Outrage as construction begins on 55 new council homes in South Ockendon

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another manRESIDENTS of a South Ockendon street are up in arms over the construction of 55 new council homes on their doorstep.

The development site, run by Willmott Dixon at Derry Avenue, South Ockendon, has seen builder’s cabins stacked up against the back gardens of nine homes.

Residents say they are not only an eyesore but block sunshine and light to an unacceptable level.

The building work also means Derry Avenue public car park is no longer in public use, which residents say has created chaos as shoppers battle to seek alternative places to park – usually in and around the residents’ homes.

Grandmother and prolific community volunteer Celia Thomas of Deveron Gardens, has spoken out about her concerns to Thurrock Council but she says she has run up against a block of bureaucracy after receiving four ‘delaying letters’ from three different officials with no succinct response.

Fred Taylor, 64, a resident at Deveron Gardens, has also spoken out about the disruption the construction site, which will be in place for 11 months, has caused and the rudeness he has encountered from staff working on the site.

He alleges that when he spoke to site manager Steven Matthews about the lack of light available due to the cabins up in front of his home he was told: “I can paint the cabin blue and draw a sun on top if you like.”

Other residents allege that similar rude comments have been made to themselves by construction staff and they have been left feeling like they are unable to leave their homes.

Mrs Thomas said: “An elderly neighbour of 92 stopped me in the street and told me of the problems she has been having getting anyone at all to listen to her. I have been trying to work on behalf of everyone and have a voice but this has really knocked me.

“I tend to stay indoors and get on with my studying now; I can’t even use my beloved garden because there is no privacy.”

Mrs Thomas, who adds that she is no longer able to do her washing outside and has to use her costly tumble dryer, despite not having an income, has also revealed how she has had to purchase a black out blind for her bathroom after seeing the workmen directly opposite her.

She says she was promised frosted windows as a solution by the construction company but that this was not acceptable as it still allowed people to see in her home.

And there are also a number of issues with the car park. Mr Taylor said: “The fact that we no longer have a car park has caused even more problems. We are having shoppers from other areas parking all around our homes because they can’t use a public car park.

“Recently we had to get the police down to allow an ambulance through because there were so many cars either side of the street and we had no idea who they belonged to.”

Mr Taylor has also had part of his garden wall damaged by a digger which created a hole in his wall and saw concrete being pushed underneath onto his garden. His garden he says is an eyesore and has absolutely no light anymore which is disappointing for the grandkids.

With so many elderly and disabled residents in the area neighbours have added that there is a need for people to cross the street safely and the noise and heavy load of traffic makes that impossible at times.

Mrs Thomas said: “As a deaf person myself I can’t always hear when a car comes shooting round the corner. Many people in the area have sticks, wheelchairs and so on and need to find somewhere to park. We have had a situation in the past where carers have turned up and have had to park three or four blocks down the road.

“They are all on high machines and there is no privacy out there. It is a horrible feeling to be overlooked.

“To be honest with you when you are deaf like I am when I can hear a noise it means that noise is a 100 times louder than what normal hearing people hear. It is really horrible for me and I can’t stand the noise, it has made my life intolerable now. I dread going out now and have kept myself busy studying indoors.”

Mrs Thomas adds: “As a landlord they have a duty of care but their attitude suggests they couldn’t care less and I look after my place, I always have. I am here on call 24/7 to help people.”

All of the neighbours spoken to agreed that the situation could be rectified easily by having the cabins moved to behind the sorting office so that they overlooked the Derwent shopping parade rather than people’s homes.

So far 10 residents have signed a petition to have this happen.

Mr Matthews, site manager for Willmott Dixcon refused to comment, though a spokesman for the company told the Enquirer: “At no time has any of our site team been rude or uncooperative with local residents.”

A spokesperson for Thurrock Council said: “The limited space within the former car park restricts where the temporary office can be placed.

“However, the Council has been assured the contractors regularly talk to local people about the work they are doing, explaining why it has to be done in this way.

“Senior council officers are talking with the contractor’s management to see whether any changes can be made.”

by Georgiana Ndlovu

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