such a significant problem has only just been identified.”

Southern Housing said: “Residents’ safety is our priority and we were concerned about water getting into the electrics in the building, so we took the decision to evacuate the residents and find them alternative accommodation for the night.

“Our team remained on site overnight and attempted to speak to all residents. We appreciate this was disruptive due to the timing, and some residents didn’t respond.

“We provided air conditioning units to residents in the summer to prevent overheating and have completed a feasibility study to provide a long-term solution.

“We’ve fitted a remote monitoring system in the lift, so in future we’ll be notified immediately and be able to respond quickly in the event of any breakdowns.”

Pictured top: MP Janet Daby (left) with residents of Deslandes Place (Picture: Janet Daby)

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