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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
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Residents 'terrified' after staircase in council flat block 'moved' and cracked

Dublin City Council has has put in place an expert group to complete repairs and carry out an inspection of all of the blocks.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

RESIDENTS AT A council flat complex in Dublin have said they do not feel safe in their homes as large cracks have appeared in the stairwell of their block and the concrete floor has started to sag in some places.

Dublin City Council put up supports at the bottom of the stairwell in Block 8 of the Cromcastle Court flats in Coolock on Friday after receiving a photograph of cracks in the ceiling from a resident.

On Tuesday, extensive scaffolding was then installed on all three floors and security guards were stationed at the block to ensure no one interfered with the structural supports.

dav A large crack in the ceiling at the entrance to the block. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

The 16 families living in the block, however, say they were not given any information when they called to ask what was happening.

Amy Lindon, a mother-of-two, was the resident who alerted the council to the issue on Friday. Staff from the council arrived 20 minutes after she sent the photograph.

“Normally when you ring them about a leaky tap they’d be out next Friday, you know. They were worried about it obviously.

“We heard that it had moved [since Friday] and that’s why they put more scaffolding up. We don’t know, no one has come to us about anything yet.”

dav A part of the concrete floor in the stairwell has dropped. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

She said she has been repeatedly calling the council to find out what the plan is.

“We were terrified when we saw it because it goes to show you that they’re worried. There’s security standing out there for a reason, we’re all worried for our kids and for the safety of all of us. They’ll wait for something to happen to do something about it.”

‘This is not safe’

Sarah Oates and her partner Mario Higgins who also live in the block said this problem has previously been reported to the council but it is only now that action has been taken to secure the building.

“We were out on Friday and when we came back we found this going on with absolutely no information at all as to what had happened, what is going to happen and we still have no information,” Oates said.

That [scaffolding] screams ‘this is not safe’ and we have small children, we didn’t want to walk into it, nobody could tell us what was going on, if it was going to be fixed, or if it’s fixable. There’s also 24 hour security guards. It’s just very unsettling.

sdr There were three security guards stationed outside Block 8 when TheJournal.ie visited residents yesterday. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

They said they do not feel safe now in their home.

“The workers who the council sent out yesterday all had personal protection clothing on, all had hardhats on, yet I’m walking up and down with nothing and our children too.”

Another concern now for the residents is that they may be housed in emergency accommodation like B&Bs while repair work is carried out.

“The council has a track record of leaving people there,” she said.

“They could turn around in three months’ time and say actually this building is condemned,” Higgins added. “And we’re in hotel rooms and forgotten about.”

sdr Residents of Block 8, including their newest week-old resident, outside the building, with councillor Edel Moran (far right) yesterday. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

While TheJournal.ie was at the flat complex today interviewing residents, council staff arrived to drop leaflets about the issue in their doors. However, they declined to speak with concerned residents, telling them their orders were simply to put the document in the letter boxes.

‘A serious shock’

Local Sinn Féin councillor Edel Moran and Fianna Fáil’s Sean Paul Mahon had contacted the council about the installation of the scaffolding on behalf of the residents.

“This is a serious shock and the people should be put first, their safety should be put first,” Moran said.

Mahon said the eight blocks of flats have been there for 47 years and pointed out that the Ballymun flats, which were built later than that, have been knocked down and replaced.

Ten years ago Dublin City Council were de-tenanting these apartments, you would have seen 15 to 20 of these apartments blocked up because they were going to knock them. Economic circumstances changed and it took a fight to get the apartments back open, to say ‘listen we have a housing crisis, these apartments are lying there’. But the [refurbishment] job they did is just a bit of a plaster on it.

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-27 at 16.23.47 Signs placed on the outside of the building by residents yesterday afternoon.

The two local representatives are also concerned that residents could end up in homeless accommodation for an extended period of time while the council attempts to fix the issue. Some residents in these blocks have experience of homelessness in the past.

Today they received a response from the council. This response contained the same information as the leaflet posted in the letterboxes of residents at Block 8 and taped to the main door.

sdr Council staff posted this notice around the complex today, telling residents the local authority was working as quickly as possible to fix the structural issue. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

It states that the council is carrying out works to “find out why the staircase moved” and how best to repair it.

“The council will provide regular updates to residents on progress of the repairs and will call to each of your homes to answer any concerns that you may have in the next few days.”

The notice explains that the security staff were provided to “ensure the safety of tenants at all times and provide assistance where required”.

A report from a structural engineer is expected to be completed this Friday and the council has put in place an expert group to complete repairs and carry out an inspection of all of the blocks in Cromcastle Court.

TheJournal.ie visited a neighbouring block and noted the floor in the stairwell was even, unlike in Block 8 where it has sagged in places, but there were signs of similar structural issues in the ceiling.

dav Cracks in the ceiling of a stairwell in a neighbouring block in the same complex. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

‘It’s a shame to see the state of them’

Council caretaker Pat Kane, known by locals in the area as ‘Chop Chop’, has been working around these blocks for six years.

He said he has reported several issues to the council over the years and is frustrated at the lack of action.

dav Council caretaker Paul Kane said he has been frustrated over the last six years as he worked to maintain the flat blocks. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

“Lights being out, bits of wood sticking out, holes in the ground, handles on doors, it’s dangerous. I know it’s nit-picky but the grounds are in a bad state, I wouldn’t let my kids play around here.

“They’re lovely people in here, trying to make a living. Six years in here and I know them all. We try to do our job and I know I get paid for it, but it’s a shame to see the state of them.”

Responding to a query from TheJournal.ie, Dublin City Council said at this stage it is not necessary for the residents to be moved out of their homes.

“The safety of our tenants and the buildings is of the upmost importance to Dublin City Council and we have taken all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the staircase at Block 8.”

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