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Sheltered housing residents at Newmarket's Barlings Court 'abandoned' by landlords

Barlings Court residents have lodged a series of complaints with landlord Flagship Housing
Barlings Court residents have lodged a series of complaints with landlord Flagship Housing

Residents living in sheltered housing in Newmarket claim they have been abandoned by their landlords since their wardens were made redundant four months ago.

Questions have been raised over the safety and security of elderly people at Barlings Court after owners Flagship Housing told them they could no longer afford to pay for wardens at the 49-flat scheme in Fred Archer Way.

To add to their concerns, residents are facing a second infestation of bed bugs in 18 months and have been taking their own precautions against the unwanted guests while they wait for action from Flagship Housing.

“Everyone was sent a letter from Flagship’s housing officer saying we would all be issued with traps but nothing has been done and if our usual experience of Flagship is anything to go by, nothing will be,” said Roy Beardsworth, acting chairman of the Barlings Court residents’ committee, who on Tuesday raised a lengthy list of residents’ complaints with Nick Bunn, the company’s operations manager for West Suffolk.

In response, Mr Bunnsaid: “We will continue to speak with residents about their concerns to reach a resolution.”

Mr Beardsworth said: “The whole place has been going downhill for ages, but since last March when our wardens were made redundant to save money, we have been like a ship with no captain.”

“Flagship Housing has effectively abandoned its residents, including some suffering from dementia, and left us to fend for ourselves. Barlings Court is no longer fit for purpose.”

While the bed bugs were both unpleasant and costly for elderly people, some of whom had to throw out beds and mattresses, there were a number of much more serious issues which had been exacerbated by the lack of wardens, said Mr Beardsworth.

These include:

  • Lack of fire precautions: No plan of the building or list of residents is displayed. Many residents, including those living on the first and second floors, have mobility problems and rely on the lift, which shuts down if the fire alarm is activated. There are no fire marshals.
  • No first aiders: Aresident fell earlier this month, suffering a cut head and broken shoulder. He lay in the foyer until another resident found him and called an ambulance. There is an accident book but no-one to report to.
  • Lack of security: Intruders have been in and out of the building during the evening and night. One resident was allegedly confronted and threatened in their room by a young adult in an incident which was reported to Suffolk Police. Another found an unknown woman sleeping in one of the first-floor communal rooms. Bathrooms and showers have also been used by outsiders. Elderly and vulnerable people are very concerned about their safety and that of their possessions.
  • No access to a master key if people are shut into or out of their flats or in the event of an emergency.

The Journal approached Forest Heath District Council with a list of concerns voiced by residents. A spokesman said: “We work with landlords including housing associations to ensure that housing standards are maintained and that tenants live in safe conditions. We are grateful to the Newmarket Journal for bringing this complaint to our attention.

“While Flagship is responsible for the management and safety of residents in Barlings Court, our Public Health and Housing team will of course be taking the matter up and speaking to Flagship to ensure that safety standards are maintained and any shortcomings are swiftly rectified.”

After his meeting with Mr Beards worth, Mr Bunn said that the support service for residents ended on March 31 after Suffolk County Council withdrew funding.

“As the landlord, we informed residents of this change in January and again in March. This was followed up in May with an information leaflet advising residents where they can seek advice and where they can access other support services.”

“We can confirm a small number of bed bugs were found by pest control contractors and we immediately responded by ensuring treatment was carried out as soon as possible. Further treatment continues to be carried to ensure the problem is eradicated fully. A sniffer dog is being used as an effective alternative to traps.

“Having appropriate fire safety standards is important to us and we work closely with the fire service to ensure those standards are met. We carry out regular fire risk assessments as well as tests and maintenance of fire prevention equipment.”