On Walworth’s sprawling Aylesbury Estate criminals were terrorising residents with anti-social behaviour in boarded up, vacant properties that police and the council were struggling to secure as the country came out of its third national lockdown.
Many residents, including those suffering long-standing heating and hot water outages and leaks in their homes, were increasingly frustrated by what they said was too little action from Southwark Council and the Met to make the area safe.
As the regeneration on the estate continued apace, and more of the estate was dominated by the huge construction site, the tenants who remained said they were becoming increasingly fearful.
One claimed vacant properties in blocks in the low rises were still being broken into and taken over by squatters and ravers because they were inadequately secured by police.
Eight officers were injured while recovering stolen items at an illegal lockdown party in Portland Street in the early hours of Sunday, February 28. The police chased two robbery suspects to the address and found around 30 people breaking lockdown rules. The officers were subsequently injured in the ruckus that followed. One was knocked unconscious and another suffered a fractured hand.
It emerged that the property was being used to store stolen goods after a spate of robberies, including mobile phones, oyster cards, and credit cards.
A number of violent muggings also took place in the surrounding area and, in a particularly serious incident, police were called to a double stabbing near East Street on March 5.
At the same time in Bermondsey, Camberwell and Peckham the News reported on tenants freezing in their homes as the council’s district heating networks failed.
By September the council announced that annual district heating costs were set to rise fivefold in just four years to £25 million in a bid to bring the heating and hot water up to scratch.
There are more than 100 heat networks serving 17,000 properties across the council’s overall stock of around 55,000 homes.
Although designed to keep costs low due to bulk purchasing and reduced running costs, in reality many of the networks are over 40 years old and in some cases well beyond their lifespan.