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They’re driving us nuts! Squirrels use housing estate scaffolding to steal residents’ food

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Brazen squirrels are using scaffolding on a housing estate to climb into people’s windows and steal their food.

Residents at Sumner Buildings in central London, which is right next to the Tate Modern, say the rodents now have the run of the estate.

The scaffolding was erected by the City of London Corporation 18 months ago to replace 100-year-old windows on the block in Southwark.

The Corporation aim to measure and replace the original windows and doors from the 1930s but some frustrated residents say their windows already show signs of mould and rot.

They complain the work is taking forever, with deadlines getting pushed back further and further, and now squirrels are taking advantage.

Prof Mark Miodownik, MBE, who shares his top-floor flat with his wife Ruby Wright and their two children, said: ‘The squirrels are constantly up and down the scaffolding. If you leave a window open, they’re always poking their little heads in.’

A picture from resident Ruby Wright which shows the cheeky squirrel sticking its head into the kitchen

A picture from resident Ruby Wright which shows the cheeky squirrel sticking its head into the kitchen

Prof Mark Miodownik (pictured) has said 'the squirrels are constantly up and down the scaffolding'

Prof Mark Miodownik (pictured) has said ‘the squirrels are constantly up and down the scaffolding’

A look at the scaffolding at Sumner Buildings in central London, which squirrels have used to their advantage

A look at the scaffolding at Sumner Buildings in central London, which squirrels have used to their advantage

The 54-year-old Professor of Engineering, who has lived on the estate for more than 25 years, added: ‘They have the run of the place now – they think the scaffolding is all for them. They love it. If you leave windows open, they come in and steal snacks.’

Though Prof Midownik says he doesn’t blame the squirrels themselves and doesn’t want to see them ‘exterminated’, other residents are less sympathetic.

NHS volunteer Jackie, who has lived on the estate for decades, says she’s ‘frightened’ of the rodents, which have grown in confidence in the 18 months since the scaffolding was first put up.

‘I live on the top floor,’ she said. ‘We never had them before the scaffolding – especially at the top.

‘The birds nest on them as well. If you leave your windows open the squirrels will venture in.

‘I was chopping up strawberries last year and when I came back into the kitchen a squirrel was trying to get to them.

‘Sometimes they hide behind towels when you hang them on the balcony. They have got more and more daring. It’s all a big game to them.

‘I’ve had to throw away the grass on my balcony because they peed on it. They don’t care. At first I would shoo them away but now they don’t move. It’s just not on.

‘They frighten me. They’re actually worse than foxes. You have to chuck a bucket of water over them to get them to move. They usually come around April; last year there were about eight to ten of them.

‘When it’s really hot in the summer you have to keep the windows closed. One woman’s husband was chasing one round the kitchen to get it out.’

Joyce Paul, a 65-year-old who has lived on the estate for around 27 years, says the squirrels are a ‘nightmare’.

Ms Paul, originally from Sunderland, said: ‘The squirrels have been in a couple of flats and literally wrecked them. It’s got much worse since the scaffolding went up. They use it as a playground.

‘We had to get rid of our table and chairs because of the scaffolding. It has been up for 18 months now. It’s the longest-standing scaffolding I’ve ever seen.

‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I think they’ve changed suppliers for the windows so many times. 

Resident Joyce Paul has lived on the estate for 27 years and said the squirrels were a 'nightmare'

Resident Joyce Paul has lived on the estate for 27 years and said the squirrels were a ‘nightmare’

The scaffolding was erected by the City of London Corporation 18 months ago to replace 100-year-old windows on the block

The scaffolding was erected by the City of London Corporation 18 months ago to replace 100-year-old windows on the block

Frustrated residents say their windows already show signs of mould and rot and have complained that the scaffolding work is taking forever

Frustrated residents say their windows already show signs of mould and rot and have complained that the scaffolding work is taking forever

‘They’ve run out of excuses now. It’s a nightmare. It’s absolutely ridiculous. My daughter lives over the road and she’s petrified of the squirrels. I can’t stand them.’

Prof Midownik added: ‘The scaffolding has been up for 18 months now. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher and makes me think they don’t know what they’re doing.

‘They’re spending public money. If this was run by a private company, they wouldn’t be spending money like this.

‘It’s more than half a million pounds wasted in a time of austerity. They have not even said when they will be starting the work.’

Prof Midownik, who works at University College London, says some of the windows in his home are now rotting – but he is not permitted to do anything to them himself, despite him being an engineer.

‘I don’t think they understand. It’s really bad,’ he added. ‘I think the middle management is responsible. The Head of Works at the City of London Corporation needs to resign over this. They need to take responsibility. It’s incompetence.’

Workers for the company Etec, which is carrying out the window replacements and ‘associated works’ such as painting at the buildings, estimated the work would be finished within ‘six to eight weeks’.

But residents said they’ve been told a steady stream of similar estimates for over a year.

Maria White, who has lived on the estate for over 30 years, was told her ground-floor flat would be the first to have its windows replaced.

‘They told me before Christmas it would be two weeks* Every time it’s a couple of weeks,’ the 66-year-old said.

Ms White added that squirrels hadn’t been such a problem on the estate before the scaffolding was put up – and that rats also plague ground floor flats like hers.

‘One squirrel fell on my lap from the scaffolding when I was sat outside the other week. It’s got much worse since the scaffolding went up. It’s the same with the rats.’

A City of London Corporation spokesperson said: ‘We are investing around £107million in a Housing Major Works Programme to bring all homes across our 12 social housing estates up to a high standard by 2026.

‘This includes a £47m investment in replacement windows. It is imperative that the window designs meet the requirements of building regulations and high standards required by the City Corporation and our residents.

‘Whilst the window installations at Sumner Buildings have been delayed, redecoration work has progressed. A letter detailing the latest update on the project was sent to residents.’



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