In 2019, current leader of Ealing Council, Councillor Peter Mason welcomed the arrival of shipping containers converted into “innovative emergency accommodation” in Ealing as providing a “stable, comfortable environment to house people”.
That was two years after they were first introduced in Hanwell as a way to house people in the borough, instead of using privately owned bed and breakfast.
But now four years on, those living in shipping containers across the borough have revealed how they have been let down by Ealing Council and its leader. They say shipping container developments are not “stable” or “comfortable” as Councillor Mason claimed and instead of being temporary as promised, many have lived in them for years.
Among a long list of issues with the converted shipping containers, residents say they have poor facilities that don’t work, while anti-social behaviour and drug dealing leaves residents fearing for their lives and mental health.
The development in Hanwell has faulty security. The entry system has been broken since early 2020 meaning anyone can access the development while a bin storage area is never locked and allows others to gain access at anytime.
One resident told EALING.NEWS: “Why doesn’t the council leader come here and live in one of the shipping containers. He will see what it is like. Day in, day out and for months it is like living in a horror film that never ends. There are some people that have been here for many years and it impacts your life.”
Since 2017, Ealing Council has built a number of developments based on using shipping containers.
In Hanwell, the development known as Marston Court is off Greenford Avenue and in Acton it is known as Westfield Lodge next to North Acton Playing Fields.
Marston Court was opened in 2017 on what was land containing disused garages.
Former Ealing Council leader Julian Bell, produced a video explaining Marston Court and the studio, one bedroom and two bedroom accommodation which he called “excellent solution” to the need for offering temporary housing.
But within a year residents raised their concerns. On woman told The i newspaper in 2018. “These containers aren’t fit for purpose. In the summer, it’s like a sauna. The moment you come in, you’re sweating. But, in the winter it’s ice cold. They are loud, it doesn’t feel private and there is no space for my son to walk around.”
EALING.NEWS recently visited Marston Court and residents showed us how safety and security is lacking.
One resident told EALING.NEWS: “Why isn’t it repaired and fixed? Anyone can come in and they do. Drug dealers come in and then use the laundry room for doing their deals. The laundry room is supposed to be locked by key but it’s left open. Our concerns are just ignored by the council, it’s like they don’t want to know and they don’t care.”
They added: “It is really bad here. Ealing Council are charging £350 a week for this. They talk about private landlords being rogue landlords, Ealing Council is just as bad. I’ve been here since they opened and it gets worse and worse. Basics don’t work. There’s cockroaches in my room. Some of the people living here, need real help as they don’t keep their premises clean which is impacting on me and my neighbours. We tell the council but they do nothing.”
Residents say the council and its leaders don’t care or want to help. Notices on nearby lamp posts state Marston Court is in an area that is meant to be regularly patrolled and kept safe but residents very rarely see anyone to do this, nor is there monitoring going on.
Another resident commented: “Why haven’t they fixed the entry system? Why isn’t there CCTV to monitor the area? Why are drug dealers here and not stopped? I’ll tell you why, it’s because no one from the council wants to take ownership of the mess that they have created. They’ve known from the start it wouldn’t work and have just ignored residents concerns.”
When announcing the opening of Acton’s Westfield Lodge in 2019, Councillor Mason said: “This innovative emergency accommodation provides a stable, comfortable environment to house local people who find themselves in the awful position of becoming homeless. For the same financial outlay as bed and breakfast, Westfield Lodge offers 14 families a far better standard of accommodation.”
In both Marston Court and Westfield Lodge residents say the council has ignored them and the issues of living there.
The shipping containers have proven to be a living nightmare for many who have raised issues with the council over poor heating and ventilation, hot water not working and other failures.
Speaking recently to MyLondon.news, one resident at Marston Court said: “When we moved in here ,our shower didn’t have any hot water and neither did the kitchen sink. It took them two years to come and fix it. Me and my kids were bathing using a bucket and a kettle for two years, just so they could come in 20 minutes and fix it, my sink still isn’t giving me hot water.”
When it comes to keeping clothes clean, residents, who are charged up to £1,550 a month depending on size of container, have to use a shared laundry area on the development. Many feel unsafe using it. Non-residents can get in easily and have been confronted by drug deals happening.
Another resident said: “One day recently, they were selling drugs in the laundry room. It was impossible to get in, mainly because there was a massive queue outside.”
Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party said: “Marston Court was built with the best of intentions but is being run to the lowest of standards. The council has a duty to residents, it is not good enough to talk about long term plans whilst occupants are suffering now”.
In response to resident issues at Marston Court, an Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “The council is committed to decommissioning Marston Court and re-providing higher quality temporary accommodation.
“However, this cannot happen immediately as we are facing an increase in the number of households who are in urgent need of support with their housing. We cannot justify closing Marston Court immediately, without having options lined up for those people living there.”
Recently one resident at Marston Court, Paula Aleksandros staged a protest at Ealing Council offices claiming the council had not helped her.
Ealing Liberal Democrat spokesperson on housing Councillor Jon Ball said: “Paula Aleksandros has suffered terribly. The Labour-run council’s housing service must rehouse her suitably and deal with the anti-social behaviour, especially drug dealing, within Marston Court.”
Councillor Ball added: “However decommissioning it without a replacement is not the answer as much of the other temporary accommodation in low end B&Bs is also of very poor quality for families. Ealing Council need to both build new decent temporary accommodation and also help people to move faster into permanent accommodation.”
The Ealing Council spokesperson added: “We know that this tenant and her family are in a very difficult situation. Earlier this year, the family were offered a good quality 3-bedroom private rented property, but refused the offer. This tenant has also refused offers of alternative emergency accommodation. The council is reviewing this case, and we continue to seek ways that we can support her during this difficult time.”