The London ‘shanty town’: How Labour council is charging £1,560-a-month for old shipping containers piled up in a rundown estate rife with drug gangs
- The hope promised by Marston Court has now turned into crime filled hell
When the Marston Court estate was built in 2017, Ealing’s Labour-run council described it as a ‘ground-breaking and innovative’ solution for vulnerable families and the homeless.
Shipping containers piled alongside and on top of each other in four blocks of two and three storeys had been transported to the site after being built in 14 weeks at a factory in Cornwall.
But what was once a Labour council’s pride has now become Britain’s shame, becoming what residents describe as a modern shanty town overridden with crime.
They say it is about as far from its intended purpose as a ‘stable comfortable environment’ for society’s most needy as it is possible to imagine.
Families living in the makeshift metal homes say they live in fear after being left abandoned at the mercy of knife-wielding drug dealers in a crime-ridden hell hole.
One desperate mother told MailOnline: ‘These containers are not fit for human habitation.
NHS healthcare assistant Erin Martin told how she has sent daughters Katana, eight, and Kasia, five, to live with their grandmother for the summer holidays as she fears for their safety there
Ranjana and her children Angel and Hayden who all live on the Marston Court Estate in Ealing, West London
The accommodation was supposed to help society’s most vulnerable but is alleged to have let them down
Maria, 33, who lives on the estate, which has been described as a modern-day shanty town
Families living in the makeshift metal homes say they live in fear after being left abandoned at the mercy of knife-wielding drug dealers in a crime-ridden hell hole
‘They’re like third world slums which have become a magnet for drug dealers.
‘It’s disgusting that families with young children are living like this is modern day Britain.’
The appalling living conditions came to light when mother-of-two Paula Aleksandros staged an overnight protest at council offices after she was attacked when she confronted drug dealers outside her home.
Paula, 31, told how she sent her children to live with their father for their own safety and ended up sleeping rough rather than returning to the Marston Court estate in Ealing, west London.
Paula – who has a daughter aged 10 and a nine-year-old son – told how she staged her sit-in protest after deciding enough is enough when complaints about living conditions and drug dealers fell on deaf ears.
Paula – who said youths had threatened to harm her children – before told how she was attacked after police said they could not nothing without evidence.
She said: ‘I had to take pictures of people smoking weed in my face and that’s how I ended up getting beaten up.’
One of the rooms inside the Marston Court Estate, Ealing, West London, shows the conditions
Shipping containers piled alongside and on top of each other in four blocks of two and three storeys were shipped to the site
The management office at Marston Court which families say has now become a drug deal hub
Paula described living on the estate as ‘the worst experience of my life’ and said she had been left suffering ‘anxiety and depression’.
Paula added: ‘I wanted to kill myself.
‘I know that they don’t care, I can see that.
‘I keep thinking one more email, one more conversation maybe there will be progress, you have that hope. But in the end, you see that they do not care.’
Another middle-aged resident told how he had been threatened by dealers arms with knives.
The man said: ‘It’s a big problem. I don’t feel safe.’
Two more estates have since been built in the area after officials said they helped transform derelict sites which had been blighted by anti-social behaviour.
Residents liken studio flats used to accommodate up to two people to ‘prison cells’ while two bedroom units are said to be suitable for up to six people and cost up to a staggering £1,560-a-month in rent.
Families say the 34 homes are plagued with plumbing, electrical and heating problems which his left them uninhabitable.
Locals say their metal box homes which were originally built to transport goods around the world are equipped with cooking hobs and microwaves which frequently break down and do not have ovens
Families have also reported cockroach infestations and say their children’s health has suffered due to homes being mould-ridden
Families say the 34 homes are plagued with plumbing, electrical and heating problems which his left them uninhabitable
Residents complain they have been left for up to two years at a time without hot water, suffer foul-smelling blocked drains and toilets while their homes are like ‘boiling hot ovens in the summer and ice cold freezers in winter’ due to poor insulation.
They say their metal box homes which were originally built to transport goods around the world are equipped with cooking hobs and microwaves which frequently break down and do not have ovens.
They have also reported cockroach infestations and say their children’s health has suffered due to homes being mould-ridden.
But they say Ealing Council fail to respond to complaining emails and telephone calls and have left them abandoned to their fate.
When the estate was built it came complete with with a shipping container turned into a management office and laundry room where residents pay extra to wash their clothes as there is no room for washing machines in their flats.
But residents told how, with no manager on site, the offices became the hub of drug dealing activities.
Families claim Ealing Council fail to respond to complaining emails and telephone calls and have left them abandoned to their fate
Security patrols from Ealing council arrive at Marston Court but are not enough, say locals
Drug dealers come to the estate because it is not out in the open and nobody stops them
One 33-year-old mother who overlooks the building which sits next to a children’s play area told MailOnline: ‘They were using the laundry room as a base. There was someone living in there for a time.
‘It’s quieter than being on the street. The dealers come in here because it’s not out in the open and nobody does anything to stop them.
‘There is a security gate but it’s never worked so people just come and go as they please.
‘You see the dealer sitting out on the manager’s step with his stash of drugs counting his money.
‘He’s probably hiding his stuff here too. They’re just so comfortable here.
