Dovercourt parent tells of bedroom ceiling collapse

Morgan Cole
Image caption Morgan Cole, 23, is one of a number of residents of Orwell Terrace in Dovercourt who claim parts of the row have been plagued with problems

A young father has claimed his baby daughter could have died when part of his flat's ceiling fell on to her cot.

Morgan Cole, 23, is one of a number of tenants at Orwell Terrace in Dovercourt in Essex who have claimed their homes have been plagued with problems.

Tendring District Council said it was investigating a number of issues raised by "several residents" at Orwell House.

A spokesman for a newly formed owners' association said it was committed to dealing with issues in the building.

The Grade II-listed Orwell Terrace was part of a grand vision for Dovercourt started by the East India merchant John Bagshaw in the 1840s. It was one of the buildings he completed before he was declared bankrupt in 1859.

The white-fronted building is currently a row of terraced houses, most of which have been converted into flats.

Image caption Mr Cole told how water runs through his ceiling when it is raining outside
Image caption Orwell Terrace runs down the whole of the Harwich side of Orwell Road in Dovercourt

Mr Cole, who moved into his flat in January, lives there with his partner and eight-month-old daughter.

Despite not living in the top floor flat, he said water has come in through the ceiling.

"When it rains you would not expect water to come in through a flat but when it rains outside it is like I have no ceiling or roof," he said.

"I stayed out with my partner during the weekend because of the severe rain and when we came back on the Sunday, I found the carpet was soaked and the ceiling was on the floor.

"It would have severely hurt me and my partner and possibly killed my daughter. There's no compensation for life itself.

"Because the water is not drying out in winter, mould has built up."

Image caption Scaffolding collapsed at the rear of Jan Watson's flat

A few doors down from Mr Cole live Paul and Jan Watson, both registered disabled.

Mrs Watson said: "In March this year we heard an almighty crash and it was the scaffolding which had fallen over.

"It could easily have fallen in through the sash windows. That scaffolding is still lying in the back garden.

"That is only access to the fire escape on to a concrete balcony which has a massive crack in it.

"We've been told not to set foot on the balcony. It is in a very poor state of repair. It is awful.

"We've had a rat infestation after a rat chewed its way up through our floor.

"It [the flat] is in a terrible state of repair. We are desperate to move."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dean Clifford organised an owners' association which met for the first time last month

Fellow tenant Dean Clifford, a surveyor, said: "The problem is neglect, pure and simple. It has built up over a long period of time.

"These problems could have been addressed and fixed but just haven't been addressed because of money or lack of respect for the tenants who are actually living in here."

Mr Clifford organised an owners' association that met for the first time last month.

"These problems are going to be addressed now, so they are on the case," he said.

A spokesman for the landlord's association acknowledged there were a number of issues, including many with the building's age, but maintained they were "cosmetic rather than structural".

It is understood there are about 20 separate owners and he said they were committed to improving the building and claimed they would be keen to accept any help available from heritage organisations.

He said he was aware of other ceiling collapses but said there were not always signs in advance - because it happened when the ceiling dried out and not when it was wet.

A Tendring District Council spokesman said: "While we would not comment on the number of complaints received, we can confirm several residents have raised issues, which we are now investigating.

"This is a complex matter due to the number of potential properties, tenants and landlords."

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