Sixty-six social homes sitting empty

More than 60 social homes by the Golden Lane Estate in Central London remain empty over a year after residents were expected to be able to start moving in.

By Ben Lynch

A tower block
Black Raven Court will deliver a total of 66 social homes, plus three commercial units on the ground floor. Photo: LDRS.

Black Raven Court, which is on the border with Islington but is being developed by the City of London Corporation, is nearing completion, with the hold-up due to a dispute between the City and its main contractor.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has been told of residents allocated flats being in ‘despair’ over the delays. A City of London spokesperson would not confirm when residents were initially expected to begin moving in, though an update on the scheme in November 2022 stated the new homes would be ready from March 2023. The spokesperson said they are now not expected to be occupied until next year.

Black Raven Court is on the same site, and is part of the same project, as the new City of London Primary Academy Islington (COLPAI) school, which has opened. The 66 homes being delivered under the scheme are to be split between City and Islington residents.

A ‘project update’ on the COLPAI website details how final approval, which will allow residents to start moving into the building, is delayed ‘as the project team needs to undertake extra work to an area of brickwork on the western side, located behind the balconies’. It adds discussions remain ongoing as to when and how to undertake the work, and at which stage residents can move in.

The LDRS understands the issue relates to a type of board used, which, while complying with building regulations, cannot be insured. No route forward has been agreed between the City and the contractor, ISG, and so the case is going to adjudication. A spokesperson for ISG could not comment, but confirmed adjudication is looming.

Sue Pearson, a former Alderwoman at the City of London Corporation and now Chair of the Golden Lane Estate Residents’ Association (GLERA), said: “It’s very disappointing that this project has been fraught with delays from the outset. The Corporation manages to keep its major corporate projects on budget and on time, but most housing projects suffer long delays and consequent distress to residents.

“We were originally told that the building would be complete in March 2023 and I believe that flats were allocated, but residents who were allocated flats had letters pushing back the moving date again and again for undisclosed reasons. Now there is a contractual dispute.

“Housing officers are equally frustrated. They have people to house, and there are 66 completed flats standing empty.

“It is difficult for residents to feel anything but frustration with the Corporation when they are failed time after time. It’s their lives and their homes that are constantly at the bottom of the priorities.”

A spokesperson for the City said: “Black Raven Court will deliver much-needed homes for social rent. The development is now nearing completion, and we expect residents to move in next year.

“The site also includes the state-of-the-art City of London Primary Academy Islington, which is rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. We are proud to be a social landlord supporting residents and investing tens of millions across the City and six neighbouring boroughs.”

According to a written answer to Common Councillor Catherine McGuinness following last month’s Court of Common Council, the total cost of the residential building is £37,748,748. As well as homes, it includes three commercial units on the ground floor, cycle storage, and plant accommodation in the basement.

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