Trapped in tower block: tenants stranded by lifts

RESIDENTS in an 18-storey Swiss Cottage tower block have been left high and dry without lifts since last week

Marc Mullen

RESIDENTS in an 18-storey Swiss Cottage tower block have been left high and dry without lifts since last week.

One of the 40-year-old elevators in the Blashford flats on Adelaide Road was taken out of action last month as workmen started a six-month job replacing it.

But last Friday, the only other lift broke down - leaving wheelchair-bound pensioners and families with young children stranded in their flats.

The council has so far failed to get to the bottom of the problem.

Joan Instrall, 77, has been unable to leave her fifth-floor flat because she cannot get her electric scooter down the stairs.

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She said: "I didn't get out of my flat for four years other than with the Dial-a-Ride bus.

"The scooter gave me my independence and my freedom. But if the lift is broken, I don't have my freedom.

"The lift they have left for us to use is the one that always breaks down - so they should have replaced that one first."

One resident was due to return home from an operation at the Royal Free at the weekend but cannot until the lift is mended.

As well as the elderly, there are many parents who are having problems coming and going because their young children are in prams and buggies.

In November, Lift and Engineering Services Ltd took over the maintenance contract for the lifts from Otis and residents say engineers are no longer on call 24 hours a day.

Carole Nolan, 67, who lives on the 12th floor, said: "It is diabolical. No-one has been able to do their shopping as they can't get it up the stairs.

"The change of engineers seems to be all about penny-pinching and fobbing off.

"At least Otis used to come out and coax the lift back into life."

Residents say there are rumours that the engineers have discovered the second lift is not repairable, which will leave them climbing the stairs for five months.

Once the first lift is replaced, work will start to replace the second.

But residents are furious at the time delays.

Peter Harvey, former chairman of Blashford Tenants Association, said: "I'm thinking of stopping paying the rent. Why should we pay for services when they don't provide them?

"They only work three hours a day. Maybe if they did a normal working day it would take less than six months."

PFI contractor Rydon started the £60million renovation of the five tower blocks on the Chalcot Estate in 2006.

All tenants will have new bathrooms, kitchens and double glazing and there will also be a new roof and cladding.

But last week tenants and residents met with Rydon and the council because of unfinished work and regular problems with gas and water supplies being cut off.

A council spokeswoman said of the lift: "Many of the parts we need to repair the 40 year-old mechanics are no longer being manufactured and we have to wait for them to be made to order to be able to fix the problem.

"All old lifts on the Chalcot Estate are due to be replaced by April 2010 with modern, easy to fix versions which should give a much more reliable service for residents."