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West Shore tower blocks in Southampton have leaking windows after £9m refit
IT was a £9 million pound revamp that aimed to slash the energy use in more than 500 high rise households as well as helping the environment.
But defective windows have left high rise tenants facing sky high energy bills over the festive period as they battle bone-chilling draughts and leaks.
Now city housing bosses have ordered their officers to dish out plastic sheeting to households while engineers try to make the homes weather tight.
The homes facing Southampton Water are being battered by the worst storms to hit the country for 20 years.
Council housing chiefs have also launched a review of all the hundreds of new windows that have been installed under the revamp programme.
Meanwhile International Way residents have been forced to ramp up their heating – as well as constantly bundling wet towels used to soak up leaks into their washer dryers.
Mum-of-one Louise Smith is one of hundreds of residents living in the south-facing side of the tower blocks in Weston. She said her Christmas was ruined by constantly having to plaster the area around the window with towels to soak up water.
She said: “It’s just too much. It is causing so much stress to people.
“I can’t leave the house because I am scared it will flood when I am not here.
“We have not gone out as much this Christmas because we are scared to leave it in case it floods.
“I have just had enough.”
Her self-employed taxi driver husband Andrew said he has had to stay home and lose income just to deal with the constant flooding.
He said: “If I don’t go to work I don’t get paid.”
On the floor below neighbour Josh Way, 21, said: “It’s a bit of a nightmare. Every time it rains the floor gets flooded and it’s chaos.”
The windows were installed as part of a £9m refurbishment contract between Southampton City Council and British Gas.
But as previously reported the project has been hit by concerns over workmanship and safety.
In 2012 housing bosses called a halt to work just days into the beginning of the revampof the 520 flats after a flood of complaints regarding bad plastering, badly fitted windows and safety concerns over heating pipes.
But after an inspection the work continued for the next 18 months.
Yet residents say after work was completed last year (2013) the windows were not water tight and the situation has been getting worse, with the areas around the windows being damaged by constant damp.
Oslo Towers block rep and resident Val Abbott, 62, said: “These are our homes and we should not have to put up with it.
“I never want to put up with this again. We are so fed up.
“Our heating just goes out of the window.
It is dangerous, too, because there is a double power point under the window sill.”
“The wind comes in through the window and keeps you awake at night because the window frames are moving.
“I am so depressed. I am near enough in tears about this.”
Housing boss and ward councillor Warwick Payne, left, said the council in-house maintenance team has been on site and a review will be carried out.
He said: “The council is in a position where it does have a nice, crisp guarantee for the work in its back pocket, so there won’t be any cost to the taxpayer.
“The important thing right now is that residents have safe windows that aren’t leaking water and it is key to ensure that the firm who fitted the windows comes back to carry out work to repair them.
“Certainly questions will be asked of the firm that put the windows in to see why this has happened. We like doing business with professionals and we expect this issue to be put right as soon as possible.”
Leonie Edwards, of British Gas, said: “I am sorry that the residents of International Way have had leaking windows during the recent extreme weather.
“We investigated the problem as soon as we were aware and we believe we have a solution in place.
“We have been working closely with Sovereign Windows and we visited the homes with them.
Sovereign will begin installing additional seals to the windows early in the new year and we will be putting right any damage to the affected homes.”
She added that the contractor will make modifications to the windows so they are sealed to protect homes from the extreme weather that we are experiencing.
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