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Opinion: Ealing Council moved my toddler and I into a shipping container two years ago and no-one from the council cares about what we endure

A vulnerable mother and her toddler who were moved into Hanwell’s much complained about Marston Court shipping container development in 2021 were told it was only going to be temporary accommodation.

But two years on, the mother, who fled from domestic abuse, writes of her experience of both living at Marston Court as well as the strain and stress she faces daily when dealing with Ealing Council over issues including council tax, no hot water, blocked toilets and lack of security on the development.

“Ealing Council moved me and my daughter when she was a toddler into this “development” back in December 2021. The person that was looking after and managing this place (who is no longer working for the council) talked me through the contract and informed me that the rent was £303 per week
(now increased to £324 per week!), he then assured me that he would make the housing benefits claim for me (because of my situation) and that I will not be charged anything.

“He showed me “my home”, a converted shipping container.  My home is a shipping container converted into one bedroom where my daughter sleeps, a shower and toilet room with a sink that doesn’t have hot water and a main room which contains the kitchen, where I sleep and is also the living room. The manager told me the kitchen wasn’t fully working which he said he knew already as well as the council and told me don’t bother him with this because he couldn’t do anything about it.

“He told me only one hob of the two hobs was working and the microwave oven didn’t work at all, he could provide me another one if i wanted to (which he did, he took one from another flat, but it wasn’t working either!)

The state of walls when new resident arrived at Marston Court in Hanwell
The state of walls when new resident arrived at Marston Court in Hanwell

“The “flat” was dirty and empty, apart from a very old mattress and an old mouldy bed frame. I spent two days cleaning the house to make it hygienic. The walls were yellow.

“The manager told me that this was just a temporary and an emergency accommodation and I wasn’t supposed to be there for more than 6 months. It’s been almost 2 years now.

“No one informed me that I was supposed to register on and bid for homes from there. When I asked the manager how long it would really take for me to be moved (after 6 months) he told me he didn’t know and it wasn’t his job to know.

“During this time I had multiple problems with this place, starting with the missing of hot water, since December 2021 we never had hot water. I reported it so many times and they did nothing.

“We had the toilet blocked for 3 days and I had to call the emergency repair 3 times before they actually fixed it, even though at this day we cannot flush toilet paper.

“We had black mould all over the place, especially in the bathroom and around the windows, I was told to “close the windows” first and then they told me I wasn’t good enough at cleaning (there is silicone on top of the mould).

“My door wasn’t closing properly so they had so send someone to replace it, and i spent 2 days without being able to lock the door.

“I have had water dripping from the ceiling and when I reported it they told me that it was the condensation from the cooking and to just keep the windows open.

“I have had to live with no hot water and despite asking for this to be fixed, the only water that comes out of the taps is either cold or very cold.

“We have a common laundry room with three washing machine (one broken) and three drying machine, we have to pay £1 per washing and £1 per drying, to have the card for the laundry we have to call the manager of the structure and give the money to them.

“Not so long ago the laundry room became the office of the local drug dealer, they were meeting customers there and sometimes sleeping there too. I did complain about it many times until I had to write to MP James Murray.

“Now the laundry room is closed and we have to knock to the designated person that hold the key. But very often the room is left open and not closed meaning anyone can gain access to it.

“The local drug dealer is still meeting their customers here, this time close to the kids playground where they hide their drugs. And we still have a big queue of customers outside the main gate.

“We also have a big infestation of cockroaches. After a number of resident complaints, there is now pest control every week. But it shouldn’t be allowed to get like this in the first place.

“The main gate, to access the flats, is always open which allows many people to come and go. Since I arrived, it has never worked. It hasn’t worked since since 2020 I have been told but no one from the council has come out to fix it and protect residents’ security on the development.

“The main gate also has cars there which in if there is an emergency would make it difficult to get help.  This area should be free of parking but there are no double yellow lines and people park there making it difficult to get in and out.

“Living in a metal tin is very hard both in winter time, where it gets unbelievable cold, and leads us to be sick every week, and in summer time, where it gets so hot that it feels like an oven.

“Now, despite my circumstances haven’t changed, I’m a single mother and work part time 16 hours a week, while my daughter is in nursery.  In May I received a summons because I didn’t pay the council tax (that was covered by my benefits) for a total of £1584.58.

Council tax summons from Ealing Council
Council tax summons from Ealing Council

“I have tried to contact the council straight away at the number on the letter (02088257050) and only once i was lucky enough to speak with a member of the customer service and they told me to send over my last payslips to the email address ( and ignore the letter because it was a mistake.

“I did send the payslips and I never received any reply. I then proceeded to write to the email address on the letter ( and they first told me to pay and then that they don’t deal with this and they send me back to the first email.

“Since then I started calling all the numbers I could: 0208 825 7000, 7050, 8000 I even tried 0208 825 7733 (which is for help with the website) and asked them to connect me with the right number, they did but i still wasn’t able to talk with anyone.

“Now I’m suppose to either go to court on 25 July 2023 or pay £1584.58 that I obviously don’t have, for a glitch in their system, and I can’t even discuss this issue with them.

“It feels like I’m completely abandoned by Ealing Council and no-one at the council nor its leaders care about what we endure every day.”

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