'Authorities must shoulder some blame for run-down horror housing block in Northampton'

Overslade House in Northampton is to be vacated while emergency works are carried out.
Overslade House in Northampton is to be vacated while emergency works are carried out.

Tenants of a flat block in Northampton set to be vacated for failing fire safety tests believe the council needs to shoulder some blame for its demise following years of poor maintenance.

Those living in the 66 apartments at Overslade House in East Hunsbury are to be shipped out en masse after an inspection by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue deemed the homes unsafe on August 14.

Abandoned sofas in the car park of Overslade House. Though some of the damage has been blamed on a small group of people living there, some residents feel tenants were merely venting frustration.

Abandoned sofas in the car park of Overslade House. Though some of the damage has been blamed on a small group of people living there, some residents feel tenants were merely venting frustration.

Northampton Partnership Homes, which runs the social housing block, said anti-social behaviour was partly to blame for its poor condition.

It said fire safety measures, such as hoses, fitted inside Overslade House had been "maliciously damaged", making it unsafe to live there and claims it is only temporarily moving residents out so emergency works can take place.

People living there told the Chronicle & Echo how a small group of tenants had made it a misery to live there by creating noise, setting fires and damaging the inside of the block.

But several other residents have told the Chronicle & Echo that Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH) and the owners Northampton Borough Council must shoulder some blame for the place going to ruin.

The flats in east Hunsbury have been the subject of numerous police call-outs.

The flats in east Hunsbury have been the subject of numerous police call-outs.

One source described how he had been living among exposed wires and pipes, even traces of food on the ceilings outside his flat.

But he said his complaints to NPH have rarely resulted in action.

He said: "In my eyes it's obvious why there has been vandalism by these so-called 'yobs' - people aren't happy with the state of the place they are living in.

"I have been complaining to the council since I moved here."

A young mother described how vandals tried to remove fire alarms because they were going off at all hours of the night. Emergency fire hoses have also been removed.

She claims those alarms were also being left to ring long after fire crews have attended the building.

"When the alarm goes off here, no one leaves their house anymore," she said.

"It just goes off too many times. I have heard the fire alarm go for a good six hours before someone has come to turn it off."

Officers from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service’s prevention and community protection department visited Overslade House "at the request of Northamptonshire Partnership Homes" to inspect the premises in August.

A spokeswoman for the service said: "Following the visit a notification of fire safety deficiencies was issued on August 14.

"This identifies deficiencies, which must be addressed in order to meet the legal obligations under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005."

Northampton Partnership Homes has begun talking to the residents at Overslade House and has pledged to refurbish the site once it is empty.

A spokesman from NPH said:“We apologise to all residents living at Overslade House for the current situation in regards to Anti-Social Behaviour and we also understand the concerns about moving home.

"We’d like to reassure that since we took over the management of the block in 2015 we have taken steps to deal with historical Anti-Social Behaviour that has taken place.

"We have always listened to reports about how it is happening, acted and worked with trusted organisations to tackle the ASB. We fitted CCTV inside the block, part of a measure for extra security. This was maliciously damaged by the culprits and was beyond repair. We have continually replaced fire safety equipment as it’s been broken, before returning to find it damaged again.

"The latest step to temporarily relocate residents is necessary so we can take steps to assess the full extent of works required inside the block and manage the ASB.

"We have been given a timeline to work with from the Fire Service and over the past 2 weeks have worked to address the damage caused by a small group of residents. Unfortunately, the measures we put in place were also subject to damage which has now put us in a position where we are temporarily relocating residents.

"For the short term, while we arrange temporary accommodation, residents are safe to live in the block and we will continue to address all communal repairs that impact on the safety of the residents in Overslade House. But over the coming months, all residents will be found alternative accommodation so we can carry out the maintenance needed to improve the block in the future”.