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Homeless East End mums and newborn babies put into unfinished building

PUBLISHED: 22:14 21 July 2011 | UPDATED: 09:24 22 July 2011

Seth Court

Seth Court

Young families with babies have been moved into temporary accommodation in London’s East End in a building that isn’t finished.

Many are desperate single mums who were moved in after going to the local authority.

But they found windows that open at floor level several storeys above the street, a missing window at the top of a 50ft fire escape tower, security doors that don’t work and missing ceiling panels while builders continue working on five-storey Seth Court.

Yet the young women are living in the block in Bethnal Green, which has planning consent as a student hostel.

They have been sent to Seth Court since February by Tower Hamlets council’s homeless unit which arranged appointments to view the flats and benefit payments to cover the £255 weekly rent.

David Walker, whose daughter Charli was put there with her newborn son who has a hole-in-the-heart condition, said: “My daughter has to pass construction workers with her baby every time she goes in and out because the block’s not finished. The workmen were putting up a wall last week and had to stop to let her pass.”

Now a furious Tower Hamlets Council Opposition Leader Peter Golds is demanding to know why pregnant women and mums with babies are being housed in an unfinished building without fire or safety certificates.

He said: “I am appalled they are putting people in before it’s completed. This place is unfit for mothers and babies.”

He visited the block on Monday and was shown the large exposed opening at the top of the fire escape tower and staircase windows that open at floor level several storeys up.

The fire escape window was boarded up today (Thursday), along with two others.

The mums confronted officials this-afternoon at the Roman Road housing office over their living conditions, demanding to know why they were put in Seth Court while work was still going on. Some have been living there since February.

Three council officials were ordered this-afternoon by Tower Hamlets chief executive Kevan Collins to see conditions for themselves and report back.

Tower Hamlets council’s own Building Control Office has been concerned about Seth Court for some time.

Control officer Subraman Satchi said last Friday: “We didn’t know families were living there.

“It should have a risk assessment and safety certificate which the owners can do privately—but they haven’t.

“The building is not finished and doesn’t have a safety certificate—families are not allowed to be moved in.”

Nevertheless, most of the 99 flatlets appear to be occupied.

Two expectant mums threatened the owners with legal action unless work was done—one complaining she almost fell from her 5th-floor window which had no catch on it, which has since been fixed.

Both were given notices-to-quit this-morning.

Tower Hamlets council insisted it was “the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the building.”

A Town Hall statement said: “Our statutory responsibilities include preventing homelessness wherever possible by signposting suitable accommodation.”

The London Fire brigade inspected the building on June 29 and slapped a 21-day notice on it. Fire safety officer Raymond Theasant said: “We’ve been to Seth Court twice—there are safety issues.”

The East London Advertiser has spoken to Yusef Sarodia, who said he is the owner, offering an opportunity to put his viewpoint or rebut any allegations, but he refused.

Mr Sarodia, who lives in Ilford, has since not responded to several calls or to two messages left for him.

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