Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Welwyn Hatfield Rosie Newbigging, local campaigners and residents welcome a recent decision by Welwyn Hatfield Council to close Queensway House and re-home residents who have endured a horrendous time of late.
Rosie Newbigging said
‘I am pleased that finally, justice is being done for the residents of Queensway House. The block has suffered from decades of neglect and no-one should have to live in the conditions that people in Queensway experience. It has taken Tory led Welwyn Hatfield far too long to do the right thing. Tenants and leaseholders have driven this campaign led by a strong advocate and I am pleased to have been able to join Labour Councillors in helping them.
Their voices have prevailed and I congratulate them for their courage and determination in speaking out. I will hold Welwyn Hatfield Council to their promise that these people will be re-housed in decent homes and that no-one will ever have to go through this nightmare again.
Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017, new government guidance meant residents of Queensway House in Hatfield faced concerns while cladding installed as part of a “revamp” at the start of the decade was tested to see if it was safe after government advice on safety standards was swiftly and repeatedly updated.
However an analysis of fire risk assessments by inside housing magazine listed Queensway House as posing a “substantial risk” to the lives of tenants.
Just a few months later, the sewage pipes at the building were repeatedly failing to clear, mould and damp issues worsened and the blocks only lift frequently broke down, leading to private contractors needing to attend to resolve but not permanently to fix the issues.
Due to these concerns and also the lift being out of action for sustained periods, residents held a meeting in December 2018 attended by several Councillors and Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate Rosie Newbigging.
At that meeting Labour Councillor Lenny Brandon asked if it would be safer for residents, and more sensible overall to simply close the block, move everyone out and build something fit for purpose in its place.
A subsequent gas leak led to the realisation that the gas infrastructure in and around the building was so poor that it would not meet the basic requirements to be switched back on, should it ever have to be fully closed down due to a serious leak or fire.
As residents continued to suffer, Labour Shadow Attorney Baroness Shami Chakrabarti visited the block in February earlier this year , and said “How can people live in dignity with these kind of squalid conditions?”
The realisation became clear that Queensway House’s best days were behind it and it would make more sense to create homes fit for the 21st Century rather than in effect rebuild the block from the inside out while people remained there. Eventually following a short consultation with residents, the majority view has been in agreement with that of Cllr Brandon some 10 months ago.
This is the beginning of the end for long suffering residents but Labour will make sure the Council keeps its promise to the residents of Queensway and provides them with new homes fit for purpose.
And we will continue to stand up for the thousands of other residents living in social housing who frequently turn to Labour Councillors when the Conservative led Council fail to provide the standard of housing that they deserve.