Ipswich tower block residents endure heatwave behind plasticon July 14, 2022 at 5:06 am

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Residents in Ipswich share what it is like living in a plastic-covered tower block in a heatwave.

St Francis Tower, Ipswich wrapped in protective plastic and scaffoldingImage source, Alex Dunlop/BBC

The temperature is rising with the Met Office extending an extreme heat weather warning for England and Wales until Tuesday. How is it for people living in a tower block of flats shrouded in plastic?

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‘No ventilation or sunlight’

Aditya and Anita Majeti, who live in St Francis Tower in Ipswich, outside the building

Image source, Kate Scotter/BBC

Aditya Majeti, 32, and his wife Anita, 27, have been living in St Francis Tower for three years.

Work to strip flammable cladding from the 17-storey building had started a year earlier.

The scaffolding went up first, then in May last year, the shrink-wrap followed.

Mr and Mrs Majeti say they were told the plastic wrapping would only be up for six months initially but now, more than year later, it is still there – with no signs of it coming down until late autumn or the winter.

The couple say they are “not happy” about the wrapping.

“There is not proper ventilation, no sunlight,” says Mr Majeti.

He says the hot weather has made it worse.

“Especially at night, due to the temperatures, it’s very hot,” he says.

They cannot get any fresh air from the windows, he says, adding: “We can’t see what is happening outside, it’s like a jail.”

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‘You’re so embarrassed to live here’

Gavin Thompson outside and in front of St Francis Tower, Ipswich

Image source, Kate Scotter/BBC

While Gavin Thompson is not really suffering with heat inside the building, he is finding the lack of natural daylight tough.

The bus driver moved into his privately rented apartment last year and says he was told the work would be done by February, but says residents have been told it would now be done in November.

He says he had been hoping to enjoy the summer there.

“The plan was to have friends and family come over but you’re so embarrassed to live here. When you tell people that you live in this block, they say, ‘People actually live there?’,” he says.

“You can’t see anything. Even during the summer when it’s really bright outside, it’s so dark in the flat that you have to have the lights on.

“Especially at the moment, with the electricity costing so much, it’s just adding on to all of the other costs.”

Gavin Thompson looking out of the window, which is covered in the plastic wrap, of his apartment in St Francis Tower

Image source, Kate Scotter/BBC

In addition to the lack of light, the noise caused by the workmen affects the shift worker’s sleep and at times he cannot watch TV without having the volume “all the way up”.

The 29-year-old says he has also gone into his bathroom for an hour to “shelter from the sound”.

With the bus depot a stone’s throw away from the tower block, he thought it was going to be “perfect”, but “it’s not worked out as planned,” he says.

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‘You feel claustrophobic’

One of the holes cut into the plastic covering St Francis Tower, Ipswich

Image source, Kate Scotter/BBC

Afreen Dancil has been living in the tower block on Franciscan Way for eight months.

She says it feels “really closed in”.

The 23-year-old, who lives in a studio flat on the 10th floor, says: “It would be nice to have a view. You can open the windows but you feel claustrophobic at times, it’s not really nice.”

She says communication about the wrap has been “ambiguous” and she is looking forward to it being taking down.

“I live on the 10th floor so it can get quite warm up there,” she says.

“It would be nice to have that view and being able to look outside. It would be nice, especially in the nice weather.”

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‘No proper light’

St Francis Tower resident outside the tower block

Image source, Kate Scotter/BBC

Gabriel Bontea has been living in St Francis Tower for two years.

The physiotherapist, who is originally from Paris, says he has “adapted” to living in the building that he says has no “proper” light.

“It’s OK, especially as they don’t have too much time to finish and to take off the scaffolding and also the protection,” he says.

The 50-year-old says it was “difficult” during the winter because of the strong winds and the storms the UK had.

“But now it’s fine and when they remove the scaffolding in December, it will be OK,” he says.

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What is happening with the building?

St Francis Tower, Ipswich wrapped in protective plastic and scaffolding

The cladding was stripped from St Francis Tower in work costing £2.4m following a safety report in the wake of the Grenfell disaster.

Block Management Ltd, which manages the property, says the wrap is not its responsibility and a construction company has been appointed to carry out the work.

It says: “Residents have been regularly informed about this and Block Management, as property manager, has provided updates on progress of the works when these have been provided by the project manager and contractor.”

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