Renovation halted at estate where ‘workers sleep overnight’
Health and safety chiefs issue prohibition notice after check on site that was sold off by the council last year
22 June, 2018 — By Tom Foot
Labour’s Paul Dimoldenberg
HEALTH and safety chiefs have called a halt to work on a historic estate that was mysteriously sold off by the council in 2017.
The Health and Safety Executive said they had visited the site twice and had served a notice “preventing all work” on the Abercorn estate in St John’s Wood.
The HSE investigated after union officials warned that workers may be sleeping overnight in the construction site, during the estate’s renovation.
Unite’s region officer Paul Lomax said he saw a green sofa, clothes hanging on a washing-line, several mattresses and bedding along with several food containers on the estate – also known as the Cricketers estate.
He said: “Workers must never be allowed to live on a construction site. The potential for serious injury is huge and there are also massive occupational health issues that need to be considered.”
The council said it was not its responsibility to investigate whether construction workers are living on building sites. The HSE said it could find no evidence of the construction workers living there by the time it sent its inspectors around.
Last year Westminster’s Labour group called for an inquiry after the freehold to the estate and its 38 homes was transferred from Westminster Council to a private company, Kunta Kinte Ltd. The company’s two shareholders were registered at addresses in the estate.
Nicknamed the “Cricketers” the estate has three blocks – Bradman, Warner and Verity – after named after three legendary pre-war Test players. It was rebuilt after World War II.
Labour’s Paul Dimoldenberg wrote to the council’s director of growth, planning and housing about the sale. At the time, he said: “This sums up all that is rotten about Conservative housing policies.”
Murad Qureshi, the former GLA member, uncovered the sale. He said: “When the great and the good built this estate through the local council, they could never have imagined this could happen to the housing being provided for its residents in desperate housing need. What makes this quite incredible is that almost all the leasehold interests are now in the hands of one individual.”
At the time the council responded saying that all the flats in the block had been sold under right to buy and that it was, in turn, “legally obliged to sell” the freeholds.
An HSE statement said: “HSE has visited the Warner House site twice recently. The first occasion was as part of our campaign of inspection visits in London. During this visit a prohibition notice was served preventing all work on site, other enforcement action to address safety management matters was also taken. The second visit was made on June 4 in direct response to a complaint received and inspectors were told that there were no workers sleeping on site. Inspectors found no evidence of workers sleeping on site at either visit. Further follow-up work with the principal contractor will be taking place.”
Kunta Kinte, a character in Alex Haley’s novel Roots, was a slave taken across the Middle Passage, sold into slavery in Virginia, and renamed “Toby”. Haley said he was based on one of his ancestors, who was born about 1750 in what is now The Gambia.