Diabetic Battersea man feels like a 'neglected prisoner' in home where he fears falling to his death

Richard Self, 51, on the Winstanley and York Road Estate, Battersea
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

A diabetic South London man has said he feels like a 'neglected prisoner' in his council home while he waits years to be moved. Richard Self, 51, who has type 1 diabetes, said he fears injuring himself due to the conditions in his flat on the Winstanley and York Road Estate, owned by Wandsworth Council, particularly over falling to his death out of his 'broken' windows.

Mr Self is among residents who told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) they believe the estate, in Battersea, could be better maintained by the council. It is made up of two estates - Winstanley and York Road - and most of it is being demolished and rebuilt in phases. A total of 759 homes, in tower blocks up to 16 storeys tall, are set to be demolished on the estate for 2,550 new homes, including 35 per cent affordable housing, in tower blocks up to 32 storeys tall.

Plans to regenerate the estate date back to 2012 under the council's old Conservative administration and were approved in 2020, before Labour took over in 2022. The project is being carried out as a joint venture between the council and developer Taylor Wimpey.

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Shaun Wade, 47, and Richard Self, 51, on the Winstanley and York Road Estate, Battersea
Shaun Wade, 47, also expressed concern over Mr Self's living conditions -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

An expected timeline for the scheme published by the council in 2020 set the target date for the completion of the first phase as 2021, and phase three as 2024. But only part of the first phase, a new tower block with 126 council flats and a shop, has been completed to date.

Mr Self told the LDRS he asked the council three years ago if he could be moved earlier under the regeneration, but was told his new home would not be built for another five years. In the meantime, he sleeps on a sofa bed in his studio flat which he struggles to get out every night as he has Dupuytren's disease affecting both hands. He said his block resembles a 'prison wing', while people who do not live there leave 'human waste' in the stairwells, corridors and lifts.

Mr Self said he has faced major repair issues in the nine years he has lived in his flat, on the fourth storey, and described reporting them to the council as a 'waste of time' as he is passed between departments for hours with the works 'rarely completed'. He claimed he has been waiting two years for broken tiles in his bathroom to be fixed, after a hole was cut in the wall due to his hot water not working.

He added most of the tiles in his kitchen were 'cracked' when he moved in and it took nine years for them to be repaired, which was particularly dangerous as his cuts take longer to heal due to his diabetes. "They eventually repaired the kitchen [floor] after nine years... and me wondering if I’m going to cut my feet," he said. "I just ended up, even with my hands and that, taping it over with paper and Sellotape for god knows how long."

Windows in Richard Self's home on the Winstanley and York Road Estate, Battersea, Wandsworth
Mr Self said he lives in 'constant terror' of falling out his windows as they do not close properly -Credit:Richard Self

Mr Self's biggest concern is getting injured as a result of the conditions in his home due to his health issues. He said his 'broken' windows do not close properly or have safety locks and pivot if leant on, which concerns him as he experiences severe dizziness caused by his diabetes.

He said: "Living in the block is quite honestly depressing, but my biggest concerns are injuries to myself with regards to my health issues. The worst concern and constant terror is that I fall to my death through one of the windows as they are completely unsafe. Managing type 1 diabetes isn't easy - I have severe dizziness when my levels are high or low, which happens each day.

"I've worked all my life until recently due to health reasons. I've never missed a rent payment or council tax payment in all my working years, 34 years, so I don't think it's unreasonable for me to just want to live in [a] property where I feel safe and proud. Why should I feel like a neglected prisoner in my own home?"

His friend Shaun Wade, 47, told the LDRS he is also concerned about Mr Self's living conditions. He described the estate as 'past its shelf life' and said he does not feel the council are interested in spending 'money on... the upkeep of any of the buildings' that are going to be demolished.

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson told the LDRS it is contacting Mr Self again to arrange for staff to visit his flat to complete outstanding repairs, which it hopes will be carried out as soon as possible. The spokesperson added the council is committed to providing residents with the 'best possible accommodation and living conditions'.

General view of the Winstanley and York Road Estate, Battersea, Wandsworth, 24 May 2024
Plans to regenerate the Winstanley and York Road Estate date back to 2012 -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Other residents told the LDRS they believe the council could do more to support people on the estate. Sharine, 40, who did not wish to give her surname, lives in a block that is not set for demolition and fears the regeneration will 'push out' existing residents and fail to tackle homelessness.

She said: "It’s not nice for us as well, we’ve been in these homes, in the area for so long, and then you walk past and you see this pretty building. It’s like, well why couldn’t they build that for us?"

Regarding the new tower block, she continued: "They’ve got balconies. The majority of us, we've got children, we have no balconies, we have no garden, and in lockdown we really felt the brunt of that."

Sharine raised concerns about the council's maintenance of the existing blocks. She said: "I've had a leak for seven years, it’s got worse in the last three weeks... mould, cracked walls, we have to just do everything. The cleaners keep it clean but the properties leave much to be desired. They could do a lot with them and they’re not."

The mum told the LDRS drugs are also a major issue on the estate, with people who do not live there smoking in the stairwells of the blocks. She said: "You’ll come in through your doorway, they’re in there smoking and your children are having to walk through that. It’s really bad."

Sharine claimed a man died of a suspected drug overdose in the communal area of a block last year and his body was there for two days. She added: "People had been walking past because they sleep down there so you think they’re sleeping but obviously he was there for too long, he had passed away. Why aren’t the council doing anything?"

Selene Jordan, 44, on the Winstanley and York Road Estate, Battersea, Wandsworth
Selene Jordan, 44, said she does not think the regeneration plans will truly tackle homelessness -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Selene Jordan, 44, has lived on the estate for 16 years and also said she believes the council could do more to tackle drug-related issues on the estate. She said her block has damp issues, while many of the homes are plagued by black mould, and that her car has been broken into multiple times.

Although Ms Jordan hopes the regeneration will improve the estate, she does not believe the plans will properly tackle homelessness and expressed doubt over whether existing residents will all be rehomed into the 'lovely, delicious, shiny new flats' as promised. She told the LDRS: "Will it improve things, or is it just a space for a new type of person to come through?"

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said: "In terms of the wider regeneration scheme, the council is investing £150million to rebuild council homes on the estate providing our estate residents with improved, modern accommodation built to today’s highest standards. All existing secure council tenants and resident leaseholders will have the opportunity to move into new homes as part of the development.

"More than 130 households have already moved into their new homes with those currently living in Scholey House, Kiloh Court, Arthur Newton House and Jackson House also set to move into new high-quality homes before the end of this year. All these residents will continue to pay council rents calculated in the same way as is currently the case. We are committed to providing our estate residents with the best possible accommodation and living conditions."

A Met Police spokesperson told the LDRS the Falconbrook and St Mary's local policing teams are 'aware of the community’s concerns and working hard to address them'. The spokesperson said: "We have met with residents to hear their concerns and foot patrols through the estates have already been increased. Officers will take a robust approach to anti-social behaviour and drug issues, utilising a variety of tactics to deter non-residents visiting the location to commit crime. These include use of community protection warnings and criminal behaviour orders as well as stop and search where appropriate.

"This approach has already led to the arrest and charge of an offender using ASB legislation in relation to human waste in the stairwells. Vehicle crime will also be treated as a priority and we are working in partnership with Wandsworth Council to improve security for residents and use CCTV more effectively, thereby making the Winstanley and York Road Estates a positive environment for residents."

Are you experiencing housing issues in London? Email charlotte.lillywhite@reachplc.com.

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