A sorry tail

An EC1 estate is plagued by aggressive squirrels by Steven Separovich

Squirrel climbing a cable
Squirrel climbing a cable

For the last three years the residents of the St Luke’s Estate in the Old Street area have complained about squirrels climbing onto balconies as high as the 19th floor, destroying tenants’ plants, and leaving waste. Some elderly residents are too afraid to go onto their balconies when the squirrels are on their balconies, and they have entered residents’ flats.

The reason that we are in this situation is that Islington Council placed a perfect vertical climbing frame on the outside of our buildings with service cables and service pipes installed to the building’s facades. These are also conveniently located directly against residents’ balconies – giving ready access for squirrels. 

The council agreed for a pest-control consultant to install some vermin spikes and vermin ‘domes’ on the façade to deter them, but this did not resolve the problem. Trapping worked for a few months then stopped, which has resulted in the squirrels returning to balconies, resulting in the suggestion that residents should remove plants from their balconies to stop attracting the squirrels.

The ideal solution would have been to install services within the existing building that don’t act as climbing frames and protect the services within. 

Rather than residents removing plants, the solutions are simple: remove all external cabling and gas pipes, and regular squirrel trapping and prevention measures such as plastic domes on vertical cables, together with spikes on the horizontal pipework. 

Only one clear plastic dome was installed earlier this year, and that dome was incorrectly placed adjacent to a balcony, which meant the squirrels simply climbed onto the balcony to avoid the dome. 

The domes also need to be located on the facade of Godfrey House over at least three storeys. In addition, without encasing the external services, the council has also created a fire safety issue as squirrels gnaw through exposed cabling and wiring causing faults and fires. 

We believe the council should have carried out necessary risk assessments of the external services with due diligence and care. 

Squirrels are loved by many, but they can be a menace.