Fury as renovation delays leave Portsmouth residents ‘living in a nightmare’

Residents Dave Leathley and Chris Evans at Wilmcote House with Councillor Stephen Morgan Picture: Mick Young (161060-05)
Residents Dave Leathley and Chris Evans at Wilmcote House with Councillor Stephen Morgan Picture: Mick Young (161060-05)
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RENOVATION delays have left scores of people ‘living in a nightmare’ for three years, furious residents have claimed.

People living at Wilmcote House, in Hyde Park Road, Somerstown, have been left angry at setbacks in a project to redevelop the ageing 1960s flats complex.

This scheme is meant to be improving people’s lives, not making their lives worse

Cllr Stephen Morgan

The work by contractors Keepmoat has dragged on for three years and has been blighted with issues, from homes being flooded to holes left in roofs for weeks.

Now Portsmouth City Council’s housing boss has warned the authority will be seeking compensation from Keepmoat on behalf of residents.

Chris Evans, 62, has lived at Wilmcote House for five years and is at her wits’ end.

She said: ‘It’s supposed to be our home, but it’s like living on a building site.

‘It’s not fair that people have to live like this. People’s lives have been totally disrupted.

‘It’s been a nightmare for three years. The whole thing’s a joke.’

The refurbishment project began in December 2013.

It was meant to improve communal areas and a number of individual flats, but has left many in disarray.

Residents contacted Labour councillor Stephen Morgan for help. He said: ‘This scheme is meant to be improving people’s lives, not making their lives worse.

‘Local people deserve better, a rent rebate for the disruption and an end date in sight for the works.’

Councillor Steve Wemyss, cabinet member for housing at the city council, said the situation was ‘frustrating’.

‘I can sympathise with the residents. If I was in their place I’d be extremely angry and frustrated,’ he explained.

‘It’s been one catalogue of issues after another.

‘The city council finds the delays unacceptable and that the level of communication from the company is nowhere near what we should expect from any of our contractors.’

He added that within the contract, there is a source for ‘liquidated damages’.

‘That’s money for failing to deliver. We will be looking to enforce the terms of the contract,’ he said.

‘It could mean the contractors will be short by many thousands of pounds.

‘Some of that cash will be used to recompense the tenants for the inconvenience.’

The council could end Keepmoat’s contract and hunt for a new one.

But Cllr Wemyss said he thought this was unlikely as it would cause ‘even greater delays’.

Mark Crane, regeneration director at Keepmoat said the company was confident the work would be completed without further delay.

He said the ‘challenging’ work had lead to various set backs which extended the project’s completion date.

‘We absolutely recognise the concerns of the residents of Wilmcote house and are confident that the issues are being addressed as the works progress,’ he added.

He explained a new supply chain model had been organised, which had already seen a noticeable boost in productivity.

The work will hopefully be completed by spring 2017.

Mr Crane added: ‘The regeneration of Wilmcote House is a very challenging project we are undertaking on behalf of Portsmouth City Council that will leave the residents with a positive legacy on their

living conditions when the works are complete, including larger living spaces and better thermally insulated properties that will dramatically decrease the fuel bills the residents pay each year.’