Tenants share trauma of nearby building work and noisy student neighbours

Milner Flats in proximity to the new student accommodation development when it was under construction (photo from Google Maps Street View).
Milner Flats in proximity to the new student accommodation development when it was under construction (photo from Google Maps Street View).

People living in a block of flats who have put up with building works and now noisy student neighbours just yards away are demanding compensation.

Milner Flats resident Alicia Mackie has sent an open letter to Brighton and Hove City Council cataloguing the issues that people have faced during redevelopment of Circus Street, in the centre of Brighton.

Her letter follows recent revelations by two councillors, Amanda Evans and Mary Mears, about the anti-social behaviour experienced by people in the flats since the first student tenants moved into their rooms in September, after years of misery during construction.

Councillor Evans and fellow Queen’s Park ward Labour councillor Nick Childs are working with the area’s MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle to find a way forward to put legal pressure on the developers and management company Kaplan to do something.

Ms Mackie’s letter to the council’s executive director for neighbourhoods, communities and housing, Larissa Reid, said: “The council … has let tenants down, both as landlords with a duty of care and as project partners in partnership with what must be one of the worst construction companies any of us has ever heard of.”

She criticised the behaviour of site staff and the indifference of their landlords, adding: “I’m very glad every time council officers and elected representatives admit these errors and promise to make changes, but actions speak louder than words.

“The changes never come. The indignities persist.

“After you yourself attended your first ‘liaison’ meeting (at Millwood) in May and stated very clearly that the council had ‘got it wrong’ (you issued a sharp rebuke to Henry Construction and we were glad of that), I’m sad to say there was no improvement.”

Ms Mackie detailed health issues that she faced and her worries for her children, describing the flats as populated by many “broken people with physical and mental health issues, who are among the poorest in the city’s community”.

She said: “Based on my family and those I know of in the flats around me, I think it’s fair to say that it’s highly likely that many other families and individuals have been suffering in ways we can only imagine these past two years.

“Myself and others I know have discussed these matters with one another and discover that most of us are clinically depressed.

“When Circus Street was in its midway stages with excruciating noise and choking dust, some tenants of Milner/Nelson/Ivory have been to all intents and purposes held captive inside flats with windows shut and blackout curtains in place.

“Every time I speak to a different nearby neighbour, I hear of more lives damaged.

“Our MP mentioned compensation. My feeling is that the council should carry out a health and wellbeing audit as a matter of urgency based on its duty of care to its tenants (but also based on equalities legislation and the Clean Air Act surely?).

“Yes, we need immediate action (no more warm words please) – action on privacy in relation to the student accommodation, arrangements made for trades deliveries, parking, repair to roads and kerbs caused by construction trucks.

“However, what people here really need is a concrete demonstration of some basic respect accorded to us, be it the cancelling of service charge, fixing of damp interiors, fixing of pointing, resumption of basic cleaning services (hallways/stairwells), TV aerials (where are they?), any or all of these measures should be happening right now.

“Don’t you agree? Frankly, families with GP and social service verification of deteriorating health over this shameful period need a substantial compensation payout and I can tell you that there are families in a far worse state of physical and mental ill health than mine.”

A spokesman for the council said: “We’re deeply sorry that Ms Mackie’s and her neighbours’ quality of life has continued to have been severely affected as a result of the Circus Street development. This is simply not acceptable and we’ll take this up directly again with contractors.

“The council’s Community Engagement Team is meeting soon with Ms Mackie to discuss how to better support the residents in Kingwood and Miller flats.

“We’re also working with local people to produce a Neighbourhood Action Plan for the Queen’s Park ward which will outline how improvements to health and wellbeing, community safety, the environment and transport can be made.

“We will also be working with the Millwood Management Committee to see if there are opportunities for community activities that will address some of the issues of social isolation and low level mental health in the area.”