CAMDEN Council bods have often moaned that the high concentration of national newspaper journalists living inside the borough boundaries means they get scrutinised more harshly than other areas. For example, if a ranty-ranty columnist, say Giles Coren, drives over a pothole or gets a parking fine, a niggly namecheck for London’s most officious council can be expected.
But this excuse can’t be a get-out for everything. Harry Mount, writer, journalist and Telegraph blogger, today fires both barrels at Camden Council with a full page first hand account of endless repair work to homes in Kentish Town and with apparently good reason. OK, the stolen picture of builders slurping tea – they are allowed tea-breaks – is a bit OTT and there is the customary comparison with Soviet Russia, but his concerns seem believable and justified. It’s online here but here’s a sample of his broadside:
My flat is half of a handsome 1865 villa in Kentish Town, built by the original owners of the land, Christ Church, the Oxford college, and later bought by Camden Council. The high ceilings, delicate cornices and floor-to-ceiling windows speak of the best of solid Victorian workmanship.
Yes, the bottom of two window frames was slightly rotten. But after replacing them, the builders embarked on a programme of further unnecessary work — taking out all the windows, smashing one of them in the process, and replacing them all over again.
My bedroom window, which had closed snugly for 145 years, now has a gap between the top sash and the window frame — letting in sub-zero air in the coldest winter for a generation. The inside window frames — which I had just paid privately to be painted — are now scuffed and dirty. Where they painted the outside frames, their brushes splodged the panes with white paint.
And so it went on. Throughout the summer, the builders barely turned up, as the scaffolding plunged my flat into semi-darkness. Then they started painting in the middle of that cold snap — only to stop suddenly, because their paint wasn’t guaranteed to work in freezing temperatures.
The Camden New Journal wrote about this minor scandal in Caversham Road in December… maybe we didn’t do the story justice.