Channel View Flats and some of the issues there. Credit: Katherine Gray.

Falling concrete, swarms of flies and black mould: Flat life seven years after Grenfell

Residents of Channel View fear they won’t be moved into new accommodation until 2028

SEVEN years after the Grenfell flats tragedy, residents of a block of Cardiff council flats are still living with black mould, swarms of flies and the threat of falling concrete.

Cladding on the 14-storey Channel View tower block in Grangetown was removed in 2018 after Grenfell, because it was not up to fire safety standards.

This has left the flats cold and damp and expensive to heat – and residents, many of them elderly, still don’t know when they will be able to move into new accommodation.

Cardiff council decided to build new flats rather than repair the existing block. However, residents have been told that problems including the effects of lockdown mean the new flats might not be ready until 2028.

“It feels like the Victorian times, it’s a wonder we don’t get dysentery. It feels shameful, I feel ashamed to live here,” said Katy Monaghan, 64, who has lived in the block for 16 years.

There have been infestations of sewer flies, sky-high heating bills, falling concrete and new fire safety equipment has not been installed.

Residents who are unhappy with living conditions, pictured in the Channel View community room.

“My bedroom wall is all mildewed, my clothes are soaking wet all the time,” said resident Maria Powell.

“In December, in 19 days, I put £109 on the gas. If you want your room to be warm, you’ve got to have it on constantly,” said Ms Powell.

Residents say they were given a £275 grant to help with heating their homes this winter.

Some of the leaking areas throughout the Channel View block.

Fly infestations

Resident, Marlene Nealon, 75, was left with an infestation of sewer flies after work was done on her bathroom to try and find the source of a leak.

“Then the flies came, millions of them,” she said.

“I was phoning the council, I was crying to them. I sat down on Christmas Day to have my dinner and there were five on my dinner plate, I couldn’t eat it.”

“It was terrible, I was really depressed, I used to sit and cry all the time.”

After four months of talks with the council, the issue was resolved but Ms Nealon’s opinion is clear. “Knock this building down now,” she says.

Concerns for fire safety

After Grenfell, residents say they were told that the council was going to install sprinklers in the communal areas and stairwells. This work has not yet been completed, leaving lots of the residents feeling anxious. 

Also, there are no fire alarms in many of these areas.

“If there was a fire in the community room on the ground floor we wouldn’t know about it,” said Ms Monaghan.

A council spokesperson said: “While the cladding on these blocks was not the same as that on Grenfell it no longer met current building safety standards. A decision to remove the cladding was taken. Ensuring our residents are safe in their homes is our highest priority.

“Plans were then put in place to reclad the majority of these council high-rise buildings and this work is ongoing.

“A decision was made not to re-clad Channel View, but instead to bring forward plans to redevelop the area.”

Channel View without the view

Most of the windows are covered in bird droppings and feathers.

“We’ve never had them cleaned,” said Ms Powell.

Once the cladding was removed, an orange polystyrene-like substance was put around the windows.

Left: Channel View window covered in bird droppings. Right: Windows with no cladding.

“They’re not safe. It feels like one push and they’ll go through because there’s nothing supporting them,” said Ms Powell.

Poor sanitation

Another resident, Carol Hughes, 70, struggles to breathe in her flat, which she believes is because of the damp and mould.

“When I go into the bedroom my chest is wheezing, but if I’m not sleeping in my bedroom when I go to my daughter’s, I get no trouble,” she said.

Some of the residents even refuse to drink the tap water in the flats.

“The water stinks,” said Ms Monaghan, who uses a water filtration system.

Residents’ make-shift ways of keeping flats insulated at Channel View and a water filtration system. Credit: Left, Elizabeth Walsh.

Washing machines in the building don’t drain properly.

“Put the washing machine on and you have to stand there with a bowl and a jug as the water comes up through the kitchen sink, it’s just all in the sink so you have to jug it out and empty it down the toilet,” said Ms Powell.

“You can’t go out and leave your washing machine on because underneath would be flooded. You go to your washing machine to get your washing out and where (the water) has gone back in the washing machine your clothes are still soaking wet.”

Mobility issues

There are two disabled parking spaces at the block of flats. These have been cordoned off for about a year as concrete is falling from the balcony above.

Resident David Decaro, who is a taxi driver, left his car parked next to this cordoned off area, to the right hand side of the balcony. A mystery dent then appeared on the roof of his car.

Disabled bays cordoned off with bits of fallen concrete. Mr Decaro’s dented car. Credit: Right, Mr Decaro

“It made me feel sick,” he said.

There are only two mobility scooter sheds for the 14-storey block. William Thomas Walsh, who has lived in the block for 10 years, has to leave his parked outside.

“I’ve just got to take a chance on it, if someone pinches it they pinches it, I can’t do anything about it,” he said.

The two mobility sheds. Mobility scooter parked outside block of flats.

What are the plans for Channel View flats?

The Channel View Regeneration Plan, approved in 2021, will replace 180 council homes with 400 more energy-efficient ones.

Residents were first told they could expect to be moved to new accommodation as early as 2022. Work on phase one of the project has started and residents of Channel View high-rise flats will have first priority, said the council.

Phase one consists of a larger community living block with communal facilities and some staff provision. The smaller block, which will be completed first, will include 24 independent living flats for the elderly.

“Unfortunately, the development of the new buildings has been delayed with the pandemic playing a part,” said a council spokesperson.

Wates Residential was recently announced as the developer of the project.

“We understand that it will still take some time to build the new blocks and therefore a review of the existing building will be carried out to see what improvements can reasonably be made in the meantime.

“In recognition of the lower thermal efficiency of the current building, funding has been available to tenants to support payment of their utility bills over the winter.”

  • If you are a council tenant and want to complain about your living conditions, you can contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman here.