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A former resident from the beligurered Gibbons Building on Amhurst Road spoke to Hackney Hive about his plight. David Campbell said he and his girl friend knew there was something wrong when cracks and damp started to appear inside their flat three months ago.
After several complaints to the letting agents, GMS Estate Ltd, who also own the building, an engineer was sent to survey the property. Campbell who had lived at number 1 Amhurst Road, above Cirrik Restaurant for 18 months, told Hackney Hive: “We were told there was a low level of damp reading in the flat, (despite mold growing on wooden baskets that were resting on that wall) and that it was not a sufficiently high damp reading for concern”.
“We had damp signs in the flat which directly corresponded with the large crack that traveled the entire length of the building, on the outside wall in the alley”.
But things got progressively worse. The 35 year old contractor to a west London local authority, said: “Understandably living so close to Hackney Central station meant we’d sometimes get some rattle from the trains when they go by, but the rattle inside our flat became louder and quite visible”.
“Things shook, fell and moved every time a train went past, which we had not experienced previously”, he explained.
What Campbell describes as “the worst 2 weeks of my life” began at around 10:30 pm Friday 22 November, while he and his girl friend were relaxing enjoying a bottle of wine. They noticed emergency service vehicles on Amhurst Road, and people in cherry pickers peering into the building, but not seeing anything alarming they went to bed, only to be awoken at about 1 am a knock on their door telling them the building was being evacuated.
“They started evacuating people in number 3 and 5 first” he said. “We were last to leave and that wasn’t until 4:00 am, it was a long process and we were told to only take a few things”.
Campbell had to leave behind furniture, clothes and almost everything he owned, not knowing if he would ever be able to retrieve them. They were allowed back on Monday 2nd December, for just 25 minutes to retrieve what they could. The couple were told “It’s not a supermarket sweep, you can’t grab as much as you want” They were instructed to only take small important items.
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The couple still don’t know if they will be able to retrieve all their belongings. Originally they were told there was a 90% chance neither would see their belongings again, but have since been told they could likely get everything that is of a smaller size out, but are unsure about the furniture. In an attempt to allow both commercial and residential tenants to reclaim the belongings, as well as the wish to preserve the Victorian facade of the building, the demolition is being carried out brick by brick.
Initially They were put up in a hotel by the council, but are now with friends until they can move into their new flat on 22nd December. They found living at a hotel expensive and although the council was paying for it, having to eat out every day proved costly. “It’s been a horrible time, we are not sleeping well, have had to take time off work several times and still unsure about our property in the flat.
The structural nightmare has also affected the buildings commercial tenants. Restaurant, Raw Duck who were at number 5, raised the alarm on the evening of Friday 22nd. Co-owner Clare Lattin told Hackney Hive: “Amadine our assistant manager, was working and went into the basement about 8 pm, only to see that the side wall supporting the building had collapsed. She got everyone out immediately”.
They are currently looking for new premises in Hackney. “We all live in Hackney which is why we opened here in the first place, Hackney is really growing and changing and has a diverse and lively community. We want to invest in the future of it and be part of its changing landscape,” says Lattin.
Oslo a new venue at 1A Amhurst Road, was due to have it’s launch party on 2 December. That had to be scrapped but they have since been told their building is safe to resume business.