“It’s a wonderful community, the area looks amazing in the sun.” These are the words of Shirley Thorpe, 71, who has lived near Southwick Green for 30 years.
The area is known by locals as one of the wealthiest parts of Southwick, with some homes fetching over £1million. But while the area’s leafy streets are undoubtedly appealing, it’s not the experience everyone in the city of West Sussex enjoys.
Less than 200 yards from the Green is the edge of Southwick Estate, nestled between the station and Shoreham Harbour. Residents of these apartments have complained of unrepaired damage for years, with many people having to endure terrible conditions.
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A consultation with residents in October last year found that 61% said kitchens and bathrooms were outdated, while 59% said their apartments were damp and moldy. Some people have mentioned insect infestations, as well as fungus growing inside their apartments.
The Adur District Council has recently prioritized improving the estate, but many believe this is coming far too late – or won’t make a difference to their lives. Southwick residents agree that the authorities are not doing enough to address the problems in this area.
“It’s disgusting that people live like this in Southwick. It’s not good these days,” said Geoff Thorpe, 73, who lives with his wife, Shirley, near Kingston Lane. “The council needs to do more for them. It’s been like this for years.”
John O’Connor, 57, is among residents of Southwick Estate who believe they were treated with “no respect”. The former plasterer said he waited a year for the council to deal with his mold-covered wall, until they finally covered it with vinyl siding he bought from B&Q.
These are not the only problems John and his wife Sarah, 49, have had in their flat in Coates Court. “My bedroom wall is also a disgrace,” he previously told SussexLive.
“They re-pointed the wall to get rid of the dampness but since then it hasn’t been finished. As a result, the dust is still coming off the wall.
“My wife has asthma and I have a heart condition so we can’t sleep in there anymore. We’ve been sleeping in the front room for almost a year.
“I understand that COVID has caused a problem, but that shouldn’t be up to us to sort out. Why should I pay rent for this?
“I have told the council many times that it is not good for us to sleep in a damp room. Once we even had the bedroom wall fall on us while we were sleeping. They treated us with no respect.”
Alex Brown, 20, who also lives in Coates Court, said his mother did not feel safe in their flat. “We still have problems,” he previously said.
“The windows are too loose, our radiator hasn’t been fixed in over a year and there is mold in the bathroom. We even had a recent incident where there was a leak near the wiring from our kitchen.
“It turned out that the pipe had been leaking for over a year and the municipality only fixed it recently. We don’t feel safe in our house.”
Adur District Council has previously said a business case will be submitted for approval by the summer of this year to consider options for Southwick Estate, including refurbishment, improvements, infill or partial or complete remodeling. A report from last year said it could provide “the opportunity to improve the housing supply in the area and the quality of tenants’ accommodation, at about the same cost as renovating existing properties”.
While many places in Sussex have affluent communities located close to rundown apartment buildings, the difference in Southwick stands out. According to Zoopla, 12 properties on Roman Crescent – located 640m from the estate – are valued at over £1million, with homes at the western end of the Green – located just over 300m – valued at around £850,000.
Despite this stark difference, many people have noted that Southwick inhibits a strong sense of community. The Square is one of Sussex’s most thriving high streets – with no empty shop units, while also being a haven for local businesses.
Shirley Thorpe, 71, said: “It’s a wonderful community we have in Southwick. The town center has a good balance of cafes, charity shops and food outlets.
“I was born and raised here. I wouldn’t like to live anywhere else.”
Naj, who also lives near the Green, said it was important we looked beyond the differences between people in Southwick. She said: “It’s the people that make Southwick. While it’s beautiful, the community we have is what sets it apart.”
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