Residents in a council housing block in Wandsworth have hit out over non-essential building works, which they argued should be postponed until 2021, due to coronavirus concerns.

Objectors say that the works to properties in Wandsworth Common Westside will put a strain on existing financial and health concerns, and that the council failed to notify residents about the start dates.

Wandsworth Council have apologised after a letter announcing the start of works, which had been subject to consultation earlier this year, “did not get delivered”.

The building works, which were scheduled by Wandsworth Council, involve external decorations and repairs which have not been updated since 2004.

However, residents say that the terms have changed during the pandemic, and eight weeks of non-essential works will disrupt their daily lives.

One leaseholder, Martyn Lawrence, said:

“As further evidence of how irresponsible the Council is -- these major works commenced on Monday July 27, with a crew starting to erect scaffolding at 8am.

“However, none of the residents had been informed of this, and were caught off-guard. We had no advance notice of the commencement of the Major Work, no schedule, timeline, or details and contact information of those who would be on-site.”

A major concern of residents is of increased financial hardship, as some have recently been made unemployed or furloughed. Amid fears of a deepening recession, they say that the 54% increase in the cost for leaseholders is an unfeasible sum.

And for residents that do have to work from home now, there are complaints that the noise disturbance will affect their ability to concentrate on their jobs.

Furthermore, many identify in the “at risk” category and worry about letting contractors into their homes.

One resident raised concerns about his new baby. Born prematurely with chronic lung disease and on constant oxygen support, he said that the works put his child’s health at risk.

Mr Lawrence said that though they had been forced to accept the works, residents were unhappy with the process.

“Having spoken to most of the residents and Leaseholders, we have already resigned ourselves to the fact that these works will be going ahead, regardless of how we feel about it.

“Considering what we are all going through at this period of time (not just as a block, but as a country), surely it can’t be denied that the council’s actions - in proceeding with this works project – are highly insensitive and irresponsible”, he said.

In response, a spokesperson from the council said:

“Unfortunately, the letter that should have given the residents advance warning these works were about to get underway did not get delivered. A senior member of staff has visited the block to offer a face to face apology and this is now being followed up with a written apology. We are sincerely sorry for this breakdown in our normal procedures.

“The works, which were subject to consultation with the residents earlier this year, mainly involve external decorations and repairs which are now needed as these were last carried out in 2004. The contractor has been made aware of some resident’s specific concerns and will be taking additional precautions to properly address these issues and minimise disruption.”

A consultation officer added that the contractors would be following any social distancing protocols, in line with Government regulations.

They also said that as there had been a slight delay in the start of the works, the bills would not be due until October 2021. If there were difficulties in making payments, options would be considered on a case-by-case basis.