'Nightmare': 700 complaints over heating and water at Camden estate

Residents want to see longstanding issues addressed

Residents from the Dunboyne Road Estate have bemoaned a lack of maintenance - Credit: English Heritage

Camden Council received 700 complaints in three years about hot water and heating problems at a single estate, the Ham&High can reveal.

Dunboyne Road Estate is a Grade II-listed building in Gospel Oak with 71 homes. Between October 2018 and December 2021, a total of 701 complaints were made, according to date released following a freedom of information (FOI) request.  

Residents are not certain of the cause of the problem, but as more issues occur in the winter months, they believe the communal boiler cannot withstand high levels of demand.  

Sammy Jackson, 69, has lived in her flat for 20 years. She told this newspaper her heating and hot water regularly stops working during the winter and that she believes “there just is not enough power being generated” for all the dwellings.  

Looking at the numbers, Sammy said: “It’s an appalling number of call-outs, it’s bloody ridiculous isn’t it?

“It’s always a sticking plaster, never getting to the root of the problem, they need to find out what is causing the symptoms not just treat the symptoms."   

Since 2013, six Camden estates, including Dunboyne, receive 50% of their heating from excess heat produced by the Royal Free Hospital – known as a district heating system (DHS).  

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The Camden heat exchanger is on the roof of the hospital and is connected by pipework to pump 1,499 homes.  

According to a 2016 report by Camden, gas-fired boilers in the estate should provide the remaining heating. Dunboyne residents suspect their communal boiler is failing, and that their individual ones are inefficient. This coupled with the DHS may be the cause for lukewarm water or in some cases, no hot water at all.   

However in response to the FOI Camden Council said the issues are a result of a “build-up of dirt” in the pipework, as the “smaller copper pipework installed within the flats can be prone to blockages”. 

“Where this occurs, our contractors will carry out a pressure or individual chemical flush of the blocked 8mm pipework,” a spokesperson said.  

“Should this action be successful no further work is required. However, there are instances where the pipe cannot be unblocked and the only alternative is to replace with a new, bigger copper pipe. This work may also involve the replacements of the radiators.”  

An occupant taking matters into their own hands

An occupant taking matters into their own hands - Credit: Archant

One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, regularly cleans the pipes themselves. They said the pipes are not such a problem when the estate has a temporary boiler, leading residents to think the main issue is the communal boiler.  

The heating system was reportedly installed around 2011, and according to the stock condition survey carried out in 2018, the earliest date for repairs for the DHS is 2025.  

Between 2020 and 2021, Camden Council spent a total of £53,089 on Gem engineers at the site.  

Andrew Tidey, 66, has lived on the estate for 21 years. He told the Ham&High that engineers had come to his flat 19 times this year alone, to resolve issues around hot water. 

As he spoke, repair men were installing larger copper pipes in his flat, in an effort to improve his heating.  

Sitting in his neighbour’s living room, he explained his frustration at the number of times he and his neighbours had reported the problem to Camden, with a permanent solution yet to be found.  

“It’s a nightmare, I’m going crazy,” he said. “I can’t stay here in the winter, it’s going to be freezing cold soon. 

“I have had it up to here, it’s depressing, I don’t want to go home, I might as well be in the cold outside, it’s the same. 

“I think [the council] are cutting corners and I am not surprised. 

“They don’t reply, they don’t answer your letters, they just ignore you and it’s really annoying. It just makes the situation worse than it already is.”

The Dunboyne Road Estate

The Dunboyne Road Estate - Credit: Georgina McCartney

Cllr Meric Apak, Camden’s cabinet member for better homes, said: “I would like to apologise to residents who have experienced issues with their heating and hot water at Dunboyne. Addressing and fixing emergency and urgent repairs, including heating and hot water is a priority for the council. 

“Recent issues have been caused by leaking pipework. I am reassured these pipes have now been renewed and cleaned, unfortunately there are still a small number of properties which are experiencing ongoing issues and we are working closely with residents to address these, whilst providing them with temporary heating and hot water at no extra cost. 

“We are aware of the ongoing intermittent issues with heating and hot water at Dunboyne and the estate has been identified as part of the council’s plans to replace and upgrade the heating system to all the properties.”