‘People stand in line queueing round the corner to buy their drugs.
‘They just come in and out from about midday onwards well into the evening. They make a lot of noise.There’s broken glass.
‘It’s away from the road so there’s people smoking weed and chilling and drinking. They don’t live here but they hang out, sitting on the stairways.’
The mother, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said her five-year-old daughter could not go out to play and they felt like ‘prisoners in our own home’.
A rat trap spotted on the estate gives a startling insight into the conditions in the London area
Families say living on the estate being unable to get help for all its problems is dehumanising
She said: ‘It’s a modern day slum – like a shanty town or a favela.
‘My home is a container but it seems more like a prison. It’s not fit for living in.
‘There’s no proper plumbing. When we moved in the sink was blocked. You can’t put paper in the toilet. There’s a permanent disgusting sewage smell like rotten eggs.
‘There’s no ventilation. My daughter’s health is suffering. There’s one bedroom and I have to sleep in the same bed as my daughter. When it’s her bedtime at 9pm I turn the light out and sit in the dark.
‘I’ve complained time and again but they never do anything. They don’t reply to your emails.
‘It’s dehumanising. Every single day I’m calling someone but they never get back.
‘It makes you feel helpless and abandoned. No-one wants to do anything to help. Who’s fighting for you? Who’s making sure that you’re not just left here? Who’s making sure that your kids are OK.
‘When people come to deliver mail or parcels they can’t believe people live like this. They say ‘Did you make it yourself?’.
These are how the homes are supposed to look and suggest a calms and safe environment
This could be straight out of a top level apartment, but those seen at Marston look unlike this
The bright and airy publicity pictures do not tell the story of the estate, worried residents say
‘My mental health is in tatters since I’ve been here. It’s not suitable for families. None of the women and kids should be allowed to be here.
‘It makes me sad that my daughter is spending her childhood here. It breaks my heart.’
Since Paula’s protest, which saw her camped out in the council office’s lobby for 18 hours, Ealing Council has instructed community safety officers who work in conjunction with police to carry out regular visits to the estate.
Residents say drug dealers have moved outside the estate but remain in the area and fear they will return.
They told how rather than placing a manager permanently on the site the council changed the laundry room looks and put resident Ranjana Selvarajah in charge of the key.
Families have to knock on her door now to gain access to washing machines which they have to pay to use.
Ms Selvarajah, 43, has lived on the estate for 18 months with daughter Angel, seven, and son Hayden four.
She said of the dealers: ‘They are rough people. It’s a very big problem. I am not happy because they are scary.
‘I don’t talk to them much because maybe they will hit me. I see but I don’t say anything.
‘The council people and the police have started to come now.
‘The seller was caught by the police but I saw him again around here a few days later.
‘The council have been doing patrols recently but they are still in the streets nearby.
‘They are still selling, mainly outside the gate but sometimes inside.
‘A couple of months ago there was someone living in the laundry room. He was there for a couple of weeks.
‘When I went there he told me he was the repair man and told me to go away. I called the police and the manager.
‘Now I have the key but I don’t feel safe.’
NHS healthcare assistant Erin Martin told how she has sent daughters Katana, eight, and Kasia, five, to live with their grandmother for the summer holidays as she fears for their safety.
Erin – who has been living on the estate for two years and pays £389.89-a-week in rent – said: ‘I’ve had to ship my kids to another county just so they can live in a decent place and a safe place. I don’t feel I can keep them here.
‘The drug dealers moved in because they have been able to get on with what they do without being bothered. They have found a hideaway because this is an abandoned place.
‘They just walk in through the security gate because it has never worked.
‘There’re a lot of mothers with children here who are frightened.
‘You are worried about reporting people when they see you going in and out with your kids every day. My anxiety levels have gone through the roof.
‘It’s been very emotionally taxing. I feel my kids have started feeding of my anxiety and depression.
‘We’re really suffering. I’m paying my taxes. I’m working. I’ve been waiting for a house for eight years. I’ve been on the register since September 2015.
‘We moved here as an emergency but that was two years ago. The council admit this is not adequate for us but they say they have nothing else.
‘I’ve lost count of how many times I cry in the night. I can’t sleep. It’s so stressful. I feel so powerless.
‘I don’t know how the people from the council can sleep at night knowing they created this place.
‘These metal containers are not humane.
‘It’s like a slum you would find in a third world country. It’s not the people here that are the problem.
‘Most of us are nice to each other. We are in the same boat together just trying to make a life.
‘The people living here are either families or older people. The most vulnerable people.’
Pensioner Michael Glennon, 74, has lived at the flats for four years.
He has to haul himself up steep flights of stairs after suffering nerve damage in his leg after he was left unconscious by the roadside when he was hit by a car.
The former construction worker, who moved in in August 2019, said: ‘Living in a container is not a comfortable existence.
‘It is boiling hit in the summer and freezing in the winter. It can get very uncomfortable.
‘The drug problem has been terrible. The police have been here many times. There have been two massive drugs raids by armed police – the lot.
‘I can smell the drugs when I sit on my chair on the balcony. I don’t get involved. I don’t want to get beaten up or stabbed.’
Ealing Council has not responded to the MailOnline for a request for comment.
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